Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review: New Super-Man & The Justice League Of China #24

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #24 came out this week, the last issue of this book, and I am sad to see it go.

I wasn't sure what I was going to get when I bought issue #1 of this book. Writer Gene Luen Yang was writing the main Superman book taking it in a direction I didn't like. But I figured with the name Super-Man, I was obligated to give it a shot.

What I have read for the past two years has been, month in and month out, an entertaining and complex book. Yang has had the luxury of giving us DC archetypes through an Asian lens, so it is both comfortable and new. He has looked back at some of the uglier sides of early DC comics and put them into a modern context. He infused Asian mythology into these new characters, especially in my favorite character of Wonder Woman. But most of all he has given us a young hero in Kenan Kong, a school bully lashing out because of his own familial problems and dropped onto the hero's journey. It has been a tightrope walk of action, politics, and comedy but somehow the book pulled it off. Never preachy, stodgy, or boring, I looked forward to seeing this book in my pull file. This issue was Yang's chance to say goodbye and push Kenan farther down the road of that journey.

We have had great artists on the book the whole time but Brent Peeples. His style definitely has grown over the time here. He also has had to deftly jump from silliness to earth-shattering action and has done so extremely well.

So long New Super-Man, I'll miss you.

The game opens with the members of the JLC playing a version of Mortal Kombat but with their personas. Kenan is not happy when he continually loses. It's funny and a throwback to when Anj played a lot of Scorpion on the original MK1 and MK2 games.

But I liked the side conversation between Batman and Wonder Woman. I have to think this is a meta-comment from Yang thanking the fans of this book who pushed for it for so long.

Kenan meditates and again runs into his internal Yin and Yang, I Ching and All Yang. Having been able to manifest Yin, he thinks he can pluck I Ching from the land of the dead and return him to the living. I Ching warns him this isn't wise, but Kenan is Kenan. Suddenly the entire team is in the Realm of Ghosts and having to face some personal demons.

First up, Kenan has to face his past as he sees his bullying self picking on another student. He really has grown a lot.

Here is that scene from New Super-Man #1, where we first met the narcissistic Kenan stealing a soda from another kid.

But that is part of the lesson here. With great power comes great responsibility and all that. Kenan isn't this punk anymore.

Meanwhile, the other JLC heroes have to face their potential futures. Wonder Woman and Aquaman have lost their humanity. Batman has embraced chaos.

Yang really has done a great job giving all these characters their own personalities and back stories. I'll miss the whole bunch.

But outside his past, Kenan has to also face his future.

While a battle rages on, Future Kenan meditates as Perfect Man.

So balanced, so in tune with the world as he meditates, he doesn't help anyone.

Hardly perfect.

Finally I Ching does arrive to again give Kenan some life lessons.

This Perfect Man is hardly perfect. He is so afraid to get involved and get hurt that he simply distances himself from everybody. This meditation is a front.

At times I Ching's advice has sounded like silly fortune cookie stuff. But here he says 'even balance must have balance' and that is pretty heavy. Sitting in the sky and only seeking inner perfection isn't helping anyone but yourself.

And then the big truth.

"Let go of the goodness that can never be. Embrace the goodness that is." Why bother trying to achieve a goal of perfection that is unattainable. Instead enjoy the life and goodness you have now.

I usually state this as 'perfect is the enemy of the good', paraphrased from Voltaire. But it is a lesson I needed to learn back when I was Kenan's age. It is a lesson I still need to be reminded about.

I am going to miss this book.

So Kenan lets the Realm of Ghosts fade away.

Instead we catch a shot of the JLC in action in the future. Was this a story arc that Yang planned but never got to?I'd love to see the Bane from China!

And then a great closing page with the JLC rushing into action. The current good is very good.

This is a riff on the New 52 JL #1 cover so it again reminded me how Yang was able to take familiar concepts of DC heroes but infuse them with a new energy and culture.

I am here to light a candle not curse the darkness. Twenty-four issues in the current market is a nice run. This was a great book. And I am glad Yang got the chance to give us an epilogue of sorts. If you haven't tried this book, look for it or the trades.

And I hope Brian Michael Bendis doesn't let Kenan drift into limbo.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

So long, Yang. It was a good run, but unfortunately I think we all came the end coming. DC doesn't know what to do with Superman, let alone the Super Family, and new heroes seldom succeed in the current market.

But it was a good book.

Unfortunately I'm afraid Kenan and his JLC will be lucky if they can enjoy some occasional cameo from now on.

Anj said...

I agree. I hope they aren't forgotten.

Maybe a special now and then, during a 5 wednesday month?