Welcome back to another edition of Break from the Bat! We’re a month into Rebirth, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am digging it! We’ve got solid-to-excellent books across the line now, and it’s been a pleasure to see the market rewarding DC for its creative successes.
Let’s hop to it. This month, I’m excited to talk about a brand-new-this-week book that some of you may not have considered: Gene Yang’s New Super-Man.
If you visit Batman News regularly, then you may well have read my reviews of the last New 52 Superman story: “Final Days of Superman” (if you didn’t read the reviews—or the story—get caught up here). Spanning four titles over a two month period, its eight parts chronicled the death of Superman and the return of the same character from the previous continuity. It also introduced us to the mysterious Dr. Omen, a Chinese scientist dabbling in the business of turning ordinary citizens into new S-level beings for the People’s Republic.
New Super-Man #1 flows out of these events, but smartly does not depend on them. Whether you’re new to comics or new to this particular subplot, you can pick this issue up off the rack and enjoy it without any external reference point. There are plenty of goodies for long-time DC fans, of course, but they are the colorful sugar crystals atop an already delicious cookie (I think I might be hungry).
Perhaps the greatest strength of New Super-Man is its unlikeable, yet sympathetic, main character, Kenan Kong. He’s pretty much a jerk, but like all the best literary jerks, there’s a clear—if not always straight—line between the circumstances of his life and his present personality. I may not like him today, but there’s enough unfortunate backstory for me to want to like him. Unlike this guy:
Here’s what fellow Batman News reviewer Jay had to say:
This one may be too early to tell, but I’m still intrigued. The protagonist is a huge jerk, so there’s plenty of narrative potential for growth and redemption, and props to Gene Luen Yang for writing a true first issue: other than a few off-hand references to the wider universe, there isn’t anything a new reader needs to know before going in. With the return of (my personal favorite) Superman, having another hero running around with the same powers and pretty much the same name seemed like overkill, but the subversion of basic superhero tropes makes for an intriguing read. Now just bring in the Great Ten and we’ll be set.
Bringing Yang’s vision to life is the team of Viktor Bogdanovic, Richard Friend, Hi-Fi, and Dave Sharpe on pencils, inks, colors, and letters. Bogdanovic’s quirky facial style finds its perfect home in this script, giving the story a softer, more humorous feel. Occasionally, the faces lack sufficient detail and end up looking a little messy, but they are by and large well done. Hi-Fi’s color work is nothing revolutionary, but it is bright and varied, and pleasant to look at. I don’t have much to say about Dave Sharpe, which is generally a good thing when speaking of a letterer. My only comment would be that the credits page—usually the best place for a letterer to express him or herself—is fairly generic-looking. For a book like this, which is so foreign and different, I would love to see Sharpe step up his game going forward.
Overall, New Super-Man #1 is a fun, promising start to the series, and a clear statement from DC that a recommitment to legacy does not come at the expense of innovation and diversity. Hopefully, readers will feel the same. I know I do.
So that’s New Super-Man #1. If you haven’t read it it yet, check it out. Now, let’s take a look at some of the other stuff we’ve been reading:
I almost gave up on this… but then it got interesting.
The Rebirth special and first issue were surprisingly slow burners, and there wasn’t enough going on to really draw me back for too much more. After Barry’s partner and best friend gets endowed with speed powers, though, things took a turn and became rather fascinating. There’s an undercurrent of menace and dread, as I highly doubt the more impulsive August Heart will stay on the side of angels for long, and giving Barry someone to actually talk to drastically cuts down on the internal monologuing. Add in a genuinely crazy twist at the end of the second issue and The Flash will be near the top of my draw pile for the foreseeable future.
One of my favorite things about the New 52 Flash—at least in its first run—was how much of a complete artistic package it was. Creative lettering, kinetic layouts, and beautiful coloring sold the Flash’s world in a way that enhanced—rather than distracted from—excellent scripts. While the lettering isn’t quite up to what we saw in that series, the Rebirth version of the book is still a joyful explosion of energy and color counterbalancing grave and sinister circumstances for Barry and his circle. Joshua Williamson’s story is a thrill so far, even as it seems to tread familiar ground by adding more and more speedsters to the Flash’s world. Carmine DiGiandomenico, whose occasionally greasy, almost marker-like lines took me an issue or so to get used to, looks more and more like the perfect artist for this book, possessing a real flair for the sort of crazy, always-in-motion nature of Barry Allen’s existence. This is easily the best The Flash has been since Buccelato and Manapul.
While most Rebirth offerings have been enjoyable and solid overall, the one that’s surprised me the most has been the buddy cop adventures of Green Lanterns. While this week’s Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps was way too heavy handed in laying on the idea of “Hal Jordan is super-awesome at everything”, the vulnerabilities and insecurities of Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz make for really compelling reading. These are two people who may be able to master fear, but are still novices in their roles, and that’s already set up some interesting conflict and chemistry. Some of the narrative developments have been a tad clunky (a little bit goes a long way with Red Lanterns, and Baz’s “Emerald Sight” feels a little contrived at this point), but I’m far more invested in these two leads than I thought I would be. Even if it’s unclear why Earth needs two more Lanterns, I’m glad to have met these two characters.
That’s all for this month’s Break from the Bat. Be sure to hit us up in the comments and share what you’re reading, too. Until next time!