Story: Gen Luen Yang
Art: Viktor Bogdanovic, Richard Friend
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
What They Say:
An impulsive act of heroism thrusts an arrogant young man into the limelight of Shanghai as China begins to form its own Justice League of powerful heroes. Rising from the ashes of The Final Days of Superman, award-winning writer Gene Luen Yang and on-the-rise art star Victor Bogdanovic introduce readers to Kong Kenan—the New Super-Man! When the world needed a new hero, China made him!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
When I first really got into Superman comics it was with the post-Crisis John Byrne run, which was interesting because we just saw dozens of different variants of the character in Crisis and the mainline had settled on this iteration. I was one of those fans that loved when the four Superman books that came out had the numbered triangles on it so you had what was in essence weekly storytelling for one of the great comic character created. I fell out of comics in the 90’s and dabbled here and there but never came back to Superman simply because there character is one that’s used in so many books that I didn’t want to get in that deep. It also didn’t help that the post-Flashpoint iteration in all his forms for the first year was essentially unlikable, keeping me away from the book to this day.
Yet here we are with a new spin-off series that follows events from The Final Days of Superman that has the character out of the pages for a bit. Coming from writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Viktor Bogandovich with inks by Richard Friend and fantastic colors digitally from Hi-Fi, what we get here is different yet familiar, almost an Elseworld’s story set in the mainline universe. It’s here that we’re introduced to Kenan, a troubled young man in Shanghai who has a grudge against a fellow classmate related to the death of his own mother that even he knows is misguided. There’s a bully aspect to him here that’s troubling yet interesting because it does harken back as Yang says to some of the earliest Superman comics where he does come across as kind of a jerk. Kenan’s introduction gives us a character that’s primed to become a better man as he grows up and we’re being asked to follow that story, to invest in someone that’s not that great now but has the potential to be – while still having that darker edge to him.
Yang gives us a pretty busy opening issue yet it’s one that covers a lot of the basics that many books tend to forget, which makes this a lot more accessible to new readers. Kenan’s introduction establishes him and his situation well, giving the reader a chance to have mixed feelings about him in an interesting way. His home life has its own twist with the way he views his father as a conspiracy nut that has little interest in his son, which is more just a huge frustration with his son as we learn of the trouble that Kenan’s been causing. When we do see Kenan doing something right as he protects the target of his bullying from the villain of Shanghai, Blue Condor, it doesn’t take long to see how he takes advantage of it which in turn once again colors our view of him in a negative way. It’s such an interesting mixed presentation that you can see it being a polarizing aspect, yet it’s one that draws me to the book even as I wonder if i do want to see his story unfold.
Naturally, this is an origin story into how he gains his power and that offers up plenty of tantalizing tidbits as well. When he gets interviewed by Laney Lan after the fight with Blue Condor about his heroics as a normal person against a supervillain, he ends up getting approached by the conspiracy organization that his father is trying to expose as they’re able to write in Superman’s abilities into him as they’re looking for the right vessels through which to create a Chinese Justice League. Now, coming off of Justice League 3000/3001, there are some eerie similarities here in a lot of way and it’s a little off-putting. But Yang and Bogdanovic deliver really well here in personalizing it, giving it some serious weight, and exposing more of the sarcastic reactionary aspects of Kenan’s personality as he’s transformed into the new Super-Man. That we get an interesting pair of comrades introduced at the end may feel a little rushed and forced on top of it, but it’s the kind of chaos that just clicks surprisingly well here and has me curious to see what these stories are going to be and what Dr. Omen is really up to in trying to create all of this.
It still surprises me in this day and age how many writers – and experienced career writers – seem to forget so many aspects of how to write an opening issue. While there are plenty of things going on in the larger Superman universe, and we get a taste of it here, it’s not something that feels like you must know in order to enjoy this book. Yang covers just enough to provide the hook and foundation while keeping the focus with the new cast of characters, the setting, and what the origin itself is. While some books work better with you feeling lost at the start and untangling the mess, those are supposed to be rare books. Yang and Bogdanovic deliver a very accessible book here for new and old readers alike and it has a familiar concept that’s executed perfectly. I’m still not sure how I feel about Kenan, and if I want to invest in someone’s story who is arguably a jerk and a bully at the moment as those are hard qualities to shake, but the trappings and locale along with the introduction of a Chinese Justice League are going to keep me on board for a while. Definitely worth checking out.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: DC Comics via ComiXology
Release Date: July 13th, 2016