Title: New Super-Man, Issue #1
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: Richard Friend and Viktor Bogdanovicis
Publisher: DC Comics
Genre: Action, Superhero
Release Date: July 13, 2016
Kenon is a glory hogging bully, who has now become famous throughout China for performing an act of “heroism.” This act involved saving a young man, whom he was harassing earlier, from a super villain. While Kenon enjoys his new found fame, his father is too busy to care, thus putting a rain on his parade. However, the main character may have another chance to be a hero again, as when he is met by an agent of a secret organization, who wished to turn him into a superhero. More specifically, the New Super-Man of China.
The first issue incorporates a lot of recurring elements of superhero origin, which includes the main character doing something heroic act going unnoticed, recalling a tragic past, being noticed by a secret organization, and the character gains superpowers. Normally this would take place from the perspective of a down-on-his-luck, good hearted, and altruistic individual, who has no means of defending himself. Or at least, that is what most readers might expect. Instead, the story is from the perspective of the bully instead of the victim. While that is interesting, it is also somewhat uncomfortable considering Kenon’s personality. However, there is a sense of irony how all these good things come towards Kenon, yet he’s not exactly hero material.
The only time the story is tolerable and evened out is when Kenon’s celebrations are put at a halt or when he gets into well deserved trouble. For example, when he is trying to gain his father’s attention for his alleged act of heroism, Kenon is shut down by his father, who tells him that it’s not important and calls his son out for bullying someone.
The comic is well-paced, easy to follow, and well written, it nicely gives Kenon’s back-story, established that superheroes, villains, and secret organizations are indeed operating in China, and sets Kenon on his path to become China’s Super-Man. The story is very simple, straight forward, and it does not get sidetracked on any tangents as it takes readers to view the birth of a new superhero, but from a perspective readers are not used to.
The uncomfortable aspect of the comic is Kenon himself, the first scene is of him abusing a kid. His victim is a kid from the family who owns the airline company of the plane that crashed which killed Kenon’s mother. Kenon chases the boy, punches him for running, steals from him, throws his food, constantly calls him “fat-boy,” and after “saving” the boy, asks for his money. The comic also makes it clear that Kenon abusing the kid has happened before, which does not make the main character look any better.
The story does have a sense of irony as the main character. Kenon, who is a bully, is going through a superhero origin. Despite getting lucky breaks the story thankfully knocks Kenon down before he gets ahead of himself. Given Kenon’s much defined, egocentric personality he will have the opportunity to learn a lesson in humility and understand what it means to be a hero. This is evident by how it is portrayed in the story, whenever Kenon tries to stroke his own ego or when he thinks he has gotten an easy break, something happens to spoil his fun and put him in his place. Hopefully it will go in that direction and not constantly aggrandize his personality by rewarding him as it will make the comic comfortable to read since he will be wearing the same symbol as one of the world’s best heroes. The comic does not inspire confidence when Kenon’s egocentric personality keeps getting rewarded.
The rest of the cast for the series is alright. Kenon’s dad is negligent and obsessed with exposing the truth about the Ministry of Self-Reliance which is the same organization that recruited Kenon. This will no doubt set up a future conflict for Kenon or possibly tension as this is the group that his father views as a threat.
The art by Richard Friend and Viktor Bogdanovicis is expressive at points and the colors are very vibrant. There are a lot of strong primary colors with little to no tints or filters, and all the characters look distinct. Thankfully none of the characters look the same, so no one can make a certain joke. The stand out for the art aspect is the design of Kenon’s Super-Man suit. Kenon’s suit does have a nice even balance of colors, the orange, red and black complimenting each other nicely for him is visually appealing. However, other than design and colors, there is not that much to say about the art, especially when there is little to no action in the comic.
The story is well written and paced as we see Kenon’s origin story unfold and see his very distinct personality. The opening scene does not help to paint him in a good light. Although Kenon’s egocentric, self-gratifying personality can get annoying, readers can rest easy and enjoy as karma strikes against Kenon. The design and coloring of the art is good, however, is lacking in standout moments.
The jerk becomes the hero
Chain's new "hero"
If readers can stomach Kenon’s self-aggrandizing personality and the fact that the “New Super-Man” is a bully at the start of the comic, then they will see a superhero origin from a perspective that they might not be used to. Hopefully Kenon learns to be more humble and perhaps live up to the superhero title that he set up for himself by lying to all of China about his intentions.
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