Thursday, December 21, 2017

Review: New Super-Man #18

New Super-Man #18 came out this week, a book with the cover dress of 'End of an Era!' And it sure felt like it. Reading between the lines on Twitter, writer Gene Luen Yang hinted that this was supposed to be the last issue of this book. Next issue it is called New Super-Man and Justice League China, in theory a new book. And this issue also tied up almost all the plotlines which have been bubbling in this book since the beginning. End of an era? Maybe?

The truth is the Batman and Wonder Woman of China have been crucial parts of this book since they were introduced early on. Kenan has been the straw that stirs the drink for sure. But this has read something like a team book. So the title might change but my guess is the feeling of the book won't.

Is it the end of the I Ching/All-Yang storyline? Yes. Is it a pause on the Freedom Fighters and the Ministry of Self-Reliance? Yep. Is it the realization of New Super-Man as a true, fully powered hero? Yep.So perhaps next issue having a 'bold new direction' banner would be appropriate.

Brent Peeples is back on art and continues to grow into the being the main artist. There are a couple of panels here which really grabbed me and I'll make sure I point them out.

I'm just glad I get to read a little bit more. I went into issue #1 of this book figuring I'd give it a shot but already thinking that I would drop it somewhere between #3 and $4. And yet, the book grabbed me. The young bully turned into a hero. His tragic background. The Western hero analogs. The infusion of Asian culture. It all worked, the perfect blend of super-heroics, teen angst, new characters, and philosophy .

The book opens with theAgura,  Chinese demi-gods bent on destruction, having been loosed onto the world. And the combined might of the Justice Leagues (of America and China) can't seem to stop. Every attack seems to be parried or returned double. As expressions solely of Yang, strength is absorbed and reflected.

But this is really about Kenan's growth.

I love how his internal monologue talks about how he can't believe he would be relying on friends for help. It is a nice nod to what has come before. This isn't the mean kid dumping soda on someone at school we saw in the first issue. He has come to be a friend and an ally.

It becomes clear that any action by the Leagues will only lead to their defeat. The Agura, ass pure Yang, can rebound any attack against them. And so Kenan decides to 'go inside' and meditate in hopes of learning what to do next.

Inside his own head, Kenan is given counsel by his dead mentor I Ching. Ching now exists only in the Realm of Ghosts.

What I like here is how I Ching is portrayed as a drawing. And he feels 2D, even if I know all the characters here are (for me) 2D, printed images on a page. But Ching felt flat. Great effect by Peeples.

Ching gives his origin story. He is twin brother to All-Yang. He embodied Yin. The two were brought early on in life to a monastery where they honed their abilities and learned of their identities. But when both are asked to take on aspects of their doppelganger, Yang refuses and leaves.

Instead, Yin continues on, learning t that he must take on some Yang to have balance. That might be why he is called I Ching and not All Yin. He has knowledge of all things.

The one thing I don't know is if these two were Yin and Yang? Or the best manifestation of Yin/Yang on Earth? Or possessed by those concepts? Or just mutants?

Regardless, Yin continued and becomes a truer embodiment of the concepts. And with Kenan now fully realized, I Ching says it is time to move on. He becomes a spirit ... absorbed by Kenan, altering Super-Man's costume. I don't know how I feel about this S shield quite yet.

Just like that, Kenan has the full complement of powers. He embodies both Yin and Yang.

He has come a long way from that immature kid. He has become a true hero, a hope and inspiration.

With all his powers in his repertoire, Kenan closes the gate which brought the Agura, sealing off the underworld and making the giants weakened. In short work, the otherworldly gods are destroyed.

It was the Red Jade Dragon that brought opened the gate and the Agura here so I suppose it should make sense that it defeats them.

Yang arrives and tells Kenan that he hoped that the Super-Man would provide order to the world which has been sullied by the West. That's why he showed those caricatures from early comics, to show the evil of the West. This veered close to being a bit too political for me. The West is evil? The East is pure. My guess is that is too stark a contrast to be real. Although I guess the fact the villain is saying it should give me pause.

Anyways, Kenan's response his great. He can't believe a bully can't mature and become a friend and a hero. He is talking about himself of course. It shows his growth. (Although that also means he views 'the West' as a bully.)

Then as controller of Yin and Yang, he absorbs All Yang.

Just like that it's over. Again, if Yang is a person, does that mean Kenan has killed him? Imprisoned him? Or is this just the concept of Yang which has been given human form?

There's nothing left but the wrap up.

Super-Man and the Justice League members won't work for the Ministry. They won't work for the Freedom Fighters either. They are free and independent. And they'll be heroes.

We see briefly that the Ministry has a back-up superhero concept ready to deploy. But this ending was the right one. Kenan has grown up, become a hero, made lifelong friends, and is an inspiration.

Will this new JLC book grab more readers? Will we lose the unique take on heroes we saw here? Will Kenan fade into the tapestry? Or will he remain the 'star'?

I guess we'll all have to wait.

I would give this series a B+ as a whole so far. Very interesting as it mixed genres well.

Overall review (this issue): B

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I don't know how I feel about this S shield quite yet."

Well... it's imaginative, I'll give them that.

It's been a fine final issue, even if the story continues. And the art is real good.

I'd like believing the renaming will help save the book but I doubt it. A pity because it's been a solid reading.

Ah... Talking about renaming, the entry's title is wrong. It should be "New Super-Man 18".