New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #21 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Brent Peeples, Penciller; Matt Santorelli, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: I Love This Version of Aquaman
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: The scope and scale of New Super-Man and the Justice League of China continues to expand with the new rebranding, and issue #21 is one of the series’ best. After introducing the Aquaman of North Korea last issue, this issue kicks off with a battle against both an army of monster crabs and the North Korean troops determined to bring the superpowered defector in dead or alive – no matter who they have to take out in the process. The opening battle is tense and full of great visuals, but there’s a bigger political game at play here. While the heroes want to protect the refugee, North Korea is essentially a wild card that currently listens only to China – something that could change if China starts harboring high-value North Korean detainees. While Baixi wants to turn him over to preserve China’s security, Deilan forms an immediate connection with the injured refugee for reasons that will become much clearer later in the issue.
As the battle plays out, Doctor Omen deals with issues of her own, as the Chinese government is getting impatient with her refusal to deploy the full power of the Chinese Lantern Corps and take on the Justice League – including her own son. The book is to be commended for not shying away from the brutal consequences of the North Korean regime, as we see Kwang-Jo getting introduced to Chinese culture with shock and confusion – as a simple meal purchased from a street vendor for him is seen as a precious treasure where he’s from. The character has the distinct feel of a cult survivor, as he’s filled with self-hatred and views himself as unworthy of even the slightest kindness. It’s something you rarely see in a mainstream comic. The truth as to Kwang-Jo’s true identity took me by surprise at the end of the issue and shows just how many tricks this book has up its sleeve. It’s one of DC’s best and needs so much more attention.
Corrina: This issue might be the perfect example of a superhero story. It contained fantastical action, with the battle between the tanks and the monster crabs, sweet and lovely scenes introducing Kwang-Jo to a China that he thought didn’t exist, and a terrific reveal at the end where the scope of our new Aquaman’s powers become clear. I love his design and his name. Plus, more of Kenan struggling between being Zen and reverting to his somewhat immature (but ultimately good) personality.
DC editorial is apparently leaving Gene Luen Yang to himself to create this series and that’s been an excellent choice. I wish for lots and lots of trade sales so this story can continue for a long time. I’m enjoying this Justice League/Superman title more than any of the regular Superman books.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.