T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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New Super-Man #2 was released this week, continuing the tale of Kenan Kong as he adapts to his newfound celebrity and abilities. In Made in China — Part Two, Kenan learns what it means to be a member of the Justice League of China. T. Kyle King, who covers every DC Comics character who wears an “S” on the chest for ComiConverse, has a review.
Writer Gene Luen Yang and penciller Viktor Bogdanovic had Shanghai surprises galore in store for Kenan Kong and the audience alike as the creative team ramped up the action, deepened the mystery, and more than doubled the trouble. It’s time to dive into this fun adventure!
New Super-Man #2 Synopsis:
At the Ministry of Self-Reliance’s Oriental Pearl Tower, Baixi and Deilan — the Bat-Man and the Wonder-Woman of China — arrive to subdue the new Super-Man. Kenan is captured when his superpowers unexpectedly fail. Dr. Omen keeps Kong confined overnight, and the young man’s father does not notice his absence because he is preoccupied by the work of his conspiracy theorist “writers’ group”.
When wealthy data consultant Li Wei is attacked in her French Concession home by the super-villain Sunbeam, Kenan uses information he browbeat out of Lixin Luo to weasel his way into accompanying Baixi and Deilan on the rescue mission. Confined to the car with Li Wei’s frightened daughter, Jenny, the new Super-Man finds himself in position to launch a sneak attack on Sunbeam. With his powers now restored, Kenan saves the day and again attracts the attention of journalist Laney Lan… with eye-opening results.
New Super-Man #2 Analysis:
The artwork of Made in China — Part Two is a well-crafted blend that avoids cartoonish exaggeration and eschews rigid photorealism, opting instead for a highly stylized softness leavened by the judicious use of occasional extravagances. Bogdanovic’s pencils, Richard Friend’s inks, Hi-Fi’s colors, and Dave Sharpe’s letters give New Super-Man #2 a vibrant and inviting look, reminding readers we aren’t in Metropolis anymore without going so over the top that it undermines the more serious elements of the story.
The look of the book augments each aspect of Yang’s writing, adding needed comic relief to bring Kenan down a peg when his obnoxiousness threatens to make him unlikeable. The new Super-Man is still making it up as he goes, so there are bound to be missteps for a youthful hero who lacks Clark Kent’s humility and sometimes confuses his condescending crassness with chummy charm.
Yang likes Kong, but he isn’t afraid to make his protagonist only intermittently sympathetic. Five pages into New Super-Man #2, Kenan has made a fish story of his encounter with the Blue Condor, ham-handedly objectified Deilan, hurled fat jokes at Baixi, literally fallen on his face in the wake of a display of braggadocio, erroneously insulted Wonder-Woman’s accuracy with a lasso, lost his superpowers, and been zapped into unconsciousness. The author handles all this with warmth and good humor, balancing his hero’s unsavory qualities with courageous and empathetic behavior later in the adventure, all while refusing to let Kenan off the hook for his shortcomings. (Wonder-Woman’s withering rejoinders continually aid in corralling her impulsive new teammate.)
The complexity of Kenan Kong’s characterization answers the shopworn canard that Superman is boring because he’s too good, yet Yang states his case in a way that is humanizing rather than patronizing. The writer gives the reader glimpses of his youthful hero’s complicated relationships with his distant father and his late mother, explaining certain aspects of the new Super-Man’s behavior without excusing his excesses.
As he did during his run on Superman, Yang interweaves Eastern mythology with superhero comics history in New Super-Man #2. The Kenan Kong of 2016, like the Clark Kent of 1938, is a bully who’s full of himself, but the Shanghai Super-Man will mature, just as the Metropolis Marvel did. This progression toward truth and justice is not exclusively the American way, however; the path to enlightenment trod by Clark Kent, and now by Kenan Kong, previously was traveled by the Monkey King in his 16th-century Journey to the West.
Accordingly, the multilayered richness typical of Yang’s storytelling — combining humor, character, and adventure in the foreground while working in legendary themes and deeper meanings in the background — remains on display throughout Made in China — Part Two. Kenan Kong’s two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back approach to superheroics makes for boisterous antics and amusing miscues, but, beneath that often disagreeable exterior, a multifaceted character is growing in spite of, or because of, his mistakes.
Telling the tale of Kenan Kong requires his creators to perform a delicate balancing act; the youth must, by turns, evoke our compassion and try our patience. The title character of New Super-Man #2 may be the issue’s narrator, but we readers know to take his version of the story with a grain of salt. Instead, we see him through the eyes of the sarcastic teammates who sense instantly that “[h]e’s obviously not from the academy” — but also through the eyes of the controlling Dr. Omen, who knows he has “a hero’s heart.” It is no accident that the story’s closing image puts the audience literally in the position of seeing Kenan as others see him, giving us a perspective to which the protagonist is oblivious.
A little under six months ago, I wrote that “2016 is shaping up to be for Kryptonians what 1401 was for Italians, the beginning of their Renaissance (which, by the way, is French for Rebirth).” In retrospect, I may have cast the net too narrowly, because humans are getting in on the act, as well: Lois Lane has taken up the mantle of the fallen New 52 Man of Steel, and Kenan Kong now has joined the Justice League of China. New Super-Man #2 is a worthy addition to the Superman Family — and, soon (but not too soon), its hero will be, too.
What did you think of Made in China — Part Two?
Dive into the comments and ComiConverse with us about New Super-Man #2!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
Gene Luen Yang is writing the tale of Kenan Kong on multiple levels, and the story works on all of them.