New Super-Man #1 was a great introduction to the character of Kenan Kong. We got to see who he was as a person, as well as the world and characters that Gene Luen Yang has created for him to interact with. New Super-Man #2 builds on that foundation in some exciting ways, and serves as a very fun example of the kind of book that New Super-Man can be on a monthly basis.
The issue picks up right where #1 left off, with newly super-powered Kenan squaring off against the Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman of the Chinese Justice League. Kenan has the powers of Superman, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble, right? Not so much, as Kenan’s powers start to fade rapidly and he’s taken down in short order by his more experienced counterparts.
Kenan spends most of the issue without his powers, and while he is able to recover them in a clutch moment in the issue’s final pages, it’s unclear how long that will last. The question of how exactly Kenan’s powers function is an intriguing thread that I hope won’t be resolved by something as simple as another blast of energy. Adding a psychological weakness to Kenan’s powers would be a smart way to further differentiate him from Superman and to force Kenan to confront some of the ego issues he obviously possesses.
There were solid action and emotional beats to close out the issue, with the League taking on a villain with an arm cannon called Sunbeam, but my favorite moments all came in the middle of the book, in the dialogue exchanges between the characters. Kenan immediately establishes a witty and contentious rapport with Baixi (Bat-Man) and Deilan (Wonder-Woman) that was very fun to read. Yang’s dialogue is brisk and clever, and is easily the main reason I’m looking forward to subsequent issues.
A particular highlight for me was a mention of China’s first super team, the Great Ten, of which I am a big fan. I mean, who wouldn’t love characters with names like Shaolin Robot and Ghost Fox Killer? In my review of New Super-Man #1 I wondered if the Great Ten were still kicking in the world of DC Rebirth. I’m pleased to know that they are, and I can’t wait to see what they have to say about being called “a collection of relics.”
I also can’t wait to see which other members of the Justice League the Ministry of Self-Reliance is going to reimagine for their own League, especially since I’m really digging what artist Viktor Bogdanovic did with his redesigns of the Trinity. Green Lantern will be tough for the Ministry to pull off given the whole Power Ring thing, but Aquaman? Yes, please.
Speaking of the art, there’s not much to say about it except that it’s great. This is probably a reaction to growing up in the 90s Dark Age, but I’m a sucker for a superhero comic full of bright colors, so Hi-Fi’s work on this book is right up my alley. The combo of Bogdanovic’s pencils and Richard Friend’s inks is very crisp and fluid, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t call attention to Dave Sharpe’s energetic lettering of the book’s numerous onomatopoeias. The art team for New Super-Man is simply firing on all cylinders, as far as I’m concerned.
Well, except for one thing. As big a fan as I’m rapidly becoming of Bogdanovic’s character designs, his take on the Batmobile isn’t exactly my cup of tea. It’s called the Bat Utility Vehicle, or B.U.V., and its SUV inspirations are immediately apparent. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking that design route, and I’m not trying to say that the result is poorly drawn. It’s just that my own personal aesthetic would’ve been better satisfied with something a little more visually imposing, rather than the Kia Sorento of Batmobiles.
But on the whole, there’s really nothing not to like about New Super-Man #2. The issue ends with Kenan revealing to the public not just the existence of the Chinese Justice League, but also his own no-longer-secret identity. I’m eager to see how Kenan’s father will react to finding out his son has become Super-Man, and also if Kenan will reveal the existence of the covert Ministry of Self-Reliance.
Yang is a great writer, so I wasn’t expecting New Super-Man to be bad, but I’m still surprised by how thoroughly charmed I am by this book after only two issues. All the elements are in place for New Super-Man to become a real flagship title for DC, assuming enough people check it out. So go check it out. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.