One of the most anticipated debuts coming out of DC Rebirth, New Super-Man #1 sees a young man from China step into the mantle of the greatest superhero. Is it good?
New Super-Man #1 (DC Comics)
New Super-Man #1 is a book that knows it has to sell its main hero to stay on the market, and Gene Luan Yang ensures that Kenan Kong is a memorable protagonist, if not immediately a likeable one. Kenan Kong is a bully, not thuggish or brutal, but still a young man that pushes his weight around. Yang nicely straddles the line with Kenan, keeping him youthful enough to avoid being seen as malicious while still making sure that the reader isn’t on his side from page one.
Yang also works in the beginnings of a supporting cast into the book: the kid Kenan bullies is saved from a supervillain, there’s a reporter that Kenan finds pretty, and his relationship with his father is displayed as a tense one. While New Super-Man #1 doesn’t get to spend too much time on each character, there’s enough there for audiences to latch onto.
That being said, some readers may find bits of New Super-Man overly familiar. Part of this is simply Yang paying tribute to the Superman mythos, but when the reporter that thanks Kenan for saving Luo is revealed to be named Laney Lan it can come off a little forced. This is a minor problem with the issue, and it does open it up for Yang to play off of reader expectations for these apparent analogue characters.
A small detail that really went a long way was how New Super-Man #1 dealt with the language difference. Rather than have every line of dialogue framed by guillemets (these guys: <, >) to indicate the characters are speaking Mandarin, letterer Dave Sharpe uses a different color font to indicate when words are being spoken in English. This creates a nice visual shorthand for the reader while maintaining fidelity to the locale.
If you have to check to make sure something won’t hurt, you’re guaranteed it will hurt like hell.
Viktor Bogdanovic’s gives the book a great ebb and flow emotionally. The subtle facial expressions he achieves with the characters give a lot of drama to each scene and ensures that the readers invest in Kenan Kong. This strong character work helps to keep the readers engaged, even though New Superman #1 isn’t heavy on action. When the action does occur, Bogdanovic shows he can stage a fight well and utilizes motion lines well to convey a sense of force. Richard Friend’s inks in this issue are very fine, subtly bringing out the detail in Bogdanovic’s pencils.
Hi-Fi’s color work here is fantastic, opting for more muted tones that, combined with Bogdanovic’s lines and Gene Luan Yang’s script, make New Super-Man #1 resemble a drama more than some of the more vibrant books. This serves the story perfectly, and when the superpowers enter the book, Hi-Fi broadens the palette, bringing in some energetic oranges, greens, and blues.
Is It Good?
Thanks to both Gene Luan Yang’s writing and the artwork by Viktor Bogdonovic, Richard Friend, and Hi-Fi, New Super-Man #1 succeeds in its debut outing. Kenan Kong is an engaging protagonist whose motivation has driven him to bad behavior, and reading his growth is going to be fascinating.