Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: New Super-Man and Justice League Of China #20

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #20 came out last week, a new title for the book while keeping the old numbering. In many ways, I am thrilled the book is still around. Its sales numbers are lower than books usually survive at, let alone get a redirection and renaming. But it has consistently been a fun book to read, a sort of look at the DCU from a different perspective and culture. As all the JLA archetypes were already starring in the book, why shouldn't DC try to capitalize on the name Justice League.

That said, the book isn't named Justice League of China. New Super-Man is still there in big letters. So, despite the new branding, this read exactly like the New Super-Man book I loved. Kenan Kong is still the centerpiece of the action, getting the biggest character beats. The League is there, this time fighting a little known, rather infamous DC villain. And a two new versions of one of the Big Seven are introduced. This wasn't a bold new direction as much as 6 new words thrown on the cover.

Writer Gene Luen Yang is back with penciller Brent Peeples and they bring the same vim and vigor to the proceedings as before. In particular, there is a new quirk in Kenan that I find fascinating and bears watching. And Peeples are on aquatic creatures makes me think he'd be a fine fill-in artist for Aquaman.

New Super-Man #18 read like a final issue. So I wonder if DC is going to give this book a little more time to see if numbers improve. Like maybe on trade worth? I can remember, way back when this blog started, I reviewed the R.E.B.E.L.S. book and wondered every month when the plug would be pulled. I keep thinking that here too.

On to the book!

While Kenan reflects on his new powers, meditating to maintain his focus, Wonder Woman and Batman are at a winter funland. The two heroes are now romantically involved and having a fun day of it when the see one of the mascots draining young children of psychic energy.

When Wonder Woman steps in, she is also drained ... by Sleez!! (DUN DUN DUNNNN!) Sleez is a psychic vampire who feeds on people's baser emotions. He can also manipulate those same feelings as well. He was deemed so vile that he was banished off Apokolips. Now that's saying something

Most long time comic readers now Sleez mostly as the villain in a two part Action Comics story way back when John Byrne took over where he had Superman and Big Barda make a pornographic video.

There is some debate as to whether or not it truly happened ... but that's the plot!

While the heroes battle Sleez in China, a young man in North Korea named Kwang-jo gets pulled out of his classroom.

With the military grilling him and the more fascist leanings there, he is appropriately nervous. But his nerves manisfest by having him profusely sweat. I mean sweat literal gallons.

And then a fish appears in the puddle.

I do like that Yang is starting to broaden the sphere of the characters here. The Flash is sort of Americanized. Now we get someone from Korea. Having these different viewpoints interact should make for a rich cast to pull from.

And I love this wonky power! Looks like a Magikarp!

Batman sent out a distress signal so Super-Man and the Flash arrive.

I talked in the intro about a quirk I like in Kenan. Remember, he just absorbed I Ching and All-Yang. He is now a fully powered Super-Man. So at times he is trying ... almost acting ... too Supermanly and calm. But it doesn't sound like the Kenan we know and love, the goofy guy who was a sort of bully with a heart of gold.

So this panel is one of many that shows that. He starts out with some snark, more like the Super-Man we have read all this time. But then he slips into a zen-like peacefulness. I think he is trying to hard to be what he perceives Super-Man should be.

That said, he is different. He has read the strategy manual and clearly is the leader on the team, calling out how they can bast defeat Sleez. After Wonder Woman and Batman temporarily ensnare the villain, Kenan knocks him out with a punch that seems to emanate yin/yang black and white lightning. It is a new power and its energy seems to frighten Kenan. Hmmm ...

I like that he has grown into a more mature hero. I like that we still see his personality a little. But this uncertainty with his new powers should be a nice wrinkle. More later.

I had to include this panel because Sleez talks about his time in Metropolis. Does that mean the Barda story is still in continuity??

As I said, the punch knocked out Sleez. But before the League can decide what to do with him, the Ministry of Self-Reliance's new police force, the Lantern Corps of China arrive.

Will they be antagonists to the League? My guess is yes. Things ended weirdly with Dr. Omen. The team isn't taking orders from anyone. I don't even know if they are government sanctioned.

Of all the new plots, this one interests me the most.

Finally, after another odd 'snark/calm' dialogue, the Flash calls out Kenan for being boring. He isn't the Kenan they all knew anymore. He isn't spontaneous or fun.

He decides to show he is and plants a huge kiss on her, one both of them seem to be happy about. Is it Sleez ramping up their desires? Probably not. They have flirted before.

But I wonder if having two couples form a 4 person hero team is a bit too much for one book.

As for Kwang-Jo, things get even weirder. He is found to be an enemy of the state because he watches pirated television, specifically The Simpsons.

While being interrogated and beaten, water pours out of him. You can see it filling the room! Two giant crabs come through it and slaughter the guards.

And then they plead with Kwang-Jo as their monarch, asking to take him home.

These are very cool looking crustaceans, hence my thoughts about Peeples on Aquaman. Also, how does this royal family member fit in with Aquaman's Atlantis. Is their another monarchy? Lots to think about.

And then we get the answer about the Yin/Yang punch.

There is All Yang inside Kenan. And Super-Man is afraid that part of him will take over and be dominant. So his powers are a little wonky right now. Yes, I Ching is in there too. But action, violent action, is a Yang thing.

While I find this a good subplot, we just went through a year and a half of Kenan's powers being unlocked or wonky. So it seems early to go back to the well.

And personally, I can't help but think of Alia Atreides who became evil in Dune Messiah when the spirit of Baron Harkonnen began to take over.

But the internal debate has to be shelved.

The League rouses Super-Man to join them as they try to confront two giant crabs carrying a young man over the Chinese border. Nice cliffhanger.

So overall a nice 'first issue' for this 'new title'. You meet all the League members and get a decent idea of their personalities. We get the internal Yin/Yang debate. We get the Corps. And we get the Korean Aquaman. That's a pretty good trip down this title's buffet.

I hope people give it a try. This has been an entertaining and engaging book from the beginning.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Breaking news...DC Comics cancels Supergirl!

Anonymous said...

"Most long time comic readers now Sleez mostly as the villain in a two part Action Comics story way back when John Byrne took over where he had Superman and Big Barda make a pornographic video."

Ugh! Sleez. The villain Byrne THOUGHT we didn't know we wanted.

"And I love this wonky power! Looks like a Magikarp!"

Yes, I know a "You may think I look dumb right now but one day I'll evolve and I'll kill everyone" Magikarp face when I see it.

"Does that mean the Barda story is still in continuity??"

Man, I hope not!

I guess that statement is intentionally vague so it may be taken either way, but I'd be annoyed if that terrible story is in continuity and Gates's Supergirl and Johns' Superman runs remain out of it.

Those Chinese Green Lantern Corps are interesting.

I'm intrigued about that "Aquaman". Is he related to Arthur? Is there an undersea kingdom the Atlantean family doesn't know about?

The Justice League against giant mutated crabs. How delightfully Silver Age. They'll get turned into trees at some point?

"Breaking news...DC Comics cancels Supergirl!"

Apparently, DC is planning some kind of revamp which involves the Titan books.

KET said...

"Breaking news...DC Comics cancels Supergirl!"


Click-bait sites once again jump the gun for heightened dramatic effect, and prove that they don't read solicitation blurbs very well. Neither DC publishing or current series writer Steve Orlando have used the words 'final issue' or 'cancellation' in regards to Supergirl #20.

However, the truth is that the current Supergirl ongoing series is being put on hold from publication while DC Comics hypes up Brian Bendis' Superman line revamp. So it seems more like Supergirl comics publication is merely being sidelined temporarily so that Bendis won't have to deal with any reference to that. There has been no official word on whether the series is being renumbered or relaunched, or even when Supergirl's ongoing comics series might return.

In any case, the Supergirl TV series remains completely unaffected.


Anonymous said...

Bendis has apparently tweeted Kara will be a huge character in the books. I don't know whether I should be glad or terrified.

Anonymous said...

If Bendis gets Kara deeply involved in the Superman books I might be able to overlook losing her own title. I mean, yea, it annoys me to no end that we get less of her, as I would gladly buy a daily issue of Supergirl, but I have had issues with her being sidelined to an almost parallel universe in Rebirth, and this effort sounds like they are moving away from the sandbox storytelling where nothing matters to creating a coherent Rebirth universe.

If Bendis manage to pull that off, and we get storytelling on par with what we have seen in Injustice and Gotham City Garage, I think that would ultimately be a good thing for all characters. Then of course in the long run I hope that they can work her selftitled comic back into the fold again.

It sounds on the quote above that he cares for the character, and that is really important. For now it sounds like a huge step up from the treatment she got from Jurgens and Tomasi.

I am cautiously optimistic about this development. I really wish we had some solicitations to calm my nerves though. So far I have seen nothing in the "Man of Steel" and "No Justice" solicitations that would make me believe that Kara will be part of the upcoming transition.