I always make sure to check out new comics featuring minorities and women, as too often they’re always the first to be canceled regardless of their content. So when the chance came to review New Super-Man by Gene Luen Yang, a recent addition to the DC Rebirth lineup, I couldn’t pass it up.
Taking everyone’s favorite American superhero and placing him in China opens up the idea of what a superhero represents for that country by incorporating their cultural identity into the story. But just as Superman has always been an embodiment of American idealism, how Kong Kenan views China’s own history combines to tell a new story.
Kong Kenan is brash and overly confident; he’s also looking for attention in all the wrong places. With a father at home that has no faith in or relationship with his son, that need for attention lands Kong in the hands of a shadowy organization who promise to give him super powers, and Kong being Kong, does not think to look too closely at the fine print, and lands in a forced servitude of sort.
This leads to the reveal of several groups, some are shadowy government groups, others self-styled revolutionaries, but one thing binds all of them: the belief that their particular ideology is the correct way forward for the country. But it is soon made clear that all of these groups are just different shades of bad using superheroes either for personal power or to feed their ego. Kong’s role follows that line, but he also tries to break that cycle.
One thing that jumped out at me was how New Super-Man focuses on what we’re seeing in a lot of recent comics: What happens when superheroes can no longer be independent vigilantes, and what does it look like when the government and private sector take over that role?
We also get to meet the Wonder Woman and the Bat-Man of China, who are also teenagers, and see them form a bound with Kong while trying to curb his impulsiveness. Wonder Woman in any iteration continues to be the most mature of the trinity.
Through the panels we also get a look into Chinese folklore, local foods, and practices, all interwoven through the story being told.
The heart of the story is Kong; this kid who ends up being Superman for all the wrong reasons, but after several revelations and life-altering moments, he’s finally ready to take the first steps to finding out what it truly means to be Superman.
But through it all you’ve got your good guys and your bad guys, fighting scenes that work, and a story you can get behind. We also see our American villains, Lex Luther in particular, which must mean we are bound to see him in future issues.