In Review: New Super-Man #1

Nothing about this character encourages me to continue reading his adventures.

The covers: A twosome to find as this first issue flies out. The Regular cover is by Viktor Bogdanovic and Kelsey Shannon and contains several elements that are in this issue: Dr. Omen pulling a lever, Lixin being held by Super-Man, a specific news reporter, and the evil Blue Condor. It’s a little funny that the hero has a gigantic number one over his shoulder to represent what this issue is, but it only makes me smile and not laugh out loud. The coloring is a little too sedate, with the darker colors overwhelming the hero. Okay, but not spectacular. Much more to my liking is the Variant cover by Bernard Chang. This has Super-Man holding up a woman, having saved her from a car crash. She’s taking a selfie of herself being held by the hero, as the bystanders around them do the same. This was the cover I purchased because the illustration has much more detail and the colors are really bold. That said, once I read this issue, I saw that the Kenan on this cover looks about seven years older than the character within this book. This looks good, but I think the hero is supposed to be much younger. Overall grades: Regular B and Variant A- 

The story: In present day Shanghai, a plump boy is chased by a bully until arriving at a dead end. He’s punched to the ground, and the mean teen rifles through the boy’s backpack, taking his soda and belittling his food. The antagonist says, “You can definitely afford better. Tell your mom to pack you a snack worth stealing tomorrow. Later, fat boy.” The boy, Lixin, frowns and throws his lunch at the bully, striking him in the back of the head. The chase resumes until a corner is turned and the bully sees Lixin in the air, held by the Blue Condor, “one of Shanghai’s — and China’s — first American-style super-villains. Every few months he shows up to terrorize the rich and the powerful. People like Lixin’s family.” Every instinct tells Kenan Kong, the bully, to run away, but he takes the soda can he still holds and throws it at the super-villain, causing him to drop Lixin and then fly off. This incident puts Kenan in the limelight and creates a series of events that will change his life. This is the origin story of this New Super-Man, told by Gene Luen Yang. There’s a major problem with this book beginning on the first page. The lead is a jerk — he’s a bully. He begins by picking on an overweight kid, punches him, belittles him, and steals his lunch. When a moment comes for him to stand up for Lixin, he does, but when he speaks to others about what he’s done, he has absolutely no redeeming characteristics. The relationship between him and his father is designed to make him more sympathetic, but given the nature of comic books, his father’s words are weighted with foreshadowing. When he acquires his powers he comes off as cocky, and not in the entertaining way. After this issue, there’s absolutely nothing likable about this new hero. The final page lowers my opinion of this book further with two characters’ appearances. Is anything new in this New Super-Man? Overall grade: D

The art: This book has serviceable visuals. The first page expertly shows Lixin being chased by Kenan, who’s revealed on the next page. Page 2 looks good, with some nice background work and good emotions on the characters. However, 3 resumes their chase and for some reason artist Viktor Bogdanovic uses four uneven panels to show it. All this did was spotlight all the white, unused space on the pages. If this was done to make the chase seem more frantic, it didn’t, because only Lixin is shown in motion. The reveal of the Blue Condor is great, but given the distance between the characters, how could a tin can spun him backwards so hard? Was the can made out of lead? The villain’s reaction is too big given the item that hits him. The reveal of Dr. Omen’s laboratory is good; it’s neat to see that the final panel on 8, with the bottom panel bleeding up, becoming the border around the four panels that precede it. When Kenan speaks with dad there’s a lot of silhouette use employed. It came off as a shortcut. It completely cheated the reader out of a moment to have sympathy for Kenan on 12. I love that Omen and her assistant were given goggles when Kenan is given his powers: it gave the book a retro-science-fiction/mad scientist feel. The final panel on 16 is the first wow moment of the visuals, reaching a high point on 18. It was neat to see Kenan also receive a slight change in his physique after the experiment. The final page isn’t really Bogdanovic’s fault, but I really groaned seeing who these characters were before I read who they were. The book is inked by Richard Friend, giving every page a very thin line. I don’t know what Bogdanovic’s original pencils looked like, but I’ve seen Friend’s work before, so I’m fairly certain he maintained Bogdanovic’s original intent. Some odd choices, here and there, but a decent enough looking book. Overall grade: C

The colors: Hi-Fi does a terrific job on this book’s colors. The orange skies are a great way to show the day beginning, representing the new life that’s to begin for Kenan. The colors look really cool when Blue Condor appears, because his costume is a solid stand out in cool blue, but the backgrounds behind the villain have got a good variety of colors to make the commercial environment more real. A soft blue green is used for the interiors of Omen’s facilities, instantly giving it an antiseptic feel; also cool are the yellows used for the computer screens. The graveyard scenes have a good moody tone with the greens and red conflicting. Yellows and oranges are used perfectly during Kenan’s transformation scene. Hi-Fi continues to bring the goods to all that they do. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings, narration and transmissions (the same font), dialogue, sounds, yells, text on hats, the story’s title, the book’s credits, and the tease for next issue are by letterer Dave Sharpe. Since this is an origin issue, there aren’t too many sounds to punch up the action, however there are several yells from characters that put some good tension into the story, especially on Page 18. Overall grade: A

The final line: Nothing about this character encourages me to continue reading his adventures. Even Guy Gardner is more likable than Kenan Kong. I’ll give this series one more issue, but why would I read something with such an unlikable lead? This isn’t even close to being “super.”  Overall grade: C

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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