DC introduces a Chinese Super-Man, and it is nothing like Superman.
If you were to ask me who my favorite Superhero is, the answer would be Superman (Kal-El) without hesitation. Unlike most people who are drawn to Superman because of his powers and status in the Justice League, my admiration for the last son of Krypton stems from his origin story and his personality. Granted that most of the attributes of the Man of Steel that I idolize originates from Tom Welling’s portrayal in the CW hit show, Smallville, it is also his life as an outcast that speaks to me deeply. When I read that DC Comics was planning to introduce a Chinese Super-man, like most people, I criticized the idea.
My initial disdain for the title was not because of his race (though it was somewhat puzzling), but was rooted in my belief that there is no need for another Superman. Relative to the Bat Family and the Earth Lanterns, the Superman Family is rather small, with only 3 significant members (4 if you count Krypto). Despite their limited members, the Superman Family has had amazing arcs over the course of their runs and have achieve a sizable reputation in the DC Universe. Although I disagree with the notion of having someone else take on the title Superman, I can definitely understand the rationale behind expanding this family and thus when Super-Woman was announced, I simply nodded my head and said “sure, I’ll give it a shot. Might be great”. However, when they announced the New Super-Man title, baffled does not begin to describe my reaction. All that said, I decided to pick up the title, which was released last week, and give it a fair chance to impress me.
It seemed that my disappointment was well justified. New Super-Man (Vol 1) #1 introduces Kenan Kong as an egotistical, ignorant and self-serving bully raised by a disapproving father who he describes as a conspiracy nut. The character is completely different from the Kansas farmboy that we have grown to admire and respect. Kong’s only act of heroism is seen when he saved his chubby classmate who he calls ‘Fat Boy’ from Blue Condor, who apparently is one of China’s first American-style super-villains. Shortly afterwards, that little glimmer of heroism faded and his fame-seeking personality took center stage as he shamelessly brags about the incident and subsequently hits on a reporter Laney Lan – don’t even get me started on this name. Going viral, the interview video caught the eye of the mysterious and sinister-looking Dr Omen who for some reason decides that Kong is the perfect candidate to become the New Super-Man.
Throughout the whole book, there was just something not quite right about the story. Was it the illogical motivation to make him Superman? Or maybe it was the nonsensical attention Kenan got from simply throwing a can of soda at Blue Condor. Either way, the series does not at all impress. The question I would pose to the writer, Gene Luen Yang, is “What is the purpose for this title?”. If it was truly meant to showcase “that a character of any color, a hero of any kind of background can be compelling ― can be somebody that anybody can identify with” as Yang claimed, why not introduce a totally new superhero? All that I took from this book was that China in the DC Comics seems to be conforming to what the most populous country in the world is stereotypically viewed as: a copy-cat who rips off ideas that are successful in western culture. The addition of a China’s own Batman and Wonder Woman as well as the ‘Justice League of China’ at the end of the book did the title no favors. DC could have used this opportunity to attempt to re-brand China by showing the aspects of its culture that are unique and to educate.
The series does introduce some fascinating issues such as the rich-poor disparity and of course bullying which certainly deserves credit. Alas, these positives were buried by the lackluster artwork and the weak dialogue. While it is too early to condemn or praise this title, the New Super-Man is off to a rough start but I do continue to hold out hope that the series will get better over the course of its run and deal with more prominent issues as well as improve on the writing and artwork.
Check out some of scenes from the book below (not in order):