Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bullet Review: New Superman #1

New Superman #1, the latest addition to the Superman Family and one of the first new books in the post-Rebirth world.

I wasn't sure if I was going to be on board for the book. The writer of the book is Gene Luen Yang and I feel Yang stumbled so badly with The Truth that I thought maybe I should stand clear. I very much enjoyed his Boxers and Saints books. But for me, The Truth was a chore to get through.

Still, I wondered if this was more in Yang's wheelhouse. And the idea of a Superman in China was somewhat interesting. I never really latched onto Morrison's Great Ten. So maybe it was time for a fresh start.

The art is done by Viktor Bogdanovic. I haven't seen work by Bogdanovic before. It is sort of a scratchy economical style. I thought for sure this book would have a much more stylized look. I guess I'll have to see what I think over time.

For me, the biggest hook for the book is that the hero is something of a bully. We are used to the picked on kids get powers. We have seen good people get powers. But the character of Kenan Kong is something of a jerk. There is a tragic background here and maybe he is compensating a bit. How will he respond to having powers. Remember, the New 52 Superboy was something of a punk and that did not work. Will Yang be able to pull it off?

Right off the bat we get a sense of who Kenan is.

He is a bit of a narcissist, describing his good looks, how he is just the right degree of tall, and he looks important.

Here he picks on a kid, stealing his lunch. He isn't a nice guy.

But then he does a good deed and earns his 15 minutes of fame. When the Blue Condor, a super-villain, tries to kidnap the kid Kenan was picking on, Kenan lashes back. Kenan throws a can of soda at the villain making him drop the kid and fly off.

Everyone takes notice of this, including intrepid news reporter Laney Lan. In her brief scene, she seems like a mix of Lois Lane and Tana Moon. I like that.

Those initials ... L.L. ... they are inescapable.

Feeling proud about himself and a sudden social media phenomenon, Kenan runs home to talk to his dad.

We learn that, for some reason, Kenan blames the Chinese Southeast Airline for his mother's death. The boy Kenan was picking on is the son of that airline's CEO.

But, the most important thing is that we learn his father is something of a social protester. Kenan's dad is trying to prove that a shadowy group called the Ministry of Self-Reliance exists. The dad's credo is 'Truth. Justice. Democracy.' And that plays off well with the idea of Kenan as a Superman sort.

I like the fact that the Dad is something of a social warrior. Maybe that will rub off on Kenan a bit. I thought this would be my favorite part of the book but something surpasses it later.

Kenan's attack on Blue Condor did make a splash. He gets noticed by Dr. Omen, the scientist we saw in parts of the recent 'Death of Superman' arc. She shows Kenan a video of Superman saving a plane and tells him that she can give him those powers.  He hastily agrees.

What I like is that he reacts to the video the way he does. Even though he blames it on the weather, we know an airline was involved with his mother's death. This scene takes place at her grave. That part of his life has effected him greatly.

Back in the lab, Kenan is hooked up to a machine which bombards him with energy (presumably some version of the solar flare?). In agony from the procedure, he has a vision of his mother's plane dropping from the sky. But now he is Superman, he can try to save her.

Again, this backstory informs us about Kenan. There is a tragic element to his childhood. His mother's death clearly has had a significant impact on him. But maybe that tragedy can spur him to become a hero worthy of an S-shield.

He emerges and declares himself the new Superman. What he lacks is control over his powers. The lab has to call on the Chinese versions of Batman and Wonder Woman to try to corral him.

The thing that worries me is that there is a fine line between misunderstood bully trying to better himself and straight up bully who isn't a nice person. Can Yang make this Superman likeable enough to keep me invested?

But the best thing I can say about this first issue was that it felt like a classic number one. We see the character. We meet the supporting cast. We see the character get their powers. We have some bread crumbs dropped, hints of future plots. It ends on a nice cliffhanger.

This did what a true origin issue should do. It introduced me to the character and got me interested.

So I guess I am in for the second issue.

Overall grade: B+

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