Tag Archives: Gene Luen Yang

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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A Superman #45 Review – Fight Club and Finances

Superman #45, 2015TITLE: Superman #45
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLERS: Howard Porter. Cover by John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: October 28, 2015

***Need to catch up? Check out our reviews of issues #43 and #44.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ugh. I so want this to get better, but it’s just not happening. As we’ve seen in previous installments of the Truth storyline, there are flashes of quality in Superman #45. But the direction the story takes is all flash and little substance.

With his identity exposed, and Clark Kent’s life destroyed, Superman follows the trail of the cyber criminal group Hordr to California. Once there, he finds himself broke. So when he stumbles on to a meta-human fight club of sorts, Clark is faced with a moral dilemma. Does he go against his moral code, or duke it out for some cash?

Let’s cover the good before we descend into the negative. Clark briefly runs into Lois Lane in this issue, and wants nothing to do with her. Seeing Clark this angry at Lois, and justifiably so, is a really interesting dynamic. Obviously there’s romantic tension lingering under the surface here. How long is Clark going to stay mad at Lois for this? And what can Lois do to regain his trust? This is one of the few areas of intrigue in this series right now.

Superman #45, Howard PorterGene Luen Yang’s spin on the meta-human fight club angle is that the fighters are “gods and goddesses from mythologies on the brink of extinction.” That take is a little overblown for my taste. The issue actually reminded of the “Grudge Match” episode of Justice League Unlimited, where Roulette lures Black Canary, Huntress, and Wonder Woman into her Meta-Brawl arena. Has Roulette even surfaced in the New 52verse? If you’re going to do a story like this, why not use a villain like her? The whole thing about gods and goddesses is convoluted, and actually slows the issue down because Yang has to explain the whole thing.

I have a hard time buying the idea that Superman, exposed identity or not, has trouble coming across money. If he were the only hero in this universe, then maybe I’d believe it. But he’s a Justice League member, he’s still got a lot of friends in Metropolis, and he’s friendly with the President of the United States. Chances are if Clark needs a loan, he can get one from somebody.

But for the sake of a story, let’s say Clark is indeed broke. Yang lets us know that Clark will not steal, as he was taught better by his adoptive father (who he refers to as “Pop” instead of “Pa” for some reason). So the prospect of earning money via a fight club is tempting. But I don’t buy the notion that he’d seriously consider participating. He’s Superman. His mission is to inspire people. It’s beneath him. If you want to put him in that scenario, have him take down the fight club.

Superman #45, 2015, Howard PorterPerhaps I simply hold Superman to a higher standard than some. Too high, maybe…

The whole Truth story is so far gone at this point that it’s barely even worth it to mention ways it might be improved. But you want to do a story about Superman and money? How about you have Clark break up the fight club. Then as the sun begins to set he faces the grim reality that he has no money, no food, and no place to stay. He is now homeless, and largely de-powered. Superman has never been in such a vulnerable position. Then, he comes across a kind and compassionate civilian who owns a small motel. Recognizing him as Superman, this person gives Clark a free room, and a bit of food. As we close the issue, Clark realizes the irony of his situation. He was sent to Earth to inspire humans to to good, to “save” them. Now, one of those very humans has saved him in his darkest hour. This would provide intriguing insight into Clark’s relationship with his adopted home world.

I wasn’t aware last issue was John Romita Jr’s final go-around as the interior artist for Superman. In his place is the more than capable Howard Porter, along with colorist Hi-Fi. Hi-Fi’s colors are much richer and more vibrant than what we’ve seen in recent issues. Porter’s Superman is also much more expressive than Romita’s was. It actually borders on comical at times. But Porter is a nice change of pace. Sadly, solicitations indicate he’s only going to be around for another issue.

Solicits also indicate we’re heading into a big crossover called The Savage Dawn, featuring Vandal Savage. I wish I could say I’ve got high hopes. If you want a mildly optimistic spin on this, I’ll say it’d be fairly hard for me to be more underwhelmed with Superman than I am now.

Images courtesy of dangermart.blogspot.com.

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A Superman #44 Review – Talking Truth

Superman #44 cover, John Romita Jr. TITLE: Superman #33
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 30, 2015

***Missed last issue? BOOM. We’ve got you covered.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman #44 is an okay issue which would have been much more compelling had it been released three or four months ago.

Before we get into the issue, let’s talk about this the Truth storyline as a whole. Readers of the Superman books know it’s run through not only this title, but Action Comics, Superman/Wonder Woman and Batman/Superman. It’s been touched on in other books, but those are the main four. Beginning in June, DC opted to use Superman to tell us how and why a de-powered Clark Kent’s identity was revealed to the world. All the while, stories of the de-powered, t-shirt wearing, “Tough Guy Superman” were already being told in the other three titles. As such, we saw this new Superman heavily effected by events we hadn’t seen yet. We could sympathize with what Clark was going through, and the stories were entertaining and compelling in their own right. But they lacked a certain depth because we couldn’t see the whole picture yet (We still can’t.).

Superman #44, alternate coverAt this point, it’s pretty safe to say this release strategy was a mistake, and it watered down something that could have been much more interesting otherwise. This is actually one of the few times I would have preferred a mass crossover. This issue marks the end of the Before Truth story, which has lasted four issues. As such it would have been simple to use all four Superman books to tell this story during the month of June. That way, the story has four straight weeks to build to a crescendo. In addition, not only do you have Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr. lending their talents to this pivotal story, but you have Peter Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Ardian Syaf, and everyone else currently under the Man of Steel’s creative umbrella.

What a wasted opportunity…

With all that in mind, let’s get into Superman #44. Clark’s identity is public, and he’s not the only one in jeopardy. When The Daily Planet is targeted by supervillains, the Man of Steel must use what power he has left to defend his friends and colleagues. It’s a great premise, but the execution is surprisingly stupid.

Surprisingly, our hero starts this issue looking pretty stupid. Lois Lane has revealed to the world that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. Yet when we open the issue, we see him strolling down the street as Clark, as if this were just an ordinary day. The Royal Flush Gang is able to identify and ambush him on sight! It’s not like Clark is incapable of being stealthy. He can fly and run at super-speed! At the very least, you’d think he’d pick a new disguise! But nope. Our main character, ladies and gentlemen. He’s sticking with an alter-ego that’s been discredited in front of the world.

Superman #44, Killer Croc, John Romita Jr.The villains who attack The Daily Planet are an odd assortment: Livewire, Atomic Skull, Killer Frost, Shockwave, and for no particular reason, Killer Croc. The choice to put Croc in there is a puzzling one. The question of why a Batman villain is put into such an important Superman story seemingly at random actually distracts from the scene. Furthermore, he’s rather redundant. He’s just another slab of muscle and mass for Superman to kick around.

About halfway through the issue, something interesting and mildly sensible finally happens: Clark finds out that a former Planet acquaintance of has taken Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and some of his other colleagues hostage. Due to the destruction caused by one of Superman’s enemies, this impromptu villain lost his wife and his livelihood. Now that Clark’s identity is exposed, he’s taking the fight to him. Now this is an interesting idea, and really should have taken up the first half of the issue. The stuff with the Royal Flush Gang, Killer Croc and the others feels like it’s there because they felt the need to fill a supervillain quota. But in the end, simply putting there so Clark can punch them comes off clumsy and forced.

During the fight, Perry White takes a bullet, and we subsequently get to hear his side of things. Understandable, he’s rather perturbed. This scene only lasts a page, making it yet another lost opportunity in the Truth saga. This scene actually reminded me of something Marvel released in the wake of Spider-Man revealing his identity in Civil War. It was an editorial by J. Jonah Jameson, who’s called Spider-Man a menace for years, only to discover that he’s been on the Daily Bugle staff the whole time. Jameson apologizes to his readers, and vows to win back their trust. Perry obviously never had that kind of contempt for Clark. But this revelation makes Perry, and everyone at the Planet look like oblivious fools. There’s a real argument to be made that the paper’s credibility has been compromised. It’d be fascinating to see that angle explored. So naturally, I assume it’ll be left untouched…

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #6Toward the end of the issue, there’s an incredibly stupid moment where Clark cuts his hair with a diamond. You know, because he’s Superman and he’s got really strong tissue. This isn’t a new idea (as you’ll see on the left), but I’ve always rejected it, and others along the same line.

There’s still some potential left in the Superman: Truth story as a whole. But it’s been so mismanaged that at this point that it’s inescapably tarnished. At this point, those of us who are sticking around can only hope for better things ahead now that the backstory of Superman’s “outing” has been revealed.

Image 2 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.blogspot.com. Image 3 from comicbookresources.com.

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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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A Divergence #1 Review – The New Batman, a New Era for Superman, and More Mobius

Divergence #1 (2015)TITLE: Divergence #1
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, Gene Luen Yang, Geoff Johns.
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr., Jason Fabok.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: Free Comic Book Day Release
RELEASED: May 2, 2015

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

This year, we actually got something nice from DC for Free Comic Book Day. Not only do we have three talented writers matched with three equally talented artists, but the three mini-stories we’re given are actually pretty amazing! Snyder, Yang, and Johns are all in top form today, and if these stories are any indication of what’s to come post-Convergence, then I think I might just take a look.

Divergence #1 seeks to set up the new status quo for Batman, Superman, and the Justice League after Convergence. Batman gets top billing, as he often does these days. In “The Rookie”, Gotham City without Batman has thankfully not descended into chaos and fire following the events of Batman #40. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see Gotham at peace for once, though the narrating TV reporter speaks of unhealed wounds. Indeed, Capullo treats us to a beautiful splash page of a crowd of Gothamites shining miniature Bat Signals in the sky, looking positively sullen.

Batman, Divergence, Greg CapulloBut all hope is not lost! The Hillary Clinton-esque Geri Powers appears to reassure the citizens of Gotham City that a new Batman is about to be born. Who’s behind the cowl this time? I think I’ll leave that for you readers to find out for yourselves. But I’ll tell you this: It’s equal parts astounding and amusing. It was also nice to see the seeming end of Batman through the point-of-view of the ordinary, mundane folks like the reporters and cops. The inner circle of the Bat-family is nowhere in sight, except for the new “Batman.”

In “Exposed,” we’re introduced to Gene Luen Yang’s take on Superman. We start with Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen chatting sometime after Clark’s had his secret identity outed by Lois Lane. To top it all off, he’s operating with weakened powers. In my opinion, Superman has behaved in pretty much every single New 52 appearance as an irrepressible jerkhat. This includes Geoff Johns’ run on Justice League, which features Superman and his fellow heroes engaging in petulant bickering while, you know, saving the world.

Divergence #1, Superman, John Romita Jr. So Superman here is kind of a jerk, understandably so. But he then beats up this super-strong thug who tries to kill him and some innocent bystanders. At least he tried to avoid the fight, and he actually saved some people. Jimmy Olsen then plasters pictures of the fight all over social media, and excrement hits the fan for the Man of Steel. He then tells off Lois Lane when she tries to help him.

I like Yang’s story, but I don’t like his Superman. Yang’s a talented writer, but I wish the people at DC would get over themselves and get the message that their heroes don’t all have to be jerks. Superman is one such hero, and he’s a good place to start. At the very least, the story was still pretty fun. Yang’s writing style is free of any grim-and-gritty pretentions, a theme reinforced by the bright, easy-lined artwork of John Romita Jr.

And that brings us to the final story in this issue: “The Other Amazon.” Fittingly enough, this story by Geoff Johns focuses primarily on the lore of Wonder Woman, using it to highlight the origin of The Anti-Monitor, a.k.a. Mobius. The long and short of it is that this rogue Amazon named Myrina gives birth to Mobius, whose father is revealed to us at the end, and we get a preview of Darkseid War. She will apparently be a major player in this latest hullaballoo. I really hope that this will end up being a feather in Wonder Woman’s cap. From what we see here, it certainly looks likes it will be the case.

Divergence #1, Wonder Woman, Jason FabokThe mini-story itself does its job well. It gives us a window into what’s going on in Darkseid War, and makes you want to check it out. It actually looks pretty epic! On the other hand, I’m beginning to get fed up with these Geoff Johns-led super-mega-events. First there was Blackest Night, and then Flashpoint, Trinity War, Forever Evil, etc. I mean really, when will it end? At least Jason Fabok’s art was nice. It manages to be bright and flashy even when most of the background is dark brownish and grayish.

On the whole, this Free Comic Book Day issue was by no means of low quality. DC really invested a lot into this issue, bringing in some real heavy hitters, and boy, did they hit hard. Divergence #1 gave us three engaging, entertaining stories with lovely artwork and solid writing. This is a far cry from last year’s Free Comic Book Day issue, where they just reprinted the origin of Chris Kent. That was just lazy.

Fortunately, Divergence #1 is anything but.

Image 1 from dreamwidth.org. Image 2 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.wordpress.com. Image 3 from bleedingcool.com.

Follow Levi Sweeney on Twitter @levi_sweeney, or at his blog, The Stuff of Legend.

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