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New Super-Man: Made in China by Gene Luen Yang

Published by DC Comics on June 27, 2017

And now for something completely different ....

New Super-Man is a new title from DC Comics. Volume 1, "Made in China," collects the first five issues and recounts the origin of the Chinese version of Superman. I have been a Superman fan for more than half a century and I still follow the icon of truth, justice, and the American way. New Super-Man, however, is a new take on the character, one that blends Superman's classic virtues with a quiet commentary on the need for truth and justice in modern China.

Kong Kenan is bullying a fat kid when Shanghai supervillain Blue X shows up. Kong throws a soda can at him, an impulsive act that stems from Kong’s general lack of smarts. Thanks to a viral video, Kong is an instant celebrity. The Ministry of Self-Reliance, a shadow government group that conspiracy buffs love, wants to give Kong superpowers -- Superman’s powers, to be precise. But he’s still sort of a selfish brat, so it’s up to the Chinse Batman and the Chinese Wonder Woman to contain him. Yes, there’s a Justice League of China, although the Chinese Batman is a little chubby.

They eventually encounter the Freedom Fighters of China, with names like Human Firecracker and Sunbeam, who claim to be fighting for truth, justice, and democracy, three values that are scarce in China. Presumably the Freedom Fighters represent Chinese dissidents, but are they heroes or villains? And what about the original Chinese superheroes, the Great Ten? Good guys or bad guys? You need to read the story to find out.

Kenan has some family drama that turns into superhero/supervillain drama. The family angle evolves through the first four issues and takes center stage in issue 5. The plotting is surprisingly clever.

New Super-Man had me chuckling consistently. It’s a commentary on China and on America, but it’s true value lies in its ability to demonstrate that people all over the world are the same … boorish, vain, shallow, self-involved, but occasionally capable of rising above their faults and doing the right thing. It’s one of the better attempts at DC to do something different without departing from the strengths that made the company a success.

Viktor Bogdanovic's art is perfectly suited to the story, but it’s the sharp writing that earned my applause. I suspect that any Superman fan will be pleased with the new Chinese version.


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