When I first heard the pitch for this comic – a Chinese version of Superman – I had my doubts. I did not think that anything appealing could come of it, and that the idea seemed like a half-assed, gimmicky attempt to bring diversity to DC’s line of comics. After reading the issue, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Wrong isn’t even the right word to use – I was completely and utterly erroneous based on my fallacious thinking. To put it simply – I was wronger than wrong.
Writer Gene Luen Yang did an excellent job of turning the Clark Kent make-up of Superman upside down by making the alter ego of Super-Man a kid bully named Kong Kenan. In some ways, Kong reminds me of Conner Kent from the 90s due to his young, careless attitude.
I came to like Kong as the issue progressed regardless of Kong’s teenage antics. (Note: making a reader like a teen isn’t an easy thing to do – just look at what happened to Jason Todd.) I also have to give Gene credit for writing a story that has the right mix of humor and adventure with just enough intrigue to make you want more. The story isn’t bloated with unsubtle storytelling tactics, or information overload – It’s a solid first issue.
The art of Richard Friend and Victor Bogdonovic is perfect for this story. It’s not too cartoony or hyper-realistic. It’s the right balance between real and exaggerated that is used at the right moments to complement the story. I found the art to be engaging and not a distraction at all. Additionally, I have to complement HI FI for the color choices – it fit the tone of the book completely.
The story in this issue is very 2016-ish after seeing how much popularity Chewbacca Mom got by posting a simple video that ended up going viral. Similarly, a video of Kong acting heroic, for a moment, turns Kong into an overnight sensation.
Kong’s father, who is a mechanic and has a difficult relationship with his son, is the only parent Kong has. It is mentioned that something happened that lead to Kong’s mother dying, but what exactly happened is never spelled out entirely. I have my theory that she died on a plane that New 52 Superman tried to save based on the tidbits of information sprinkled throughout the issue. Maybe this leads to Kong turning from hero to villain at some point?
Kong’s father, a conspiracy theorist, believes that a secret government agency called The Ministry of Self-Reliance is using its power for evil, instead of good. Kong’s father and his fellow conspiracy theorists believe that they have uncovered enough info to prove that the ministry exists. Coincidentally, Dr. Omen of the ministry saw the viral video of Kong and convinces Kong to undergo an experiment that will turn him into Superman, who is believed to be dead (see Superman #52). During Kong’s transformation to Super-Man, I got the feeling that some of New 52 Superman’s essence got transferred into Kong.
The ending is a twist I didn’t see coming that I don’t want to spoil it…let’s just say that other heroes might be in China.
Overall, this issue was a joy to read and I think it’s partially due to DC letting Gene write his story. Other Superman stories written by Gene didn’t have this level of enjoyment, that’s not a knock on Gene because I think he was handcuffed by crossovers and editorial driven storytelling. This time around I think the stars have aligned for Gene and company. Needless to say, I can’t wait for issue #2.
Here’s a short interview with Gene, be warned it has some spoilers.
Consume Review Repeat gives New Super-Man #1 a 9 out of 10 China stars