Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review: New Super-Man #12

New Super-Man #12 came out one week ago and was one of the best comics I read. The book as a whole has definitely been a happy surprise of the Rebirth world, a funny, dramatic, and fresh new group of characters in the DCU. And having the sheen of classic DCU heroes has made it a little bit easier to engage.

This issue really pushes the narrative forward. We learn the origin of Wonder Woman, tied to a Chinese folk tale. We learn of a running theme of the danger of  individuals trying to leap from one Buddhist realm to another. We get some more of the mystery villain. And we end on a great cliffhanger, ramping up the suspense in a running subplot. I really hope that we aren't sprinting to the finish line because a cancellation is on the horizon.

Honestly, this book has been a delight. Writer Gene Luen Yang walks a tightrope here. The New Super-Man is something of a conceited jerk who is slowly working towards being a selfless hero. We see enough of both sides to make Kenan feel like a real person, with faults and aspirations. There is a perfect mix of humor, drama, and action. It really is a well-rounded book with a classic feel.

The art here is by Billy Tan and the best word I can come up with is lovely. There is a sort of soft elegance to the book despite it being populated by giant terrapins and snake women. It really is gorgeous. I really liked Viktor Bogdanovic's time here but I think Tan's style just fits better.

On to the book.

The opening splash page is a primer on the six Buddhist realms. We learn of who inhabits the realms. But most importantly, we learn that the only way to move from one realm to another is through death and rebirth. But now and then, someone jumps realms in a different way which upsets the very order of existence.

This is going to play a keep point in this story. And had I known about this concept, I might have understood all of giant turtle sorcerer Fahai's dialogue last issue.

This is a great page, beautiful. It is poster worthy!

After that exposition, we are dropped right back into the brawl happening over Shanghai. Fahai has been transformed into a giant spiked turtle kaiju, stomping his way through the city. The Superman-Zero from the Ministry is blasting him with heat vision but Fahai simply absorbs the energy and grows. This looks like a losing battle.

Meanwhile, as he has all along, Fahai keeps screaming at Wonder Woman. He calls her Green Snake and says they need to die to bring order to the universe. In a startling moment, he lashes out at Wonder Woman, slicing her in half.

I have really liked Deilan in this book. She has been a sort of rock for the League, a nice mediator between the naive Kenan and the 'by the books' Batman. So seeing this was startling.

But then things get a little crazy!

The Superman Zero begins to glow, showing he is about to solar flare! (I still don't know if the post- Reborn Superman has that power.) That lack of control of himself and his powers shows why he isn't a hero.

And Deilan doesn't die. She becomes a snake woman. And using her body like a magic lasso, she drags Fahai out of the city.

Now this transformation of Deilan was just insane. I wasn't ready for this. And a surprised Anj is a happy one!

The flare takes out all the combatants.

Here we learn a bit more about the origin of Fahai and Deilan. Knowing the idea of the danger of jumping realms in Buddhism, Fahai pleads his case that he and Green Snake should die.

They are animals (from the Realm of Animals). They can't be humans; they can't have these emotions. They must die to bring order.

But then he drops another bomb. Those in 'colorful attire', presumably super-heroes, are also trying to jump realms and are endangering the world. I suppose these heroes are aspiring to be demi-gods in a way. I love this. Adding a layer of metaphysical religion to the world of heroes is compelling. It has to be done right and so far this has.

Meanwhile, I Ching gets a visit from our villain Fuey Enyui who happens to look just like him albeit with different glasses.

I still don't know if this is two beings. Or is Ching/Enyui  one being with a split personality?

This is a great little mystery. I am leaning towards this being one being, a yin/yang sort of conflict within someone.

Post-flare, the Super-man Zero being is completely drained and helpless.

Throughout the issue, Kenan has been angry at this person using the Super-Man moniker, calling him a knockoff and trying to attack.

What I love is the complex nature of Kenan. He finds Super-Man Zero and states he is bringing him back to the ministry. But hearing the pain in Zero's voice as he talks about not wanting to be imprisoned again, Kenan decides to let Zero run. He feels sympathy for this being.

Again, Kenan is sort of an arrogant high school bully who is now experiencing a larger life. He is learning. He is maturing. This pity for Zero shows how he is progressing.

Fahai has been captured. Deilan is brought to the Ministry to receive medical care.

And then we hear her story, the story of White Snake and Green Snake. The Chinese folk tale tells of a green snake, a white snake, and a turtle all of whom elevate themselves into the realm of man. After jealousy and tragedy strike, Fahai is thrown into the ocean. And Deilan was cursed into a stony prison.

We had heard much of these story elements in early issues. But seeing them now, in this flashback, and understanding what it means for these animals to join humanity, makes it more powerful.

And boy, the art in this section is particularly beautiful.

This is a little hard for Kenan to take. His teammate is a character from a fairy tale. Even in this crazy world, that's crazy.

The theme of the Buddhist realm is then introduced in the storyline of Super-Man Zero. He is replenished by the evil Ching and instructed to attack China and become its new sovereign.

Because of the makeup of Zero, he has no human qualities that would obstruct the demi-god powers. He is pure Yang. And as a result, he can bring order.

But he is still a human striving to be in the realm of Demi-Gods. This can't be good.

Back at the ministry, Kenan learns that his father is alive. Dr. Omen has been caring for him. Outraged, Kenan confronts her. But before he gets all the answers, Super-Man Zero attacks the Ministry, nearly leveling it.

In the chaos, Omen confesses she is Kenan's mother just as she seems to fall to her death.

Nice cliffhanger.

Now we know that emotions can help Kenan activate his tri-gram powers. He'll fly next issue and save her I am sure. But this is a whole new plot to explore.

Whew ... that's a lot of story! And a lot of fun! And great action! And I learned some Chinese culture to boot!

I hope this book continues along. It really is a great Rebirth book.

Overall grade: A

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Action, Eastern mythology, good character moments, good art and intriguing plot threads. This is a very unique book. I hope it doesn't get cancelled, but right now most of Super-books are struggling. And I think even the core Superman books (Action and Superman) are selling less?

I'm worried that DC will do anything stupid again rather telling good stories and marketting their books better.