New Super-Man #5 came out last week and continued a very entertaining and interesting opening arc. Writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Viktor Bogdanovic continue to introduce us to the broad world of super-heroics and politics in China as seen through the eyes of young Kenan Kong. And I have been impressed.
One of the things I have touted about this book has been the nuanced look at Kenan himself. He is a high school bully with a heart of gold. He carries some pain over the loss of his mother and hides that away. He has a strained relationship with his father. And he simultaneously wants to do what's right with his new powers while also hoping to cash in with fame and fortune. It can't be easy to write an annoying character like Kenan but make him likeable enough to headline a book. Impressive.
This issue takes those inconsistencies and ratchets them up a notch by adding two more layers - politics and Kenan's growing relationship with his father. Both seem to be having a hard time resolving conflicting purposes - loyalty to a cause and love for family. They seem to flip-flop a bit throughout the issue, making this a very engaging character study. Throw in Starro and you know you have a winner.
Viktor Bogdanovic's work is growing on me more and more. I thought this was his cleanest issue, with smoother lines and powerful splash pages. Some panels really pop out and I'll share.
On to the book!
The issue starts with Kenan and his father having a heart to heart. Remember, they have just discovered that they both are considered super-beings, and both consider themselves heroes and the other working for the wrong side.
It leads to the origin story of Kenan's father Zhongdan and how he joined the Freedom Fighters. He was initially a lot like Kenan, a brash loud kid. He joined a university group protesting the government because he was attracted to Meitai. While his initial impetus was a bit callous, he ends up believing in the cause and winning her heart. They marry and have Kenan.
It is a nice setup to the story. We know that her death greatly hurt Kenan. But it is nice to see that his father was like Kenan initially. After all, Kenan himself is acting a bit more heroic after having this Super-Man moniker thrust on him.
And that drive for heroics is strong in the family.
Meitai used her skills to become the first rebel super-hero in China ... the Liberty Goddess.
So she wasn't just a scientist who accidentally went down in a jet crash.
She was much much more.
And then those conflicts of politics and family crop up.
Zhongdan is convinced that the Ministry of Self-Reliance is responsible for Meitai's death. And so Kenan must join the Freedom Fighters.
That is enough of a reason for Kenan to switch sides.
Meanwhile, the Great Ten contact Dr. Omen. They know she was housing a Starro in their prison. But this is a different type of Starro. It is a GMS, a genetically modified Starro. One human can attach the main Starro and then control everyone wearing one of the spawns. It is mind control. And the Great Ten will stop this threat and then shut down the Ministry.
So now we have a third faction. The Great Ten!
I do like this idea of a new kind of Starro.
Meanwhile, Kenan has arrived at the site where the police are fighting the Freedom Fighters and enters the fray.
Very nice homage to Action Comics #1 by Bogdanovic here.
Luckily, Zhongdan recognizes that a life as a Starro drone isn't a freedom worth fighting for. Nothing is right here.
And Kenan doesn't like seeing his fellow Leaguers enslaved. He decides to turn once more and attacks the Human Firecracker.
Now one seems set on one set of ideals here. Interesting.
Powerless, he is thrashed and dumped in the water to drown. Thankfully his father's loyalty to family is greater than to his cause. He dives in, grabs Kenan's body, and heads back to Dr. Omen. She needs to save him.
Again, this is a nice splash page. Because this moment, where love is stronger than politics, is a big one given the semi-strained relationship these two have had.
And then one last flip. Zhongdan decides to turn on his Freedom Fighter ally because the Starro solution is no solution at all. He and Kenan will fight them. So now he is fighting for the Ministry, just as Kenan had fought for the Fighters earlier. Just a lot to chew on and I love it.
Omen agrees but she decides to add an Amanda Waller-like insurance policy. Zhongdan has to fight for her now ... or else.
Whew, a lot of twists and turns in this issue which makes it a nice heavy read. The background of Meitai and the back-and-forth nature of the family in terms of who they are fighting for added a nice layer of familial fidelity.
So far, so good. I am really enjoying this book.
Overall grade; B+