Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Review: New Super-Man #7

Since its inception, I have been enjoying the New Super-Man book. This book is a sort of wonderful mix of political intrigue, teenage angst, humor, and action from writer Gene Luen Yang. Where was all of this in 'The Truth'? Last issue ended the first arc with the Chinese Freedom Fighters defeated and the new Justice League united in uncovering all the dirty secrets of Dr. Omen and the Ministry of Self-Reliance.

New Super-Man #7 starts a new arc and really kicks it off in a great way. Remember, we have been thrown into the lives of these characters. We have a very good understanding of the personality of the Bat-Man and this book's Wonder Woman. But we know nothing of their back story. We don't know all their motivations. And so with this next arc, it looks like Yang is going to flesh out this world.

It also looks like Yang is going to upgrade or modernize the character of I Ching, the guru from Denny O'Neil's runs on Superman and Wonder Woman in the 1970's. I really look forward to see where this plotline is heading.

The art on this issue is by Billy Tan and his take is a much smoother, polished take on this world than usual artist Viktor Bogdanovic. While I have enjoyed Bogdanovic's inkier, scratchier stuff, this issue really sparkles. I wouldn't mind seeing Tan on the book as an official fill-in now and then.

On to the book.

After last issue's plane rescue, who should arrive to give the Justice League medals? Lex Luthor.

I like that we have a little crossover between this New Super-Man and the Superman family in this issue and in the Superman title. I think that there should be continuity between all the Supers-. So having Lex show up is a nice step.

And I love that first panel, a sort of temptation from the devil to help Kenan in the future and work together. Sounds like something Lex would say and do ... we saw it with Matrix Supergirl and we saw him try to woo the Metropolis Kid Superboy.

But it is classic Kenan that he didn't understand what he said yes to. He doesn't know just what he has gotten himself into. To spurn Lex is usually an unhealthy move.

But Kenan's mind is on discovering who was behind the murder of his mother and father. He wants to get started right away. But Bat-Man and Wonder Woman are already committed to celebrating Chinese New Year's. They want to ... and will ... help Kenan. But they need this break.

Just when it seems like this group was coming together, there is a slight rift.

Kenan clearly feels let down by his friends here. That body language is pretty obvious. And the dialogue is succinct and clear. The sad thing is that Kenan is now more alone than ever. He has no family. And right now he is walking away from his friends.

Meanwhile, Bat-Man decides to go back to his family and the Academy of the Bat, the school where he was trained and earned the name of Bat-Man. He invites Wonder Woman to join him and she agrees. It is clear that there is a burgeoning, innocent attraction between these two. Bat-Man seems both excited and surprised she yes. I love how he stammers a bit in that second panel.

But more interesting is the line about her origins. She spent centuries stuck in a giant rock?? What does that mean? Hope we find out soon ...

And then we enter the Academy of the Bat where the Chinese government is training people to have tghe skills of Batman. Baixi graduated top of the class and so was given the mantle of the bat here.

We learn a little about his back story too. His little sister Jiali is in the academy. And both hope one day she'll be Robin.

But after issues of him being a gruff Bat-analogue, it is interesting to see him smiling and hugging his little sister. He has a soft side and clearly cares for his sister. And she obviously loves him. Look at her position here. She has literally flown into his arms, horizontal to the ground.

The more I learn about these heroes the more curious I am.

In the Academy we meet Feng Rongpei who seems to be the Flash Thompson/Cliff Carmichael of the book. He is an accomplished, narcissistic student who felt that he deserved be given the name of the Bat. Surrounded by his toadies, he belittle Baixi, flicking spittle on the Bat-Man. And when Jiali defends her brother Rongpei says no Bat-Man would ever hide behind a little girl.

And, as is usually the case with characters like this, he thinks he is insanely attractive and makes the move on Wonder Woman. But she shines him on, refusing to tell him her real name. Way to go!

I really feel like this book has a sort of Young Justice vibe to it. These might be a new League but they seem young and inexperienced. And every teen hero needs that sort of jerk egging them on. Early in this series I wondered if Kenan was going to be the punk.

As for Kenan, he follows Mingming's advice and seeks out her sensei. Mingming had told Kenan that her mentor could help restore Super-Man's powers. This is a nice little shout out to I Ching's original arc in the Kryptonite Nevermore story where he helped Superman deal with waning abilities.

But the whole first scene with Ching is played for laughs. He is a yoga instructor and has elderly patrons. Kenan wishes to be a private student but Ching says he will only teach those who join a group first. It is very amusing to see Kenan brought down a peg by people who are not impressed by his costume or persona. One calls him a shirt twin since they both have an s-shield shirt on.

But there is obviously more to Ching.

And maybe Mingming will be Kenan's love interest and not Lacey Lan?

At the academy, Bat-Man has had enough of Rongpei's jabs and challenges him to a duel on a hard-light Gotham. Initially it seems like Baixi will win but the scenery keeps shifting.

As for Deilan, she is asked what it is like to work with the Bat-Man. She says she likes him, a lot, while playfully twirling her hair. Ahhh ... young romance. So awkward and yet so pure. Love it!

And I love that the academy is proud of their Bat-Man as well. Very nice.

Once the yoga class is over, Kenan re-engages with Ching.

Ching starts out by saying a bunch of faux wisdom. Faux may be a harsh word. But he gives the inane fortune cookie stuff that Wes Studi said in Mystery Men as the Sphinx. To be strong, you must be weak? Okay, maybe there is something worthwhile there ... but it is just as easy for flimflam philosophers to throw out bones like that. Even Kenan sees through it.

It is only when Ching mentions Kenan's family that the new Super-Man pauses. Maybe there is something deeper in I Ching than just yoga and silliness.

The challenge between Baixi and Rongpei is for the title of Bat-Man so this has some serious implications. And when the constructs that Baixi is standing on continue to blip out of existence, Deilan decides to investigate the computer generated infrastructure.

And inside the server room is Grass Mud Horse, the sort of Joker in this DC analogue world. I am creeped out by this guy's look, which is a bonus.

I love this page though. How can you not love Peng Deilan as the New Wonder Woman? She is ready. And the cackling Mud Horse is a nice touch. I would have been happy if this was the cliffhanger page.

But there was more.

Ching, who is blind, challenges Kenan to a fight. But Ching evens the odds by blindfolding his young opponent. This fight already looks a little one-sided.

There was a lot to like about this issue which helped fill in some background information on the characters while starting new plots. I love the Luthor moment. The hint at Deilan's origin is very intriguing. I love the subtle introduction of a Bat-Man/Wonder Woman romance. I love Rongpei, the vile jock who can't believe he lost. Even I Ching and his wisdom is a nice addition to the book.

Add to that the gorgeous Billy Tan art in this issue! Wonderful stuff.

And so we start the next arc! I continue to be very entertained by this book.

Overall grade: A

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"But more interesting is the line about her origins. She spent centuries stuck in a giant rock?? What does that mean?"

Maybe it's a reference to this?