Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #23

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #23 came out this week. The writing is on the wall that this book is ending and so I am trying to enjoy every second of it I have left. Writer Gene Luen Yang continues to give us a fresh look at familiar characters as they deal with their side of the globe. 

This issue concludes the North Korean Aquaman story, bringing him into the fold of the League. As has been something of a running theme in this book, Aquaman needs to come to grips with who he is as an individual in the face of expectations from his elders. Kenan has needed to grapple with his human parents as well as the warring Yin/Yang in him, trying to become the best version of him that there is. Baixi has been trying to deal with what it means to be a Batman as well as his life as a big brother and a boyfriend. Deiling has had to reconcile her life as an elder spirit Green Snake as well as being a human.

And here, Aquaman has merged with a Korean water god who wants to bring its wrath down on the people. But Kwang Jo is a simple Korean kid who likes American junk culture. How do you figure out who you are and what you want to do in the face of that pressure.

While these are relatively heady topics, Yang always keeps the fun infused in the book. I wish I had another year of this book.

On art, Brent Peeples continues to shine. He has a sort of 'no fuss' style that allows the story to unfold without distraction. I realize that sounds like damning with faint praise but I love the look of this book.

On to the book.

Last month, possessed by the power and spirit of King Munmu, Aquaman went to Mount Paektu to open up the heavenly waters and bring about a 'Second Impact' level event, flooding Korea to rid the land of its sinners.

And the cliffhanger page made it seem he did just that.

Now we see that maybe he only put a crack in the holy dam. Sure, water is spilling out of a portal at an alarming rate. But it isn't the instantaneous deluge. And Kwang Jo is having second thoughts about it, asking King Munmu to allow him to close the sluice.

That internal dialogue has to come to an end when the All-Yang Kenan shows up vowing to kill Aquaman.

I think this is idea of  youth debating an elder's ways is a good one for a comic like this one with teen heroes trying to enact change. There is sometimes a wisdom in the less jaded, a common sense. I mean killing a nation seems extreme. And as I said, we have seen Kenan do the same.

In fact, we see Kenan wrestling with who he is early on.

The All Yang persona is action personified, but cruel action.

It is only when the Flash confronts him, calls him out on his actions, that Kenan is able to shake off that influence and become himself again.

Hey, adolescence is supposed to be a time when you discover who you are.

Meanwhile, in a plot I feel Yang truncated due to lack of time, Alpaca (Batman's little sister and 'chaotic good' Joker of China) frees her brother from the Department of Ministry.

Here is another sort of friction-heavy relationship. Baixi is Batman, a law and order guy, someone who follows the rules to bring about good. Alpaca is the opposite, breaking the rules to bring about good. She is thrilled to hear that Baixi isn't under the thumb of the Ministry any more. But she can't follow in her brother's footsteps.

He hitches a ride with Wonder Woman to North Korea. Alpaca disappears.

Too bad. I'd have liked to see these two interacting more.

Meanwhile, the Green Lantern Corp of China has imprisoned Aquaman and Super-Man in their energies. And when the military blasts Aquaman it has the unfortunate side effect of blowing open the portal.

Suddenly there will be a flood.

Realizing he needs to help, Kenan reaches inside and finds some balance.

Now, instead of the blinding light of rage that he was as All Yang, he is the muted black of I Ching. He says he feels fuzzy inside. Perhaps that is to show that things aren't as stark, as definable, in this mode as they are in Yang when snap judgments and quick answers all seem easy.

Of course, I'd rather just have Kenan be Kenan than manifest the ideology of a spirit within him. But I assume this is part of his growth.

Kenan is free and is able to free Aquaman by mentally poking the Green Lanterns.

But the water gate needs to be closed and quickly.

I don't quite know if I understand just what Kenan is doing, what his powers are here. Unless the endless decisions of the I Ching makes it difficult for Green Lanterns to concentrate enough will to act.

Nice art throughout this battle.

And then that time for Kwang Jo to assert who he is.

King Munmu continues to berate Aquaman, saying it would be disgraceful to not fulfill his disastrous destiny. But then, in blue text to signify it is truly Kwang Jo the human saying it ... not the elevated Aquaman, we get the wisdom of Bart Simpson.

The world doesn't need to be flooded clean. Don't have a cow.

This sort of personal growth, of becoming the person you want to be and not listening to the edicts of others if they are wrong, is one of the themes I love in comics. It is why I always love reading the younger, legacy hero books as they become heroes.

The other part of this story was the debate of should Kwang Jo be returned to North Korea or allowed to defect.

Yang does a sidestep of the argument as that is a hard argument to easily settle. So instead both things occur. A water sculpture which looks like Aquaman is stuck in a North Korean prison. Meanwhile the real Kwang Jo is with the League in China.

And Kenan continues to go inside and debate his two halves.

My hope is that this book ends with both spirits sort of absorbed within Kenan who ascends into becoming his own person.

So this was a decent story of self-discovery and self-determination. I have come to love these characters and this book. I'll be sad to see it end and I hope that DC is wise enough to not put this cast into limbo.

Overall grade: B

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great issue.

I'll be sorry to see this book go.