New Super-Man Vol. 2: Coming to America (2017)

New Super-Man Vol. 2: Coming to America

Coming to America collects six issues of New Super-Man. Three different two-parters. Coming to America is the middle one. No idea why they’d have picked it other than Eddie Murphy movie. It’s not the best of the two-parters. Might be the worst. Certainly does have the worst faces. Billy Tan pencils most of the issues, first and third arcs. Regular artist Viktor Bogdanovic does America and it’s lazy faces. No one has any personality in those issues. The expressions aren’t as bad as the lack of detail, but they’re not good. They made me–shudder–miss Tan (thinking he was Bogdanovic because I didn’t want New Super-Man to have art problems).

The middle story is also heavy on DC Rebirth continuity, which is a terribly mean thing to do. I want to avoid that nonsense like the plague. So having Lex and Superman Rebirth guest star doesn’t really do much for the comic. It’s kind of filler, just because writer Gene Luen Yang true desire seems to be introducing the New, Chinese Flash. And also because the relationship between Superman Rebirth and New Super-Man? There’s nothing special about it. It has no personality coming from either of them. Superman Rebirth is patient as Christ, New Super-Man is awestruck. Yawn.

But that brand crossover aside, everything else in Coming to America is a success for Yang. He doesn’t just build New Super-Man–Kenan–he also builds the other members of the JL China. Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman. They get this great arc together involving Bat-Man’s little sister and a nemesis. Excellent stuff. Yang seems to do better in pairs–Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman, then New Super-Man and New Flash.

The finale, which ends–quite frustratingly for a collection–on a big cliffhanger, has New Super-Man Zero returning. He’s the first attempt at a Chinese Super-Man and he’s far more powerful than Kenan. The real overarching story of this collection isn’t the Lex Luthor-funded trip to Metropolis, but Kenan’s relationship with his new mentor as he tries to unlock his superpowers. He’s got all the Superman powers, he just has a blocked qi. Once he’s able to unblock and properly channel his qi, Kenan gets some of the regular powers.

It seems like way too much of a plot device–which the artists integrate into the panels too, showing actual qi meters–but it always works out. Despite his obtuse arrogance, Kenan’s a great protagonist. His heart’s never too far away from the right place and the supporting cast ably brings him around.

Hopefully the art issues get resolved. Someone needs to tell Bogdanovic to slow down and take his time. Because, as distinct as Bogdanovic can be, the mood can be easily duplicated. Tan easily takes over the visuals on the comic. He’s more balanced than Bogdanovic, even if he’s bland. He’s consistent. Consistency is important.

Yang’s got a good pace throughout, he’s got a fantastic attention to character detail, he writes good action scenes. New Super-Man has it all.

CREDITS

Writer, Gene Luen Yang; pencillers, Billy Tan and Viktor Bogdanovic; inkers, Yanqiu Li, Haining, Jonathan Glapion, and Bogdanovic, and Tako Zhang; colorists, Yangfen Guo, Gadson, Michael Spicer, and Ying Zhan; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Paul Kaminski and Eddie Berganza; publisher, DC Comics.

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.

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