++ Split Panel Compass – a column by Steve Damm ++
As he continues his return back to comics, Steve Damm discovers that the New Super-Man series totally delivers on the Superman ideal. And that is a BIG and important deal to him.
As I mentioned in my previous installment, I greatly enjoy both Action Comics and Superman Rebirth series currently and am reading the trades to catch up. One of the pleasant side effects of this rekindled love of Superman comics is that when people suggest other Superman titles my first reaction isn’t to snort and laugh. Recently, two friends suggested I try New Super-Man, about a Chinese government Justice League of heroes they created fronted by a young and brash man whose powers resemble those of Superman. To be honest I wasn’t as eager to try it as I should have been, thinking about the plethora of titles in the “Super Family” these days. After all, the universe currently features Steel, Supergirl, Super Woman and even a Lex Luthor Superman . . . why would I pick an entire team of unknowns based in China with characters I’d never heard of. I was assured I would like it, but was told to read the second arc. On my recent trip to the South United States I picked up issues 7-12 and read them.
Now, anyone who has followed my work knows I have strict criteria for what constitutes a good Superman story, but it can be summed up into whether or not it fits into the overall ideal of Superman by showing hope, inspiration, the desire to sacrifice and the unwillingness to let even one person be lost. But imagine my surprise when I read this “second-tier title” and was not only surprised by how good it was, but that the separation from the rest of the Super Family was so complete it became its very own creature, full of curiosity and intrigue. I will break it down. Spoiler-free.
So let’s get this monkey smoking . . .
New Super-Man issues #7-12
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artists: Billy Tan (issues 7,8,11,12), Viktor Bogdanovic (issues 9,10)
Publisher: DC Comics
Before we can get into the story we need to talk about the art for this book. Both Tan and Bogdanovic are perfect fits for Yang in style and tone with Bogdanovic doing the art for the Metropolis issues and Tan the issues at home in China. Much of the credit for the pacing of this book is a direct result of the layouts and the conscious discipline to keep the setting in the book as key as the characters who play in it. The coloring work of all the many contributors feel congruent and optimistically muted like a lucid Chinese fairy tale on an ancient scroll. It is a beautiful title to look at. I don’t think the story would have felt so fresh and powerful if this team had not been chosen, and it feels like there is real chemistry at work.
Gene Luen Yang, with his words, came right off the page and slapped me around with joy. I had never heard of this writer, and from the first page of issue #7 to the last page of issue #12 he handled the Superman name and ideal with careful, respectful gloves. As promised this review is spoiler-free so I will save specifics. As a general premise the way Yang handles our young de-powered Super-Man and takes him through the fight to restore them is excellent. With deftness, Yang leaves seemingly seamless self-contained stories within his wider sweeping arcs without it all feeling confined or forced. The Batman and Wonder Woman characters are full of gleeful expectations for me as a reader and there is a perfect mix of Chinese mythology, politics and traditional superhero tropes for readers of all ages. Additionally, one of the most interesting mentor characters to come along in comics for years the mysterious I-Ching.
It seems to me that DC has really invested in the Superman mythos after ending the New 52. Titles like Action, Superman, Super Sons and now Super-Man have shown how they are trying to reinstall the former glory and reputation – and the ideal – of the Man of Steel.
Tell the monkey to crush his butt . . .
Steve is a Colorado native resident and has loved comics for 40 years, but currently prefers the live-action and animated medium for his superheroes fix. But he’s slowly making his way back to his beloved heroes upon the printed page. His passion for all things superheroes is only surpassed by his love of coffee and cigarettes. All Hail the BurnChimp.