Warning: This post contains spoilers for New Super-Man #3
I’m already on record as being a big fan of what Gene Luen Yang, Viktor Bogdanovic, Richard Friend and Hi-Fi are doing with New Super-Man. The second issue was better than the first, and with New Super-Man #3 they’ve taken this young series to another new high point. In my opinion, New Super-Man #3 is quite simply a perfect issue of comics.
There is so much exciting material packed into this issue that it’s almost too much to process. Conflicts on global, political, and personal levels continue to build for Kenan Kong, and even—if my suspicions are correct—to intersect. All that, without loosing any of the action, humor, and nuance of character that have quickly become trademark aspects of the series.
Let’s dig in. New Super-Man #3 picks up right where we left off last month, with Kenan outing both his secret identity and the existence of the Justice League of China on live television. Yang shows us the ramifications of this action right away, with a look at the reactions of several different characters to the news of the new Justice League.
This is superbly efficient comic book storytelling. In four small box panels Yang and Bogdanovic have teased a wealth of potential storylines that New Super-Man can explore going forward. The Justice League of China are just hitting the scene, and already the gears are turning in Luthor and Batman’s heads, Superman has a new namesake to contend with, and the Great Ten (the Great Ten!) are made aware that their position in China is being usurped. It’s very reassuring to see these kind of story seeds being planted; it’s what an ongoing comic needs, and it shows the confidence DC has in the book, the creative team, and the character of Kenan Kong.
We see one of those seeds begin to grow in this issue, as Dr. Omen, creator of the Justice League of China, has a very tense conversation with the Great Ten’s August General in Iron. The General is not happy about another super team encroaching on the Great Ten’s turf, especially one operated by Omen, who is responsible for a previous attempt at making a Superman that went awry.
We catch a glimpse of that other Superman when Kenan, Bat-Man, and Wonder-Woman take Sunbeam to the undersea Crab Shell metaprison. This is all apparently referencing events that took place during Peter J. Tomasi’s “The Final Days of Superman” event, which now that I know New Super-Man ties into I will definitely be going back and reading.
The main thrust of New Super-Man #3 is Kenan coming to grips with the ramifications of outing his identity to the world. Kenan’s ego has been well established by this point, but so has his ultimate humility. Once the high of being in action wore off Kenan was quick to realize his mistake, and quick to apologize. Kenan’s relationships with the other members of the League also seem to be cemented, as he helps them work out a mystery surrounding the nature of the Ministry of Self-Reliance and then figures out how to defeat the giant, acid-blooded, Hydra-like snake monster the League ends up facing when they go to save the next kidnapping target.
Sorry, didn’t mean to bury the lede there. There’s a giant, acid-blooded, Hydra-like snake monster. If watching people with superpowers fight giant, acid-blooded, Hydra-like snake monsters isn’t why you read comics, then we don’t have a lot of common ground here because that shit is where it’s at for me.
That fight brings us to the closing pages of the issue, where the Justice League of China is faced with the so-called Freedom Fighters of China, who have taken one of the financiers of the Ministry captive. They are Blue Condor—who we met in issue one—Ghost Woman, and their leader Flying Dragon General. (Let me just take this moment to reiterate that I love the awesome elaborate names of the Chinese super-characters in the DC universe.)
I don’t know if Yang wants this to be difficult to guess or if it’s supposed to be obvious, but I am 100% confident that it’s Kenan’s father under the Dragon General’s mask. We already know Zhongdan is working to expose the Ministry of Self-Reliance, so it’s not that much of a stretch to figure out that he’s the leader of the Freedom Fighters, especially considering one of the prisoners in the Crab Shell recognizes Kenan and knows who his father is by name.
A confrontation with a “villain” where the stakes couldn’t be more personal; the Great Ten promising war against Dr. Omen; the American Justice League and Lex Luthor waiting in the wings to join the fray at any moment; complex characters; humor; giant, acid-blooded, Hydra-like snake monsters: New Super-Man has literally everything I could ask for in a superhero comic.
In a world where Scott Snyder is still writing Batman comics, it’s shocking that New Super-Man would be my favorite superhero comic, but here we are. We live in a golden age of comics right now, where there’s a crazy amount of good stuff coming out every week. I know that leaves readers with some tough decisions to make about which comics to keep up with. Trust me when I say that New Super-Man represents the best of what superhero comics can be. It is so much fun on every possible level that, if you haven’t started reading it already, you won’t regret picking it up.