New Super-Man #6 came out last week and was another introspective chapter for the main characters of the book. After the first arc concentrated on Kenan accepting his powers, wavering with his loyalty to family and country, and starting the hero's journey. This brief 2 part story has Kenan taking the next steps on his journey. But it also gives us some backstory on Baixi, the New Bat-Man. In particular, I enjoyed this part of the arc more. This humanized Baixi and gave him something of a tragic subplot. This adds dimension to his character.
Another thing that I am appreciating about this book is writer Gene Luen Yang updating Asian characters from DC's past. I am glad that Yang is looking at some of the clunkier portrayals of Asians in the past. So seeing I Ching as something more than a 'sensei' spouting fortune cookie wisdom is great. And the ending cliffhanger looks as though Yang isn't done. I wonder if we will see an updated and improved Wu 'Chop Chop' Cheng. He is due for a modern and more appropriate take.
The art on this issue is again by Billy Tan and a love the fine lined and polished look of his art. This isn't the scratchier and rougher look of usual artist Viktor Bogdanovic. This feels organic and flowing and that works well with Ching's lessons. I hope he becomes the go to pinch hitter for this book.
On to the issue!
Last issue, I Ching dared Kenan to face him in combat. If Kenan wants to be trained, he needs to strike Ching once before the sensei strikes him eight times.
This is a nice opening scene showcasing how Ching is able to fight elegantly despite his being blind. As Ching counts out his hits, Kenan gets more and more frustrated.
I am a big fan of seeing multiple images of a character within a panel to showcase speed. That second panel is brilliant.
I wonder if Yang is trying to show ripples of Superman's history in Kenan's story. Remember, Ching helped counsel Superman way back in the Kryptonite Nevermore story from the early days of the 70s.
Here Ching asks Kenan to focus on one power, his super-hearing. Suddenly, the octagon we have seen when Kenan used his powers in earlier issues manifests itself and the world opens up to the New Super-Man and he is inundated with auditory information. He hears everything from everywhere and it a painful overload to his system.
This is reminiscent of similar scenes in Superman origin stories and even the Man of Steel movie. And I didn't mind the 2 page splash as it let me really see how painful this was to Kenan as well as let us peek into all the scenes he is taking in from I Ching's heartbeat to simple conversations.
Despite that sensory bombardment, Kenan is able to pick out the one noise he needs to, that of a truck about to run over a child who chased a ball into the street. Without a moment's notice, he streaks off and intercepts the truck, saving the boy.
So I loved this for a number of reasons. One, how did he pick that out amid the cacophony? Is there a zen way to deal with these things. Two, how did he zone in to get there? Radar like tracking? And three, we have seen his powers fail him at key moments? So did he consciously trigger the invulnerability? Or did his body sense he needed it?
But moreover, this is once again a sort of classic Superman trope, stopping a truck/car/train from hitting someone. Nice.
Meanwhile, at the Academy of the Bat, Bat-Man has defeated his rival Feng Rongpei in a true battle for the cowl. During this skirmish, Feng revealed himself for the violent, unbalanced narcissist he is.
During the fight the new Wonder Woman stopped the villain Alpaca from interfering. When the fight is over, Baixi heads down to discover that the villain Alpaca is his younger sister Jiali.
Last issue Jiali gushed about her brother's heroic identity and wanted to be his Robin, Here we learn she hates the government and the system they are in. She aided Feng because she wanted to free Baixi from the shackles of the Ministry of Self-Reliance. She will fight against the Ministry and her brother if she needs to if that is the only way she can free the populace.
And oh, by the way, she is the academy's best student.
This whole 'what is the right government to lead' is a thread that is going to continue to be a big one here. Is the Ministry right or wrong? The Big Ten? The Freedom Fighters? Who has the people's best interest in mind?
Meanwhile, back at the yoga center, Ching spells things out to Kenan. The octagon we have seen is made up of trigrams, symbols of power and where they reside within the body. By mastering his chi, Kenan should be able to access his powers when he needs to.
It is mystic and I am probably butchering the underlying concept. But adding philosophy and mysticism to an otherwise pedestrian science fiction superhero origin is new. And I don't know much about Eastern philosophy so I'm interestg in learning more.
Furthermore, this approach to his powers is spelled out on Kenan's chest. His path to power is there, within the tri-grams. He has a path to his destiny if he chooses to follow it.
Ching allows himself to be struck, sealing the student/mentor relationship.
It will be interesting to see if this new focus by Kenan will make his boorish, bullying, immature personality fade away. I didn't mind him being a bit of a punk. So I hope he doesn't become a perfect meditating acolyte and lose his rough edges.
Still, this is a fresh storyline for me and that always grabs me.
But the real surprise was the ending page.
We see the energy Superman, Dr. Omen's first failed experiment, trapped in the Ministry's prison. But he is freed by someone who says he is the first ever, that all things spring from him. And then we get this page.
That's right, a near copy of the cover of the first issue of Detective Comics with the infamous depiction of Fui Onyui, a racist portrayal of Chinese native. But as this is Detective Comics #1, he is the first, the first character seen on a 'DC' comic, the beginning of all of the DCU (in a sense). So as with I Ching, Yang is facing these warts of the past and trying to make sense or modernize them. For an amateur comic historian like me, that is brilliant. What can I say, New Super-Man is a sneaky entertaining book. I hope it continues to do well. Overall grade: A