Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: New Super-Man #14

New Super-Man #14 came out last week and continued to story of the Justice League of China fighting the fascist rule of the evil Emperor Superman. Once again, writer Gene Luen Yang provides a very entertaining issue, moving the plot ahead, stuffing in an incredible amount of character development, throwing in a great throwdown, and ending on a cliffhanger. What more could you ask for?

And yes, this ultimate throwdown of three super-teams from China is a great action piece. But for me, no big surprise, it was the personal moments - specifically between Bat-man and Wonder Woman that made me the happiest. This is a book basically about kids becoming heroes. And there should be growth. Given the tenuous shelf life that most comics have these days, Yang isn't taking the long road on some of the subplots here. And kudos to him for that. For the readers enjoying this book, we deserve to see these moments.

The art is again done by Billy Tan and I just loved the polished look of the book. It somehow fits the tone here. Tan is able to bring the right feeling to both the action sequences and the quieter scenes. Yang and Tan together really click.

I wonder how much more I'll have this book to enjoy. Everyone should be reading this book. It is a ton of fun.

The book starts with the Emperor rallying his troops, the freed criminals from the Crabshell.

I found this panel particularly interesting. One of the things that I have loved about this book is how Yang is basically recreating the DCU in China. We have the JLA, the Freedom Fighters, and other analogs. This just made the book a little easier for me to jump on to. I get the concepts; now I get to meet these characters.

Here, the Emperor talks about how all these Western ideas is eroding the Chinese way of life. Certainly, in this day and age, cultural appropriation, whitewashing, diversity, and embracing cultures is all the jargon. Here, the villain is trying to protect the old ways.

Whatever side you fall on, he is a villain, a killer, and a fascist. And so his super-powered team has caught the attention of the Great Ten, another super-hero team. A brawl ensues.

Meanwhile, Super-Man, Flash are on rescue duty, trying to help the injured innocents on the ground.

Bat-Man is even more sullen than usual. Thankfully, Flash is there to tell Super-Man what everyone else can plainly see. Bat-Man loves Wonder Woman, who unfortunately last issue was revealed to be a giant snake spirit.

I love how clueless Kenan is. Remember, it is his youth and impetuousness and semi-punk personality that makes him feel fresh in the DCU and the super-family.

In fact, Wonder Woman is an enormous snake, slithering through the streets trying to rescue people but being mistaken for a monster. (Who wouldn't be terrified of a giant snake??)

The Flash reminds Wonder Woman that it is the power of love that helps the Flash family stay rooted and stable. (Heck, remember how many times Wally's love for Linda was his beacon?)

As Deilan begins listing off things she loves, she slowly begins to take on more human characteristics, taking on the form of a lamia.

But she can't bring herself to say she loves Baixi ... so she stays in this form.

 The action ramps up. The Emperor has taken over a skyscraper in Shanghai and turned it into a makeshift prison. The JLC needs to head there to rescue everyone.

Meanwhile, I Ching senses ... well, I guess a disturbance in the force is the easiest way to say it. Ching heads inside and there confronts his nemesis doppelganger.

I don't know if I quite understand the relationship between these two. But I am intrigued. Is this the evil within Ching that he purged somehow? That would explain that shadow line.

 The JLC crashes into the skyscraper. While Kenan wanted stealthy, the Flash crashes in loudly. A brief fight with the Freedom Fighters happens.

I love that first panel. Again, these are young heroes in uncharted waters. That back and forth while people are suffering in the background is hilarious.

Bat-Man has been acting completely awkward around Wonder Woman the whole issue.

Finally, he admits that he loves her.

With a kiss, Wonder Woman returns to her full human form. I am glad these two got together and I am glad Yang gives us this moment. And Flash's response is perfect! Young love ... ain't it grand!

Kenan ends up rescuing his father. Both realize that somehow Dr. Omen is, in fact, Kenan's mother. Now that is a great wrinkle to the story here.

But the time comes for Super-Man to face Emperor Super-Man. These two panels really wonderfully distill the difference between the two. The Emperor says that he has burned away the human part of himself, thinking it is weakness.

Then Kenan thinks of all the people in his life, the human side of himself, and is able to draw on that for power, blasting the Emperor and winning the fight.

But that's not the end of the story! There is one more surprise ... and a great cliffhanger.

This title continues to maintain a high quality for me. It is always entertaining and definitely has the right mix of teenage humor, coming of age heroics, action, and mystery.

Overall grade: A

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