Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: New Super-Man And The Justice League Of China #21

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #21 came out last week, continuing the story of the North Korean Aquaman while bolstering the subplots and characterization of the team. I have said before that I am somewhat surprised that this book avoided the axe that culled Supergirl and Super Sons from the rack. But I am happy I still get to read it because it is a ton of fun.

Gene Luen Yang continues to walk a nice tightrope here between fun teen superhero book with a cocky lead and a decent dive into Asian culture. Between Korean mythology, a look at China as an open and sorta westernized country, and Kenan juggling two love interests, this books continues to sizzle. I am pretty amazed at the changes in tone and depth of the stories here all while maintaining something of a consistent feel. How is that possible?

Brent Peeples remains on art and seems to grow with each issue. I have enjoyed his take on giant crustacean kaiju as well as his stealthier ninja scenes. Everything seems silkier here, more polished.

All this said, I think I am starting to see the writing on the wall in solicit announcements that we might be nearing the end of this book. So enjoy it while you can.

On to the book!

Last issue, two giant crabs helped Ahn Kwang-Jo, a North Korean teen with some water-based powers, escape a military installment and head to the China border.

I have always loved the Wonder Woman of China and her origin as the legendary Green Snake. So I very much liked when the giant crabs recognize her more mystical background and ask her for mercy and help. The fact she is Green Snake should be part of her ongoing story and not just cemented into her past.

And I like that she recognizes her title and her duties. They mirror the concept of Wonder Woman so this worked.

But helping Kwang-Jo means helping someone defect from a dictatorship. This is a political conundrum. What is the right thing to do? Help this one single person knowing it will lead to an international incident? Or kowtow to the political hardline and send Kwang-Jo back?

No surprise that Bat-Man leans towards returning him as a responsibility to the many. Meanwhile Wonder Woman knows the right thing to do is help the individual. It is up to Kenan.

I like how Kenan in the end decides to help Kwang-Jo. Suddenly he is tossing tanks and helping the defector and crabs get over the border.

It is the classic conundrum ... do the good of the many outweight the good of the one?

Well, for China, the state doesn't think that Kwang-Jo is worth the effort.

In the Ministry of Self-Reliance, the government warns Dr. Omen that the Green Lantern Corps of China is ready to extract. This is double given the fact that it is Omen's son who is helping Kwang-Jo. Perhaps it is emotion that has made Omen pause in sending out the Corps?

I love this side plot of Kenan's mother being Omen. She loves him, it is clear. But she also loves duty. The fact she calls the JLC the scalpel in comparison to the Corps' axe is also interesting. The JLC hasn't exactly been precise and surgical. So how brutal are the corps?

And what about Mingming? She is taking it all in.

As for Kwang-Jo, his indoctrination into the propaganda of North Korea is hard wired. He initially thinks he should be killed for leaving his country. He can't believe that he is being given the richest of foods when in reality he has been given soup from a street vendor. He needs his eyes to be opened about how stark his country is.

Wonder Woman brings him out to the streets where he sees Chinese citizens walking the street, giving their pets scraps of food, and being free. He can't believe what he is seeing.

Perhaps his idea of how perfect his country is needs to be questioned. He drinks soda and relishes his freedom.

Hmmmm ...

Meanwhile, Mingming decides to warn the JLC that the Ministry is going to come after Kwang-Jo. She slips into their compound in a ninja stealth suit, sneaking in a kiss.

We have seen Kenan flirt with Mingming and we have seen him flirt with The Flash. He certainly isn't exclusive to either. But neither has he been open about the other or his intentions. So I like how awkward he feels when the two women interact.

Now I don't know if I liked the mild cattiness between them. They should be angry at Super-Man not each other. But such is young love.

It reminds me just what a kid Kenan is. This is probably all new to him.

Completely confused and unsure what the right thing to do is, Kenan heads into his mind. There the debate again rages, this time with input from I Ching and All-Yang.

All Yang thinks it is easy. Might makes right. Be stronger than your enemy. I don't know how that answers the question of should he return a defector.

Meanwhile, I Ching, the ying of this combo, isn't helpful either. All he says is Kenan needs to find balance. For someone like Kenan, that could mean cutting Kwang-Jo in half!

I guess it is going to be up to Kenan to figure this all out. So much for meditation leading to clarity. I found this both frustrating and humorous.

Back in the JLC headquarters, the sea creatures gather a skeleton from the ocean and bring the bones into Kwang-Jo's room.

The bones animate into the dragon King Munmu. This dragon was supposed to defend Korea. Now, with the land corrupt, he has been depowered and is but bones.

I will freely admit that I am not versed in any way with Chinese or Korean mythology. So I like that I am dipping my toes in them here. I'll have to do some research here.

Very good page by Peeples here.

The power of Munmu fuses with Kwang-Jo and suddenly he is ascended into his true Aqua-Man, Dragonson.

Will he attack North Korea? Will he try to take over? Will the shy, awkward personality of Kwang-Jo be drowned by this warrior? Hmmm ...

I am always entertained by this comic. I look forward to it every month. This issue encapsulates it so well. Asian mythology and philosophy. Familial angst. Teen romance. All somehow gelled in a great story.

I will enjoy this book as long as it lasts.

Overall grade: B+

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Immensely entertaining and crisply drawn, as usual.

"I have said before that I am somewhat surprised that this book avoided the axe that culled Supergirl and Super Sons from the rack. But I am happy I still get to read it because it is a ton of fun."

Apparently, the trades are selling well.

I guess New Super-Man was spared from the axe because it's completely dissociated from the main events. Sure, Supergirl's book existed in her tiny corner of the DCU, unaffected by events such like Atrocitus coming along againg (you'd think Kara would notice his latest temper tantrum and take action), but Kara still lives in the same continent than Superman and she's still close family.

"All this said, I think I am starting to see the writing on the wall in solicit announcements that we might be nearing the end of this book. So enjoy it while you can."

I'm afraid you're right.

Looking forward to read your analysis, and your opinion on Supergirl showing up in Wonder Woman's book together with Jessica Cruz.