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 #4 pits the Justice League of China against the Chinese Freedom Fighters. Writer Gene Luen Yang and penciler Viktor Bogdanovic tie together plot threads running through the first three issues in Made in China — Part Four. T. Kyle King, who covers Kryptonians and those with Kryptonian-like powers for ComiConverse, brings you his review.
New Super-Man #4 Review:
Although Kenan Kong is still adjusting to his newfound role as the Super-Man of the Justice League of China, he is beginning to see the possible consequences of his impulsive actions… but has the brash, rash hero overlooked critical clues about a mystery that threatens to hit him where he lives?
New Super-Man #4 Synopsis:
As Blue Condor slowly suffocates Super-Man, Flying Dragon General orders Kenan’s teammates to put down their weapons. Wonder-Woman moves to comply, but it is a feint, and she and Bat-Man counterattack. The General forces the Condor to free Kenan, insisting that his threat to kill Super-Man was a bluff. The Justice League saves Shiqiang Zheng, Blue Condor and Ghost Woman are captured and taken to the Crab Shell, and Flying Dragon General escapes after a chastened Kenan makes no move to stop him.
Laney Lan shows up at the Oriental Pearl Tower, where Dr. Omen grants the interview through which she intends to stage-manage the Justice League’s introduction to China. At the Crab Shell, Ghost Woman frees the metahuman colleague she sneaked into the prison, Folding Paper Man, and they together make their escape. As they go, they release teammate Human Firecracker, who shows them the secret weapon of the Ministry of Self-Reliance. Kenan, concerned that his public revelation of his secret identity has put his father in jeopardy, returns home to find a nasty surprise awaiting him.
New Super-Man #4 Analysis:
Bogdanovic’s imagery, embossed in this issue by Richard Friend’s inks and Hi-Fi’s colors, continues to exhibit the series’ distinctive stylistic signature in Made in China — Part Four. The artist’s multiple full-page splashes in New Super-Man #4 possess the defined lines and confident composition of Jim Lee’s influential work, but with varied and realistic body types instead of preposterous muscularity. At the same time, as the storyline has gotten more serious, Bogdanovic has scaled back some of the manga-influenced whimsical physical exaggerations, giving the lighter moments of the book a less cartoonish look and bringing to Kenan’s facial expressions a previously unseen emotional range that highlights the title character’s growing depth.
The drama also deepened in New Super-Man #4, and that heightened intensity was reflected in the graphics, which contain a number of figures wholly cloaked in shadow who appear as blackened outlines hovering near the gutters between panels and beside the edges of pages. Muted color schemes keep such morally ambiguous characters as Blue Condor, Ghost Woman, Folding Paper Man, and Dr. Omen in literal grey areas, but vibrant hues nevertheless burst forth from Super-Man’s and Flying Dragon General’s primary-colored costumes.
In addition to the bright lights given off by the fights, the action is underscored by Dave Sharpe’s lettering. Onomatopoetic sound effects abound, reverberating across the pages with palpable force and occasional wry wit — as when Super-Man delivers a punch and a kick emphasized by a “POW!” and a “STOMP!”, respectively, and (exquisitely) when Folding Paper Man emerges from hiding with a delightfully deadpan “UNFOLD!”
Such touches exhibit the subtle humor that permeates the interstices of the increasingly menacing developments of New Super-Man #4. The title character’s internal monologue cleverly stresses the overconfident bravado he has embraced in lieu of self-awareness. Kenan’s running banter with Bat-Man comically clarifies the differences that mirror those separating Clark Kent’s and Bruce Wayne’s caped alter egos. The two male heroes’ false macho posturing is punctured by Wonder-Woman when she barges out front where they fear to tread.
These jokes, while amusing, are not merely silly diversions, though. Yang uses humor to illuminate character, poking fun at the heroes’ boisterous braggadocio prior to unveiling their more introspective selves. Deilan’s confrontational boldness conceals the compassionate friend who later reassures Kenan: “Whatever you need, okay? Just call.” The would-be Super-Man who boasts of his leadership even as he is unable to breathe shortly thereafter declines to delve into his motivation for failing to halt the General’s escape.
The Justice League teammates’ more complex inner lives reflect the many ways in which little truly is as it seems in Made in China — Part Four. The Freedom Fighters’ incarceration in the Crab Shell after being defeated, Dr. Omen’s ostensible openness to Laney’s interloping inquiries, and Kenan’s fear for what Flying Dragon General’s getaway might mean for his father’s safety all are as indicative of artifice as Wonder-Woman’s apparent surrender and are as much bluffs as the General’s threat to slay Super-Man. That pair of first-page deceptions sets the stage for clandestine stratagems — and one hidden metahuman — to unfold throughout New Super-Man #4.
As usual, Yang includes nuances that are easily missed by the inattentive. Folding Paper Man, when savagely attacking a prison guard, jests that he gives “the world’s nastiest paper cuts”; this alludes to the fact that, while origami (which literally means “folding paper”) is a Japanese cultural practice, Chinese papercrafts are distinguishable by their use of paper cutting. Ghost Woman likewise goads Bat-Man by deriding him as “a fifty-center” to emphasize the Freedom Fighters’ opposition to the covert government ministry for which the Justice League works. This small jab hearkens back to the political diatribe Flying Dragon General delivers to Super-Man, which muddies the philosophical waters by raising the questions about truth, justice, and democracy in modern China by which Yang understandably is intrigued. “Flying Dragon General” is even part of the name of a Chinese aviation company, which is itself a callback to a detail from the series’ inaugural issue.
New Super-Man #4 was a rich and rewarding read. As the plotlines converge, the complexities deepen; as the adventure intensifies, the ambiguities multiply; as Kenan Kong grows more comfortable with his powers, he becomes more confused about his responsibilities; as this comic comes to feel more familiar, its cultural milieu appears increasingly distinct. The disparate elements of Made in China — Part Four coexist in harmony, balanced and blended, confirming what the MacArthur Foundation recently certified: New Super-Man is a work of genius.
Your thoughts on New Super-Man #4 are welcome! As always, we invite you to ComiConverse with us in the comments.
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
Tightly plotted, beautifully rendered, and increasingly detailed, the fourth chapter featured multiple deceptions yet ultimately produced the truth.