One of the more intriguing new titles announced as part of DC’s Rebirth initiative was New Super-Man, by renowned independent comics writer Gene Luen Yang. Yang’s was the writer on the self-titled Superman book for the past year, but this would be Yang creating a brand new Chinese character taking on the most esteemed mantle in comics, set in Shanghai, an underseen part of the world in the largely America-centric world of superhero comics. I was super (pun intended) interested to see what Yang would come up with, along with artists Victor Bogdanovic and Richard Friend, with Hi-Fi on colors; and I’m pleased to say that New Super-Man #1 is a very promising start to an exciting new series.
When you hear that a new character is going to be calling themselves Superman, you might assume—like I did—that that character would fall in line with the stalwart, Boy Scout-y personality that typically defines the Man of Steel. But since Superman himself is already flying around filling that role, it wouldn’t be very interesting. Yang smartly shatters any such expectations on the very first page, showing us that our new hero, Kenan Kong, is kind of a dick.
Kenan’s not a completely bad guy, though; he quickly goes from beating that kid up to saving him from a cool-looking Chinese super villain that I hope we’ll see again. When his feat of derring-do becomes an internet sensation, Kenan’s “heart of a hero” gets him noticed by a secret government organization, the Ministry of Self-Reliance, who recruit him to be the subject of an experiment that would imbue Kenan with the powers of Superman.
I like that Kenan has his powers by the end of the issue; I’m not interested in reading a prolonged origin story. The issue is briskly paced as a whole, with a number of characters and potential conflicts introduced very efficiently, including Kenan’s father, who’s part of a writer’s group trying to prove the existence of the potentially nefarious Ministry his son now works for.
The art in New Super-Man is also great. Bogdanovic’s style here reminds me at times of Greg Capullo, which is very high praise coming from me. Characters have expressive faces, and when the action gets big the art gets big to match. I’m looking forward to seeing Bogdanovic tackle the bareknuckle superhero brawling that inevitably comes with a Superman book. Hi-Fi’s colors are also on point; everything is very bright and neon, in keeping with the brisk pace and light tone of Yang’s writing.
One of the most interesting things about the issue to me is the (spoiler warning) last page introduction of Chinese takes on Batman and Wonder Woman. China has an established super-team in the DC universe, the Great Ten, but this appears to be something different. As far as I know the Great Ten still exist post-Rebirth, so it’ll be interesting to see if this new Chinese Justice League crosses paths with them at some point down the line. At any rate, I love alt-takes on the DC heroes, so I’m excited to see how these new characters compare to their inspirations.
And that’s really the most exciting thing about New Super-Man. Yang quickly and decisively declared that Kenan is not a carbon copy of Clark Kent; he’s very much his own character with a unique background and personality. But he’s also going to be calling himself Super-Man, which comes with certain standards that both the readers and the other characters in the comics are probably going to expect Kenan to meet. I’m looking forward to seeing how this brash young man goes about trying to meet those standards, if he does at all.
If you were on the fence about New Super-Man #1, don’t be. This is a fun start to an intriguing new series, and at the line-wide Rebirth price point of $2.99 there’s really no downside to picking it up.