New Super-Man Volume 1: Made in China
Written by Gene Yang
Art by Viktor Bogdanovic
Kong Kenan is a high school bully in Shanghai, China when through a chance encounter he accidentally drives off notorious super-villain Blue Condor. This draws the attention of spunky young reporter Laney Lan and Dr. Omen, the director of the Ministry of Self-Reliance. Kenan is imbued with part of the life essence of the New 52 Superman and becomes China’s answer to the Man of Steel. He’s paired up with the Bat-Man and Wonder Woman of China who find Kenan to be an incredibly immature brat with very unreliable powers. Kenan’s father, Kong Zhongdan is an aging political activist who comes at odds with his son’s new direction in life.
When DC announced its Rebirth initiative, I was a little confused with the New Super-Man title and concept. As the New 52 Superman had his story wrapped up with his death, it became a little more apparent how this new character would come to be. I attempted to read this series as monthlies but couldn’t get a handle on the arc, forgetting a lot of it from month to month. However, reading it in this collection has me loving the character and the story that is being told. Writer Gene Yang manages to produce a different take on the Superman archetype as well as touch on other elements of the DC Universe.
If you have been following DC Comics since the Infinite Crisis days (2005-2006), then you have probably seen The Great Ten pop up. The Great Ten were a creation of Grant Morrison to address the American centrism of superhero world. This team was composed of heroes directly tied to elements of Chinese history and culture. Gene Yang includes the Great Ten as supporting character and opposition to Kenan. He represents a radical new direction for the Chinese government and this senior team is understandably resentful that their nation is adopting Western ideals for their icons.
Yang also delivers a new take on the Freedom Fighters, previously an alternate universe team dealing with the victory of the Nazis on their own Earth. Here the Freedom Fighters are political revolutionaries who saw the Western media embracing masked superheroes and believe that by mimicking these figure they will draw attention to their cause. The Freedom Fighters of China directly match with the old incarnation of the team in exciting and different ways. Instead of Uncle Sam leading the team this time around it is a Dragon styled figure, matching with a national symbol of China.
Kenan’s interactions with his teammates, Bat-Man and Wonder Woman, are very entertaining. They don’t play out in any manner like the Western trinity of heroes. They are younger and more inexperienced, and so mistakes are made but learned from. The trio also has a genuinely intriguing mystery to solve that leads them into conflict with Freedom Fighters and the Great Ten, as well as creating direct personal stakes for Kenan.
If you want something that isn’t afraid to show its connections to the broader scope of DC Comics lore yet also present something fresh, that doesn’t take itself deathly serious, New Super-Man hits all of those notes. It likely won’t change your life, but it will provide an excellent antidote to the often dour and unnecessarily bleak DC Cinematic fare.