New Super-Man #9 came out last Wednesday and was another step forward for this book. I have been enjoying this book a bunch and this issue really highlighted all the things I enjoy. There is action. There is humor. There are subplots. And this deep look at the Asian super-community has been truly entertaining. I try not to curse the darkness. So instead I'll light a candle to praise this book.
For starters, I really love what Gene Luen Yang is doing with Kenan Kong. Our young, kind of immature, kind of jerky protagonist is trying to improve himself and become a mature and more complete hero. So even though he still is a bit silly, his ultimate goals are much more noble. He wants to learn who killed his mother and is willing to do just about anything to continue his investigation.
And I also like that Yang continues to give us Asian analogs of the more classic DCU heroes. In this issue we meet the Chinese Flash and a new team as well. I welcome this expansion of the universe!
Lastly, Viktor Bogdanovic is back on pencils and he brings a nice gritty feel to the proceedings. I think Bogdanovic shines most in the action sequences of the book. There is a dynamic feel to the battles with a sort of ever present cloud of particulate matter which gives the proceedings a sort of dirty, 'down in the muck' feel.
On to the book!
One of my problems with recent comics, and it seems to be more Marvel than DC, is the use of the 'recap' page to open an issue. Now, in many instances, I actually like the information given in those pages, a nice reminder to me of what has happened. But I don't like just a text page. In the old days, the recap was built into the story. I am already paying $4 an issue for 20 pages! I don't want a page wasted.
All of this to say that I loved this opening page which in essence is a recap page but has art and some added information. We read about Kenan's journey. We are reminded about I Ching.
But the inclusion of the Tri-grams and their underlying power was a nice touch. And I love the classic 'shirt rip' pose.
And the pose here, the scowl and the shading, shows that this isn't fun and games any more.
Lex Luthor has arrived in China to ask for Kenan's help back in America.
Kenan isn't interested as it will take him away from his mission of investigating his mother's death. But Dr. Omen is pretty adamant about Kenan going. I Ching is brought on board to act as a translator.
This leads to some of the funniest moments of the book. On the flight, Luthor and Kenan have a conversation with I Ching changing what they are each saying for some maximum humorous effect. I Ching is sort of a curmudgeon with a heart of gold, trying to whip Kenan into shape and using some biting sarcasm to point the way.
We had seen Luthor in all his oiliness earlier in this comic, trying to schmooze Kenan.
Here we see a bit of his deviousness. After landing at LexCorp, Luthor reveals that he speaks fluent Mandarin. He has understood everything that has been said around him. He feigned ignorance to understand everything and gain information on his guests. It is a way to control.
You can't trust Luthor.
But Luthor has a problem. There is an Asian super-speedster running around LexCorp like an industrial terrorist. Lex thought she might be an agent of the Ministry of Self-reliance. But now he thinks he needs Kenan's help.
Yang seems to have Luthor's voice. I like this characterization.
So why did Luthor ask for Kenan's help. Certainly Lex should have the ability to stop one speedster.
Well, it turns out that somehow Luthor has obtained some ancient Chinese artifacts called the Ox Horse Door Rings. Luthor knows there is energy behind the doors but he has been unable to open them. He thinks Kenan can. Moreover, the energy behind the door will fill Kenan and give the New Super-Man access to all his powers immediately.
It's a short cut. It isn't a hard fought journey. And I Ching doesn't think Kenan should open these doors. But for Kenan the ends (his powers) justify the means (helping Lex).
Look at how slimy Lex is, claiming he is something of a father to Kenan since it was his tech that Omen co-opted to give Kenan his powers. Kenan's real dad just died. This is classic Lex, trying to worm his way in. Just perfect Lex again.
In the end though, I Ching decides to help his student.
Again, there are those razor-sharp verbal barbs.
But he will help, guiding Kenan to focus his chi into his fists to augment his strength.
And miraculously, the doors swing open.
And out of the doors comes a skeletal Superman corpse.
Where do these doors lead to??
And it looks like it is the New 52 Superman's costume. But didn't he turn to sand and blow away? And what place has he been languishing?
But Lex was telling the truth. The energy surges out of the doors and into Kenan. Suddenly he has the entire spectrum of powers.
What an image! Horrifying. And adding to the mystery of what is going on with Superman in this Rebirth world.
With the undead Superman out and the Ox Horse doors open, the Chinese Flash arrives to try and take some control of the situation. What a great page by Bogdanovic! This one just crackles!!
It turns out these are the doors to Diyu, the realm of the dead ... or hell.
So why would Superman be in Hell (unless it is more like a Limbo place)?? Is this really Superman or some demon taking his form to befuddle.
Leave it to Luthor to try to use Hell as an energy source.
And I love the AC/DC t-shirt. For those about to rock ... we salute you!!!!
When it seems that this Flash can't handle things on her own, she calls in back up.
There is China White, Snake Pit, and Strato the Cloud Man.
Snake Pit shuts the artifact doors. Strato blankets everyone in fog.
It looks like they will stop Lex from letting the dead swarm.
Now maybe I am just blanking, but I don't know if this team is a stand-in for an existing team. Are the analogs for someone else?
The fog dissipates but it isn't because of Kenan. Kong doesn't have all his super-powers any more.
Someone else did that.
Now that's a cliffhanger.
So humor, a snake-like Luthor, and some super-hero fighting. Plus the dead Superman emerges from Hell (only to be chucked back into it).
That's a lot of story and a lot of tones. And it all worked.