New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #23 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Brent Peeples, Penciller; Matt Santorelli, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: You Are Who You Choose To be
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: We now know that this is the final major story arc of New Super-Man, and the series will conclude with a done-in-one issue next month. Sadly, despite being one of the most creative and original books in the Rebirth wave, it just couldn’t find the sales traction to sustain itself past two years in this market. That’s still an impressive run for a side book starring an original character, but it deserved better! This conclusion to the tale of the Aquaman of North Korea shows why, as it seamlessly combines epic superhero action with some great character work and clever use of a big cast of characters. The character known as Aquaman has now been revealed as the Dragonborn, a powerful water elemental who is also the son of an ancient dragon. As he seeks to drown his adopted, repressive homeland, he’s confronted by Kenan – who is now possessed by the power of All-Yang, the evil, unstable counterpart to the benevolent I-Ching.
Dealing with topics like North Korea in a superhero comic is always going to be tricky, but I think Yang does a great job of not shying away from the repressive and brutal nature of the country while also reminding us that it’s full of innocent people who just want to live their lives. The Green Lantern Corps of China remains a consistent menace, trying to arrest everyone in sight and caring more about the law than human life. Baixi, meanwhile, has his own drama as the evil anarchist Alpaca – aka his little sister, dressed as a skeletal Bugs Bunny, apparently – returns to help him out of prison and then disappear. The resolution of Kwang-Jo’s storyarc – both stopping his threat as the Dragonborn, and keeping him out of a North Korean prison – is cleverly done. This book has put together a highly entertaining, unique superhero team that deserves to stick around, and while we know Avery will move on to Flash, I’m hoping next issue won’t be the end of the other leads. This is how you do diversity in comics.
Corrina: Before I talk about Dragonson, I wanted to once again state my love for Baixi, a lovable, cuddly version of Batman who, in this run, has become the emotional heart of the team, something you cannot say about his American counterpart. I could read a whole comic starring Baixi and his little sister, Alpaca. Perhaps DC will consider that as part of its young reader’s imprint at some point.
Dragonson surprised me. I thought he’d been set up as an eventual villain but then Kwang-Jo showed remarkable resiliency in resisting the commands of his father. Like much of the Justice League of China, Dragonson has chosen to be a hero rather than give into urgings of those older or more experienced or more cynical than he is. That same struggle plays itself out within Kenan, too, as his two selves battle for precedence, until Kenan learns the trick of balance, much as Kwang-Jo did. It’s that kind of thematic parallel that makes this book such a layered read.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.