Review: New Super-Man #1
An impulsive act of heroism thrusts an arrogant young man into the limelight of Shanghai as China begins to form its own Justice League of powerful heroes. Rising from the ashes of The Final Days of Superman, award-winning writer Gene Luen Yang and on-the-rise art star Viktor Bogdanovic introduce readers to Kong Kenan—the New Super-Man! When the world needed a new hero, China made him!
Upon completion of the first issue of writer Gene Luen Yang‘s New Super-Man, I hated it. I’ll be straight up honest about that. It felt unoriginal, like something we’ve seen over and over. The comic felt like an inferior Chinese knock-off. Then it clicked, that might be the point. And if it is, then this might be one of the most brilliant comics of 2016.
There’s a thing called Shanzhai, which refers to the type of imitation and trademark infringement that happens a lot in China. You see a lot of this with electronics but it also occurs with characters such as Superman and Mickey Mouse. Writer Jörg Tittel tackled the concept in his graphic novel Rickey Rouse Has a Gun. The idea and concept
The idea and concept is both praised and derided with a culture that has sprung up that feeds the beast and worships it. Should it be encouraged or should it be denounced? And is it ironic that companies that churn out derivative IP all of the time are the ones who are some of the most vocal against it? There is no right answer and it’s a topic that’s not often tackled in the West. But, with this new series I think that’s exactly what Yang is doing.
Yang took over towards the end of the previous Superman run and during it he gave us a very layered take on mythology in general and especially that of Superman. It was the type of comic you might dismiss outright, but on deeper reading, it’s quite profound and layered. And again, I think he might be doing that here. My best evidence of this is the last page which was a bit unexpected and plays off of the knock-off/imitation concept. I’m not going to spoil it, but once you get to that page you’ll understand what I’m getting at and why I think this is something he’s exploring with this series.
In short, Yang could be exploring intellectual property, copyright, theft, and companies creating derivative characters and sequels due to a lack of ideas, all in one comic.
Yang is joined by Viktor Bogdanovic on art who brings a rather interesting style that feels like it’s full of a hell of a lot of life at times. There’s something that’s translated into the art, some excitement and fun, but I can’t describe it at all. Some of the character design isn’t totally consistent, or it might be Bogdanovic’s style that I was getting used to, but as interesting as the concept of the series is, so is the art.
If I’m right and Yang is in fact exploring Shanzhai with this series (or at least the opening arc), this is a comic that’s an absolute must read and could be one the most fascinating comics to debut this year.
Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Viktor Bogdanovic
Story: 8.3 Art: 7.8 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Read
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review