Posted in Wrestling

A New Super-Man #1 Review – What’s the Point?

New Super-Man #1, 2016, coverTITLE: New Super-Man #1
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLER: Viktor Bogdanovic
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$3.99
RELEASED: 
July 13, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

At face value, a book about a Chinese Superman is not only intriguing, but a PR gold mine in a company (and an industry at large) aching for diversity. New Super-Man inherently calls for something different. A Superman who looks different, a different city, a different culture, etc. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Somebody needs to answer that question. At this point, it’s not apparent what they’re trying to give us outside of another run-of-the-mill superhero book.

Kong Kenan is a teenage bully who becomes a viral video sensation for throwing a soda can at a supervillain. Soon after, he is made the subject of a lab experiment that grants him the same powers as Superman. But Kong Kenan is not Clark Kent. So what does a young Chinese man with a social activist for a father, but also a penchant for bullying, do with the same abilities as the Man of Steel?

New Super-Man #1, Victor BogdanovicGene Luen Yang started writing Superman at a bad time. The whole Truth storyline falls squarely into the “Things That Could Have Been Awesome” category. What made it all the more disappointing is that Yang is an excellent writer, perhaps best known for his original graphic novel, American Born Chinese. With that in mind, a story like this seems like it would be a lay up for him. Seeing him turn in a dud like this is very deflating.

Perhaps this was naive or unfair, but I was hoping New Super-Man could provide an alternate perspective on the American superhero story through the prism of Chinese culture. A Chinese twist on an American icon. With American Born Chinese, Yang’s main character was so empathetic. The book allows those with no knowledge of Chinese culture to learn bit, and to see American culture from a new perspective. There isn’t any of that in New Super-Man. Granted, we’re only one issue in. But there’s no unique hook in this issue to bring me back next month. You could set this series in the United States and it would more or less be the same. It’s stunning how big a disappointment this is.

Victor Bogdanovic does fine here. His somewhat cartoony take on things characterizes everybody pretty quickly in a shallow, caricaturesque sort of way. Kenan is something of a goof, but there’s a heart of gold in there somewhere. And apparently he’s hung up on his mother’s death. We’ve got our vibrant and aggressive Lois Lane stand-in with Laney Lan, and the grouchy buzzkill in his father. There’s nothing with any sort of depth here. But at least it’s fun to look at.

New Super-Man #1, Victor Bogdanovic, chamberNew Super-Man #1 let me down more than any single issue has in quite some time. The ironic thing? There’s precious little that’s new or interesting about what we see here. Considering DC is starting fresh with so many of its books, that’s a damn near fatal flaw. Especially for a new series. Barring some sort of radical twist, I won’t be coming back to this one.

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Superman #43 Review – The Missing Puzzle Piece

Superman #43, coverTITLE: Superman #43
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 26, 2015

***WARNINGS: Spoilers lay ahead for Superman #43.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Two months after the Truth storyline began across all of the Superman titles, Superman #43 finally gives us the story’s inciting incident. At last, we see how and why Clark Kent’s secret identity was revealed to the world. Why they waited this long to show us the actual revelation is mind boggling to me.

Much of the drama in the past few issues of Superman has been watered down because, if you’ve been reading other Superman books, you already know what happens to Clark and the other characters. What’s more, it’s been a source of frustration in those other books, because we’ve lacked context for what’s going on. We knew from Divergence that Clark’s powers had been lessened, that his secret identity had somehow been exposed, and that Lois Lane was somehow responsibly for the latter. You can argue we didn’t need more context than that. But it certainly would have helped, given the enormity of both situations. Before you make something like this a mystery, it’s probably best to examine if that’s the best way to present it. In this case, it wasn’t.

Superman #43, Hordr, John Romita Jr. While Clark and the others may have escaped from Hordr last issue, the organization continues to plague our heroes, blackmailing Superman with the knowledge of his secret identity. They draw him out, strap him to a chair, and have him do his new solar flare thing in front of a bunch of “energy storage” robots. I can only assume this is how Clark lost his powers. They’ll explain it with comic book science or something.

Then, Lois apparently sends a compromising image of Clark to news outlets across the world, exposing his identity and taking Hordr’s advantage away from them. In the moment, this seems like an extremely rash decision. She’s just taken one of the biggest decisions of Superman’s life, and made it for him. Afterward, Clark is understandably furious with her.

They do plant a seed for it, however. Twice during the course of the issue, and once during the previous issue, they establish that Lois feels guilty over what her father and Lex Luthor did to Clark in Action Comics #2. If you’ll recall, they performed brutal experiments on him, including strapping him to an electric chair. They even use Rags Morales’ art from the issue. So when Lois sees Superman in a similar situation, it evidently strikes a chord, and prompts her to act. Was it the right choice? No. But given Lois’ emotional investments in both Superman and Clark Kent, it’s a decision that’s easier to understand.

Superman #43, John Romita Jr., Lois Lane revealIt’s a powerful moment, to be certain. But again, I’m left wishing we’d seen it before the Truth storyline started. There would have been so much more depth to it all, as opposed to just watching Superman walk around punching people…

While I’m sure he’s not complaining about getting to write such a notable Superman story, I can’t help but feel like this is a waste of Gene Luen Yang’s talent. Remember, this is the guy who wrote American Born Chinese (among numerous other works). Is he really a writer you want to merely plug into a giant crossover like this? Sure, he’s doing a fine job. But I can’t help but wonder what Yang would do with the chance to tell a Superman story all his own? I can’t help but think it’d be more fulfilling than what we’ve gotten from Truth thus far.

Superman #43, John Romita Jr., Lois Lane faceAs for Romita Jr., at times there’s an odd disconnect between his pencils and Yang’s dialogue. The panel at right is a perfect example. Now that Lois knows Clark is Superman, she’s getting to ask him all kinds of important questions. Does he have a master plan in mind? What would humanity do if he ever went rogue? These are questions that potentially effect the entire world. And yet, look at Lois’ face. What does that face say? She’s almost grilling him on the nature of his mission, and the checks and balances that could be in place to prevent him from running roughshod over the planet. But in this panel, she almost looks like a shrinking violet. Lois Lane is many things, but a shrinking violet isn’t one of them.

There are a few little moments like that scattered about the issue. Romita also seems to have a thing about drawing hands. Look at Clark’s left hand in the second-to-last panel of the issue. Little things like this start to take a toll as the issue goes on.

At the very least, the cat is finally out of the bag as far as how Superman got outed. Hopefully now that the exposition is out of the way, Truth can expand a little more. If there was ever a concept that deserved a chance to stretch it’s legs, it’s that of an “outed” Superman. The delayed revelation definitely created some awkwardness. But all isn’t lost quite yet.

Images 1 and 2 from comicvine.com. Image 3 from supermanhomepage.com.

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