Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Art: Viktor Bogdanovic (Pencils), Richard Friend (Inks), Hi-Fi (Colours)
Release Date: July 13th, 2016
As far as confusing titles go, this here has to take the prize for ‘least timely’, given that this is not in fact part of the ‘new’, post-rebirth Superman series that’s been smashed out the park by its creators. And is that… is that a hyphen in there? It sure is.
So yes, this is a New Super-Man – and initially, it simply tells the tale of Kenan Kong, a slightly tubby kid from Shanghai whose first reaction to seeing China’s first ‘American-style’ supervillain is to chuck an empty can at the guy’s head. The butterfly effect being what it is, this leads to a sequence of events that inevitably finds him becoming more than he ever thought he could be.
The art is rather solid, if never quite spectacular – Bogdanovic has decent storytelling sensibilities, upping his game in that department significantly as the issue progresses, with Friend’s inks expertly bringing out the lovely little details in the pencils. The colouring is bright and bold, with some lovely effects going on as Kenan gets to grips with his new powers.
Yang’s script is sharp as well, performing some rather neat reversals of the usual underdog tropes that plague origin stories of late. Our new hero, Kenan, isn’t the one being bullied – he’s the bully, but Yang understands that the driving force behind every bully is a tragedy of some scale, and the one driving Kenan towards his particular victim is beautifully conceived, and swirled elegantly into his superhero origins.
But with all that said, I can’t help but feel like this creative team had a great original character in them – one that was intrinsically Chinese, but still irresistible to a global audience – and that opportunity was pushed to the curb in favour of impressing the flawed notion that ‘China needs a Superman’ upon them. Because there are shades of brilliance herein, but they all feel undermined by the fact that all it ended up producing is a Superboy whose origin story feels more than little like a reader’s digest of Captain America’s.
It’s not a bad read by any stretch of the imagination. Far from it, in fact, what with the slick artwork and the sharp script. It just leaves you a little bit dissatisfied come the end of the book, when you consider the opportunity missed – the entire thing compromised by marketing execs with dollar signs in their eyes, shrouded in a haze of cigar smoke as mustaches are twirled, leaving its appeal spread rather thinly across both sides of the Pacific. It’s possible there’s some meta-commentary going on regarding the recycling of heroes, I’m crossing my fingers that as the series progresses, they’ll do more to emphasise this, as well as to delineate Kenan from Clark. But as it stands…
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The Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24