New Super-Man #1 (September, 2016)
"Made in China, Part One"
Writer - Gene Luen Yang
Pencils - Viktor Bogdanovic
Inks - Richard Friend
Colors - Hi-Fi
Letters - Dave Sharpe
Editor - Paul Kaminski
Group Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99
I'm gonna level with ya... outside of my "wheelhouse" books, that is to say the Titans "family", I really didn't have much faith in the DC Rebirth once-a-monthlies. They seemed like they would be pretty far behind the bi-weeklies in priority and importance. From what little I've sampled (including the Titans... Teen and otherwise) they do sorta-kinda feel a step behind... a bit less important. We're not even gonna talk about the upcoming price-hike... oi.
When DC announced that several of the Super- titles were going to be once-monthly, I didn't really have high hopes. Seeing the actual line-up, only compounded my worry. What would Superwoman be? Would they really be launching a solo book for a member of the Crime Syndicate? Then there's the book we'll be discussing today... just what in the world is a New Super-Man? My earlier answer would've been "A book I'm going to ignore"... however, due to a bit of raving coming from some folks whose opinion I value, I decided... hell, I've got the books, why not give 'em a whirl, right?
We open in the shadow of a bully. A chubby lad in glasses runs down an alley... baddie hot on his tail. He wants his Soder Cola, and he wants it now. I didn't think New Super-Man would be a little fat kid... oh... OH... it's the bully! Yeah, yeah... I'm playing... we all saw the cover. Anyhoo... the chubby kid is called Lixin, and this bullying seems to be a regular occurrence. Oh, and our main man's name is Kenan. Kenan snags the suds and walks away... only to be whacked in the back of the head by a box lunch.
Kenan turns around and gives chase, and finds that Lixin has been grabbed by the super villain Blue Condor. Ya see, Lixin is part of a very rich and powerful family... and this baddie's MO is messing with that sort. Without thinking, Kenan hurls his Soder can at the Condor, causing him to drop Lixin. Once he recovers, the Condor stares menacingly at Kenan for a bit... and then flies off.
Lixin runs up and hugs Kenan... to which, our man tells him to give him all the money he has in his pocket... which he does, happily... with promises there'd be more later. This event caused a bit of a crowd to gather, including one news reporter named... Laney Lan... oof. She chases our man down and asks if she could swing by his place later on for an interview. She'd recorded the entire event on her phone, and it's already at a half a million views... ooh boy.
We shift scenes to a bank of monitors, all airing the same Kenan footage. We are now in what looks to be a government compound of sorts, with two women looking on intently. The short-haired one suggests that they've found the one they were looking for.
Kenan heads to the auto garage where his father works to share the events of the day. His pop looks... less than enthused. Ya see, he's already seen the video... and he's bothered. Not because his son could've died... but because he was hanging around with Lixin. We get confirmation that Kenan is a serial-bully here... as Lixin's father calls with regularity to threaten legal action.
Kenan mentions Laney Lan coming over that night to ask some questions... but dad says he won't be home. He has a meeting with his writer's group... he's a bit of a conspiracy theorist, and he and his pals are out to prove that a thing called "The Ministry of Self-Reliance" exists in China. Crazy, right?
Crestfallen, Kenan leaves... and heads to the graveyard where his mother is buried. While there, he is approached by that short-haired government type from earlier. Her name is Dr. Omen, and she expresses that they were impressed with his "heart of a hero", and she is here to offer him powers to match. She shows him video of Superman... the New-52 version, who had just died. She tells him that she... and The Ministry of Self-Reliance (dun-dun-dunnnnn) have devised a way in which to build a Superman of their own.
Kenan is swept away to the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai. He is then dressed in an S-branded jumpsuit and led to something called the Origin Chamber. First it fills up with a gas... but then, a burst of energy!
Inside, we see inside Kenan's dream. He is dressed in a Superman costume... and he is trying to save his mother's life. It's here that we learn that she died in a plane crash... and the airline she was flying is owned by Lixin's family... ohhhhhhh.
The MSR ladies look on while the chamber begins to come apart... they both fear the worst, however... Kenan bursts free, alive and well!
He is now a "New Super hyphen Man". He is clearly out of his depth, and has very little control of his new powers. Dr. Omen commands him to cool his jets... but he just ain't having it. She decides to call in some muscle... in the form of the Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman of China! Uh-oh.
Welp, gotta say... pleasantly surprised. As I read, bits and pieces did feel a bit familiar. I guess I at least flipped through this one when it was first released, but didn't actually give it a full read. Glad I rectified that today.
I'm getting a bit of an early Booster Gold vibe from our pal Kenan. There's a certain aloofness... we see him bully Lixin, and at the onset... I figured that perhaps Kenan was just an insecure jerk who needed to assert his dominance on the chubby little rich kid. As we close out, we learn there might just be something more to it... Kenan's mother died in a plane crash... on the very same airline Lixin's father owns. He asks himself... is that why he treats Lixin so? I'd like to think that he does it as a distraction... perhaps a way of assuaging his own guilt for what happened.
We see when he first enters the Origin Chamber, he sees himself as Superman... and his mission is to save his mother. Does Kenan harbor any guilt? I can't claim to have read past this issue... so, for all I know, this has already been answered. Anyhoo... if Kenan continues to punish Lixin... demanding cash and snacks, perhaps that is his way of making things right in his head... while still making sure somebody pays for what happens. Also, the bullying becomes a "thing" unto itself... perhaps moving the "dead mom" to the back-burner. I dunno... I'm probably thinking too hard.
Kenan's attention-seeking and glory-hogging reminded me a bit of Kon-El Superboy from immediately after The Reign of the Supermen. He was a petulant shallow little twit... but we always knew he would come around.
Regardless of how wrong my predictions may be, I think this will ultimately wind up being a nice little coming of age story. At least that's how I view them telegraphing it... again, similar character trajectory to Booster (and Kon).
With all that said... I found myself enjoying this a great deal. Thanks to Reggie and Gerry for championing it! I'm glad I have the next six or seven issues of this waiting for me in the stack. I feel like it might take an issue or two more for me to get into the art. It's mostly great, but Kenan does look a bit Fred Flintstoney. I do hope that by the time the $3.99 wave washes over this one that it's already built enough of an audience to keep it afloat. If you haven't checked this one out yet... give it a go.