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 #3 hit the stands last week, and the third chapter of writer Gene Luen Yang’s and penciller Viktor Bogdanovic’s Made in China brought readers deeper into the world of Kenan Kong, the Shanghai teen who is struggling to come to grips with his newfound superpowers and celebrity status. T. Kyle King, who covers all DC comics starring superheroes who wear an “S” on their chests, brings us his review.
In the previous issue, Kenan accompanied Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman on his first adventure as a member of the Justice League of China. Will the fledgling hero prove worthy of the Super-Man role, or will his ego continue to outpace his abilities?
New Super-Man #3 Synopsis:
Having revealed his secret identity to reporter Laney Lan — and, through her Primetime Shanghai broadcast, to the entire world — Kenan proceeds to expose the existence of the Justice League of China before Baixi and Deilan rein him in and depart. The three heroes deliver the captured Sunbeam to the Crab Shell, an underwater prison specially designed to house metahumans. Meanwhile, Kenan’s father, Zhongdan, sees his son’s televised confession, and, spotting the octagon on the boy’s chest, resolves “to move quickly” into action.
Back at the Oriental Pearl Tower, Dr. Omen argues with the Great Ten’s August General in Iron and Kenan confides in Deilan. Baixi joins his teammates, notifying them that he has identified the link between Longde Luo and Li Wei, the wealthy corporate chief executives to have been attacked by supervillains in the previous two days, so he knows that university professor Shiqiang Zheng will be the next victim. Against Dr. Omen’s orders, the three Justice Leaguers pay a visit to Dr. Zheng that evening, where they find themselves facing sea creatures and supervillains.
New Super-Man #3 Analysis:
In New Super-Man #3, perhaps even more than in the series’ preceding pair of issues, the combination of Bogdanovic’s pencils, Richard Friend’s inks, and Hi-Fi’s colours creates a wonderfully distinctive visual signature that defies simple description. For instance, Baixi’s Bat-Man manages to combine a plausible real-world costume reminiscent of Dave Gibbons’s Nite Owl design from Watchmen with a body type that resembles nothing so much as that of the aging Bob Parr of The Incredibles. Except through reference to such examples, I cannot do justice to the graphics of Made in China — Part Three, other than to say of this issue’s unique artistic style what Potter Stewart famously said of obscenity: I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.
Yang’s writing continues cleverly to incorporate Eastern mythology that likely is unfamiliar to many Western readers, providing informative exposition without interrupting the adventure with a lecture on folklore. New Super-Man #3 introduces the audience to Xiangliu, the legendary nine-headed snake whose blood was so toxic, it could poison the land and render it unfit to sustain life merely by seeping out onto the ground.
Yang vividly brings this mythical creature to life in an engaging way that blends seamlessly into a superheroic setting. Xiangliu’s characteristically caustic bodily fluids come into play in ways that make complete sense within the context of the story and fit as flawlessly into the pages of this superhero team tale as if the selfsame scene had been written for a Chris Claremont-era issue of Uncanny X-Men. Grant Morrison argues that superheroes are the mythological figures for the modern age, and no one blends these modern myths with traditional legends as expertly, effortlessly, and effectively as Gene Luen Yang.
Although New Super-Man #3 is big on adventure, the kinetic and engaging action sequences do not detract either from the depth of the plot or from the nuances of the characterization. Zhongdan Kong and his fellow conspiracy theorists appear only briefly in Made in China — Part Three (or do they?), yet they allude to a telling detail that recurs in passing at the Crab Shell, where an unnamed prisoner lurking in the shadows mutters an eye-opening observation that promises to be the harbinger of a future threat. (As an added bonus, an aquarium-like cell in the Crab Shell evidently contains Starro the Conqueror, which is an exquisite Easter egg to introduce into a tale about a new Justice League.)
Amid all these ominous overtones, there lurks Dr. Omen, whose overbearing arrogance is on display in her condescending exchange with the August General in Iron, then immediately thereafter when she casually and callously zaps her new Super-Man with an oversized gun she euphemistically describes as a “compliance device.” When Baixi, Deilan, and Kenan — significantly, dressed not in costume, but in the ordinary clothing of their actual identities — confer about their concerns, some suspicious connections become clear, and distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys becomes a tad tougher. It comes as no surprise, therefore, when Dr. Zheng treats the Justice League of China as threatening marauders rather than welcome helpers.
Kenan’s internal monologue continues to betray how full of himself the new Super-Man is, but, after being constrained by the Chinese Wonder-Woman’s “magic lasso”, he softens toward Deilan and begins to speak to her honestly. The awkwardness, sincerity, and subtle growth of the three budding young heroes help forge a genuine emotional connection between the trio — and, hence, between the audience and the protagonists — leading Kong to think to himself the best line of New Super-Man #3 upon reaching an epiphany about “the price of friendship.”
Made in China — Part Three also is rich in humor. The worldwide reactions to Kenan’s public confession, from Perry White’s caffeinated spit-take at the Daily Planet in Metropolis to the American Batman’s subdued skepticism in the JLA Watchtower, are truly hilarious. Every time the Chinese Bat-Man admonishes his reckless new teammate for failing to do his homework on the Last Son of Krypton, Baixi delivers deadpan a punch line that is at once funny and incisive. On top of all that, the exchange about calling in “the Aqua-Man of China” is worth the cover price by itself.
Coincidentally, New Super-Man #3 shares some eerie similarities with Superwoman #2, which was released the same day. Both comics feature prisons for supervillains that lack either procedural safeguards or exit doors, and each issue sees a caped would-be Man of Steel attacked by a female assailant who supposedly is on his side, leaving him collapsed on the floor with his legs numbed. These two series, though, are polar opposites, not just geographically, but also tonally and thematically. Sean Novicki said it best: New Super-Man #3 is everything awesome about comic books.
What was your reaction to Yang’s and Bogdanovic’s latest effort in their Asian epic?
We welcome your feedback and invite you to ComiConverse with us about New Super-Man #3 in the comments!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
From art to plot to action to humor to heart to nuance to tradition to novelty, this issue has it all.