Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: New Super-Man #19

New Super-Man #19 came out last week, a rest issue as the title reconfigures into the New Super-Man and the Justice League of China title. Last issue tied up all the loose plot threads of All-Yang and I Ching and the Ministry of Self-Reliance. So why not take a moment and give us a rest issue focused on a supporting cast member.

Writer Gene Luen Yang steps aside for Mariko Tamaki to pen the book. Tamaki wrote the Supergirl Being Super mini-series and is known for her YA writing. So why not let her build up the back story of the Lois Lane analogue in the book Laney Lan. I haven't thought too much about Lan before this, thinking she was as much an entertainer as a reporter, giving us fluff pieces. Here we see she has much more behind that slick exterior. If I have a quibble it is that this story takes place long ago in continuity. She has a secret she is keeping from Kenan. But it is a secret he has already learned. As a result, there sort of wasn't a 'ka-pow' moment.

The art is by Brent Peeples, the new regular artist on the book. As usual, his work is fine, solid story-telling. I wish there was more zest or zing to this book which is supposed to be overflowing with youthful energy.

Next issue is a bold, new direction. Let's hope it picks up right where the old book left off.

The book opens with Laney on the street doing a standard puff piece, asking passers-by what they think of the new Justice League of China.

But she wants more. You can see during the interview she's somewhat irked by what she's doing. And she is sitting on a lead about Dr. Omen that she wants to explore. But her boss won't let her. He likes the cotton candy news she is producing.

There is something so dismissive about him, typing away on his phone and basically ignoring her.

We also see that Laney has a controlling family. She is stuck listening to her overbearing mother. She is stuck doing what they say, meeting with them and talking to them and following their orders.

I loved these two panels so much. Laney has a charmed life, a lucky life of privilege. But she feels unlucky because she is stuck in a life she doesn't want. And that makes her sound like a brat. How many of us haven't felt a little like that at some point ...

But she isn't going to leave her dreams behind. She'll keep pushing forward.

When she learns Bat-Man and Super-Man are in action nearby, she leaves her motherly lunch and rushes off.

Again, this is a great page. As a giant robot foot is approaching to crush her, Laney is there snapping pics. There is a two page spread showing the bottom of the foot filling her phone's screen. That is an interesting use of a double page splash but it worked.

With the rescue over, she invites Super-Man and Bat-Man out for noodles.

We learn that she knows Dr. Omen is Kenan's mother, the information leaked to her. So she begins to do a dance of an interview, trying to coax out information from Kenan. Until she realizes that Kenan doesn't know that information himself. She is stuck with that conundrum ... tell him?

But she is dealing with her own family issues, including a lack of desire to call her father. So she keeps it to herself.

I do like how Bat-Man is less open about everything. He knows Laney is pumping them for info and thinks they should take off.

And how weird is it to see them all just sitting there, in costume, in a restaurant.

And then we see her secret.

Her father is supposedly working in the states to support the family. But Laney also knows that he has a second family over there, a wife and kid apart from Laney and her mother.

Perhaps it is this awful reality that makes her hold back on springing this new information on Kenan. She gets how much family secrets can hurt. She's empathetic.

At the very least this has galvanized her. She is going to give up the nonsense and dig deep into the bigger stories.

Okay, so not a bad issue. If we care about Lois as Superman fans, we should care about Laney as Super-Man fans. I am glad there is more to her than just Hollywood style E! News. And maybe all this will bring her closer to Kenan. Hopefully it helps her iron out her own problems.

My concern is that this book is now changing to a team book. And while that dynamic has basically been there all along, I wonder if the new focus means less time for a character like Laney. And if you are going to open this can of worms, as a reader, I'm going to want some progress.

Overall grade: B-

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good issue, albeit it was more of a character study than a plot-advancer. I agree, if you're going to focus one issue on one secondary character instead of developing your subplots, then you better show why she's important plotwise.