New Super-Man: Made in China (2017)

New Super-Man: Made in China

New Super-Man is a lot of fun. Writer Gene Luen Yang approaches it like a serious spoof and artists Viktor Bogdanovic and Richard Friend are very much in on the joke.

There’s a secret Chinese agency developing “The Justice League of China.” They need a “Superman” and pick Kong Kenan. Kenan is a high school bully who ends up on TV because of an uncontrollable urge to help people. Yang doesn’t look at that uncontrollable urge, but later in Made in China, Yang does give Kenan some redemption. His bullying, while bad, has its origins in his unresolved pain. He’s deep.

Luckily, Yang concentrates more on the fun than the hints at depth. There are a lot of big reveals in the second half of the book and everytime you have a reveal, it screws with depth. Yang tries, with one of the biggest reveals, to compensate with backstory, but it’s not enough. New Super-Man doesn’t have the wherewithal to do serious political comedy. Instead, it does a reasonable facisimile version. With bickering superhero teams. Because bickering superhero teams are fun.

Young superheroes in trouble.

Kenan has sidekicks in “Wonder Woman” and “Batman.” They both have not as memorable real names. Batman doesn’t like Kenan, which is simultaneously obvious and ingenious. By the finish, when the team is hanging out in their civilian clothes, Yang has completed China’s deftest character arcs. He’s building a strong superhero comic supporting cast, but he avoids obvious bonding moments. It’s cool. The relationships between all three, particularly “Superman” and “Wonder Woman,” are great.

The stuff with Kenan and his dad, which turns out to be extremely important not just for reveals and epical plotting and so on… well, it could be better. The dad’s a little too mysterious, too disinterested. Yang waits too long to work on the relationship. It starts as C plot and waits a real long time before rushing to join the A plot.

New Super-Man is so Justice League there are Chinese knockoff Starro.

Bogdanovic and Friend’s art is good. They handle the action and just the general energy of the book. Kenan’s always antsy, physically impulse, even before he has superpowers. There’s a fine visual continuity to the characters as China goes on. Bogdanovic has an excellent sense of composition. There’s not as much detail as there could be, especially on faces, but the comic’s breezy enough it doesn’t register.

New Super-Man is a good time. Yang, Bogdanovic, and Friend build a solid character, solid pitch, with Made in China. Hopefully they keep Super-Man flying.

CREDITS

Writer, Gene Luen Yang; penciller, Viktor Bogdanovic; inker, Richard Friend; colorist, Hi-Fi Colour Design; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Paul Kaminski, Eddie Berganza, and Bob Harras; publisher, DC Comics.

Tom Strong 22 (December 2003)

Tom Strong #22

Moore brings it all together for the Tom Stone finale. He even gets around to a scene or two I really wasn’t expecting. It turns out there are drawbacks to a more emotional Tom Strong or Tom Stone. They play out unexpectedly for the characters, but maybe expectedly for the superhero comic book medium.

Ordway proves the perfect artist for the issue–and the arc–given the vast number of guest starring science heroes. They’re everywhere during some of the issue, with Ordway getting to do very different Bronze Age superhero action composition. It’s very cool, even if Moore’s successful at the scenes being emotionally devastating.

With all the time travel and alternate universes, it’s initially odd Moore wants to close off the Tom Stone storyline. The conclusion, where he actually gets to develop Tom Strong a little more, wouldn’t work without treating the arc rather seriously.

It’s excellent work.

A 

CREDITS

How Tom Stone Got Started, Part Three: Crisis on Infinite Hearts; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Jerry Ordway; inkers, Ordway, Sandra Hope and Richard Friend; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Tom Strong 21 (October 2003)

Tom Strong #21

The Tom Stone story continues with Moore doing a combination alternate history lesson of the twentieth century–with Tom Stone and the good Saveen rehabilitating all the villains instead of fighting them–and wink at the traditional Tom Strong back story.

The most interesting part is how Tom Strong’s mother is basically the only villain in the issue. She’s the one knowingly endangering the fabric of the space-time continuum. But not really, because everything in the Tom Stone world is okay.

And Tom Strong gets to hear all about how he didn’t do things as well as Tom Stone would have done–the deciding factor seems to be Tom Strong’s dad not being as sympathetic as Tom Stone’s–and even he gets tired of it.

There’s not a lot of drama to the issue, something Moore saves entirely for the soft cliffhanger.

It’s competently done, but lacks any momentum.

B 

CREDITS

How Tom Stone Got Started, Part Two: Strongmen in Silvertime; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Jerry Ordway; inkers, Trevor Scott, Karl Story and Richard Friend; colorist, Wildstorm FX; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Batman: The Dark Knight 3 (January 2012)

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Batman’s a jerk. He badmouths Poison Ivy, saying she’s a villain, says he can’t trust the Birds of Prey (do they really refer to themselves by that name? How dumb) and then doesn’t apologize when he finds out he’s wrong.

But it’s not just Batman making the mistake. Jenkins and Finch mention this Gotham PD lieutenant doesn’t have a detective rank. So he’s a plainclothes lieutenant? Not sure they understand basic rankings. Or maybe they’re trying to have Batman tell a joke. They fail.

There are lots of attempts to bring the series into continuity. They seem pretty silly once Batman forgets the Joker doesn’t have a face… not to mention them having a previous relationship. I thought Detective established they weren’t bantering nemeses yet.

Finch’s Bruce Wayne art is bad. It makes the costumed stuff seem okay.

Still, it could be worse. Not a lot worse, but definitely worse.

CREDITS

Catch Me If You Can; writers, Paul Jenkins and David Finch; penciller, Finch; inker, Richard Friend; colorist, Jeromy Cox; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Rickey Purdin and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: The Dark Knight 2 (December 2011)

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So Finch opens ripping off Blade Runner and ends with an homage to Tim Burton’s Batman.

Finch has got some really dumb ideas. I wonder if he ever thinks about them logically. He mixes the Burton Batmobile with the one from the new movies. Not that it makes any sense whatsoever, but I guess Finch thinks it looks cool so who cares.

Right off, he shows himself to be incapable of committing to a cliffhanger. The hulked out Two-Face is just a tease. It’s over in a couple pages, with some terrible Batman narration about being lonely. We then discover all of Batman’s foes have been injected with the Hulk venom so they’re all getting overgrown.

Besides a scene with Gordon, a lot of intercuts with Alfred and some non-Batman action scenes, there’s not much else in this issue.

It’s not even creative enough to be truly awful.

CREDITS

A Rush of Blood; writers, Paul Jenkins and David Finch; penciller, Finch; inker, Richard Friend; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Rickey Purdin and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: The Dark Knight 1 (November 2011)

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So DC hires a big name artist (or co-plotter and penciller) away from Marvel and then he turns in a talking heads book for their big relaunch?

It’s not all talking heads, it’s actually more talking bodies because David Finch apparently doesn’t want to try to draw too many faces. His Bruce Wayne has an argument with a cop who looks suspiciously like… Bruce Wayne, only with blond hair.

There’s barely any action. Even when Finch goes to Arkham, it’s boring and somewhat hard to follow. He doesn’t do establishing shots very well.

Wait, I forgot to mention the big twist… Two-Face has been pumping iron in Arkham and now looks like he’s got the Bane juice or whatever.

As for Paul Jenkins’s scripting? His Bruce Wayne narration sounds… old. Like Dark Knight Returns—not plain Dark Knight—old. He sounds about forty-two.

Still, could be worse.

CREDITS

Knight Terrors; writers, Paul Jenkins and David Finch; penciller, Finch; inker, Richard Friend; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Rickey Purdin and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Supergirl 55 (October 2010)

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Another very fast read, but it goes very smoothly.

Gates resolves his cliffhanger pretty quickly—all while developing the Bizzaro-Girl character into a sympathetic character (some via flashbacks to her origin on the Bizzaro planet). Supergirl, of course, is the only one who can see her as a misunderstood creature and not a monster.But Gates also has time to bring in a second action sequence, handle some stuff at the Planet (Cat Grant has some subplot of her own going, in addition to the Lana discovery) and then come up with another end sequence.

It’s an excellent issue, the kind of thing one wishes Gates and Igle had been doing all along. It doesn’t develop Supergirl as a character very much, but it is a solidly diverting superhero comic. And it’s not making Supergirl slutty.

Igle has a great time with the art too; he’s got lots of variety.

CREDITS

Fakeouts; writer, Sterling Gates; penciller, Jamal Igle; inkers, John Dell, Marc Deering and Richard Friend; colorists, Jamie Grant and Jim Devlin; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

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