New Super-Man #18 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Brent Peeples, Penciller; Scott Hanna, Richard Friend, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Kenan Truly Comes Into His Own
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: New Super-Man was one of the most original books launched out of Rebirth, but it was also one of the lowest-selling. So it was originally slated to end with eighteen until a swell of grassroots support saved the title and got it renewed for a longer run (the title will resume with a slight rebranding after a done-in-one issue focusing on Laney Lan by a guest writer next month). That’s why this issue feels like a very strong series finale, wrapping up most of the subplots as Kenan faces the biggest battle of his life. The opening of the issue is maybe a bit too explosive, as Kenan, Superman, Luthor, and two Justice Leagues face off against an army of three-faced demigods from another dimension, unleashed by the evil All-Yang. It takes a while for anyone to figure out how to even approach the creatures, but eventually, Kenan goes within himself via meditation to prepare for the battle.
That takes the format of a very creative segment, where Kenan finally finds I-Ching within the realm of ghosts (it’s not clear whether he’s truly dead or not) and learns from him the origin of the two brothers, agents of chaos and order, one who fell to the dark side. Making the brother representing order the one who fell from grace is an interesting twist, too. This allows Kenan to unite the forces that drive his powers, reaching new levels, and is able to close the portals and destroy the demons. After a final confrontation with All-Yang, Kenan is evolved as a hero, has a new costume and a new sense of self-awareness, and is ready to take the next step in his journey as a hero. That includes a confrontation with his mother, where he chooses his father’s side but carves out his own path.
This series hasn’t always been perfect, but there’s no question it has one of the most original and engaging new lead characters to come out of DC in some time.
Corrina: Every “inspired” character sooner or later has to find their own identity separate from the original hero. Supergirl’s twist is that she remembers Krypton. Superboy’s original twist from the 1980s is that he was a clone. Superwoman has had various identities but none of them have really stuck to make her a memorable character, not even the latest version of Superwoman as Lana Lang. (Sorry. Valiant try there, however.)
But Kenan has been different from the start. Partly that’s because of his creator, Gene Luen Yang, who created him as a hero for a different culture than is usually seen in mainstream superhero comics, and partly because Yang’s conception of the character was that Kenan began his story as the bully, not the bullied.
It’s been a long, sometimes strange trip for Kenan, who finally accepted his heroic nature about halfway through this series. But, now, he’s accepted all of himself as a person, as evidenced by the conclusion to this arc, where his evolution is complete. Not only that, his history now no longer depends on Superman’s history. He can stand on his own, separate from his inspiration. It’s a terrific twist and would have been a great ending if this series was canceled. But I’m so glad it’s not because there are so many more stories to tell with Kenan and the Justice League of China.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.