New Super-Man #6 came out last week and was a good closure of this first arc by writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Viktor Bogdanovic. From the very beginning, I have been surprised how entertained I have been by this title. The core of the book is obviously New Super-Man Kenan Kong. Kong is an interesting cauldron of teenage emotions ranging from a bullying oaf to a depressed son to a silly superhero. Kenan is definitely complex enough to make me want to follow more.
But Kenan is only the core. This really reads like a Justice League book with Chinese versions of the League members and the Freedom Fighters. It is a fun read seeing how the main character traits of the main DCU heroes while definitely being different enough to feel fresh.
And there is more bubbling under the surface. This League is new and unknown. So I like that the Great Ten, the government sponsored superhero team, isn't happy about this new League's existence. And there is the plotline covering the motivations of the Ministry of Self-Reliance and the Freedom Fighters. What is freedom or self-reliance?
This issue marks the end of the first arc, bring the new League closer and ending with a fantastic turn of events which impact Kenan tremendously. I think he has seen enough tragedy in recent times to perhaps dim that youthful goofiness he occasionally slips into. So far so good ...
On to the book!
Last issue, a Starro-wearing Human Firecracker of the Chinese Freedom Fighters was flying a jumbo jet laden with Starro drones towards the Chinese Government center. He hopes to dump the drones onto the populace, getting control of them, to then force freedom onto people. I know ... irony ... freedom through slavery.
As I said in the intro, the Great Ten isn't really happy about these new super-powered factions flying around. They also are a bit more cold. Here, the August General tells Mr Luo, the CEO of airline, that they will bring the jumbo jet down from the sky, killing everyone on board, including Luo's son.
And Luo acquiesces! He understands the implications of the Starro attack. Luo is so stoic here. Is it out of fear of the Great Ten? Actual understanding? Feigned because he knows it won't work? Remember, I am pretty sure that Luo was part of the money behind Self-Reliance.
Still, this interaction was off enough to stick with me.
Remember that Kenan has suffered from one of my least favorite comic tropes ever ... powers that turn on and off. I really do not like that plot.
Here we see that the Dr. Omen's assistant has helped Kenan with this problem. She knows Kenan can concentrate on Superman's qi and have that energy manifest as he wants.
I wonder if this will make Kenan a bit of an Ultra Boy analogue, flipping the qi where it needs to go? Or if it is all or none with the power set.
New Super-Man and his father Flying Dragon General board the jet to try and stop the Starro threat. Again, allegiances and loyalties are a big part of this book as well. The General is a member of the Freedom Fighters but here he is battling his comrades with his son.
On board, Kenan uses the cold of the plane's ice to remove the Starro drones from his colleagues.
Just as I like the Wonder Woman characterization, the Chinese Batman is also a riot. He doesn't hug. He is aloof. He doesn't have much respect for Kenan. That's brilliant. But Kenan's love/annoyance relationship with the Batman is equally funny. Look at the joy on Super-Man's face as he hugs the Dark Knight. Brilliant stuff by Bogdanovic.
Unfortunately, the Great Ten arrive to down the plane. Super-Man and his father think they can land the plane and end the threat. And so the remaining Freedom Fighters and the League team up to fight off the Ten.
Such a great panel here. I think Wonder Woman is my favorite character in this book. It takes some intestinal fortitude to fly out and fight the main super-hero of your country. It is rebellion and defiance and spectacular.
The onboard fight spills into the cockpit. We see Kenan show some bravery and some boldness as he rips the main Starro of the Firecracker's face. The Starro threat seems to be over. I love that Kenan took charge here and did not have his powers fade.
But the Firecrackers isn't going to go quietly. He activates his own self-destruct mechanism, becoming a human bomb (nice riff on his Freedom Fighter type).
The beginning part of the series we have seen that Kenan and his father weren't exactly close. Over the last couple of issues we have seen them grow much closer. And now, in a tragic but heroic moment, it comes to an end. The General throws himself on the firecracker, absorbing the blast and saving Kenan. But it also mortally wounds him.
There is a very touching scene of Zhongdou's death. The panels grow smaller, the black ink larger, as we see him fade away. That is a great artistic flourish. But the words are also great as Kenan hears his father say that he is proud. He calls him Super-Man. And Kenan vows not to let anyone be hurt again.
Kenan is already dealing with his sadness over his mother's death. Now his father has died. This is definitely the Uncle Ben moment, the tragedy that some young heroes need to move them along.
And that changes things.
None of the League are very happy about what happened. They won't blindly follow Dr. Omen's orders any more. They'll have their own protocol. That is Batman speaking!
I like how this is Kenan's new family. I like how this adventure has solidified this team. And three hands clasped is a nice image.
Oh but there is one more wrinkle.
Even though we saw a grave, Kenan's father is possibly alive in the Ministry's headquarters. This is the tube used to infuse people with the Superman power. And it is hinted the two had a relationship! Is Omen Kenan's mother? Did she fake her death and create a new face for herself ... a la Racer X? Is that why she chose Kenan to be Super-Man ... because he is her son??
Nice way to stick the ending of this first arc. A lot has happened. The characters are very different than how they were in the beginning. And we have new layers of intrigue.
I'll say it again. This book might be the best surprise of the Rebirth books for me.