Plot, Without Thematics to Match, in New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 23

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

It’s taken me twenty-three issues, but I am finally coming to terms with the kind of book New Super-Man is, versus the book I want it to be. What it is is a plot-driven book that smooths over its rough patches with sheer momentum and the clever mash-up of Chinese folklore with DC mythos. What it is not is interested in meditating on the themes it employs to drive its plot. Continue reading

The Worst Hunting Trip in the World in Green Lanterns 45

By Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

With Green Lanterns 45, Tim Seeley and Ronan Cliquet begin to dive into Jessica Cruz’s past with the goal of explaining why The Ring of Volthoom was drawn to her trauma in the first place — the worst hunting trip in the world. Continue reading

Don’t Trust Authority in New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 22

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ahn Kwang-Jo, aka the Aqua-Man of North Korea, aka Dragonson, is so conditioned by his life under the authoritarian regime of North Korea to accept the word of authority figures as truth that when the old sea dragon bones responsible for his powers commands him to generate a flood large enough to kill millions of his countrymen, Kwang-Jo feels compelled to obey. He’s briefly conflicted, but his resistance is met with anger by his “true father”, and Kwang-Jo quickly acquiesces.

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New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 21

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Political commentary is not New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 21’s forte. It’s mostly informative in the sense that characters are literally declaring information, like when Bat-Man flatly proclaims that, “North Korea is an asylum inmate that only listens to China…” But while the political message of the book lacks nuance, that writer Gene Luen Yang bothers to go there at all is commendable. If every comic book is someone’s first comic books, than every fleeting discussion of Sino-North Korean politics is someone’s first fleeting discussion of Sino-North Korean politics — and that’s worth celebrating. (Information is power!) Continue reading

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 20: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: There’s a common belief that kids raised in sheltered, restrictive environments will go absolutely wild at their very first taste of freedom. I don’t know if the truth is that extreme — I was about as sheltered as they came as a child, and all my rebellions have been rather tame — but there is a lot of truth to the idea that needless restrictions and censorship just hurt people, regressing emotions and hindering growth and in many cases leading to actual physical punishment for meaningless offenses. New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 20 taps into the latter when it introduces its new “Aquaman,” Ahn Kwang-Jo. Continue reading

An Overdue Spotlight Turns on Laney Lan in New Super-Man 19

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

When New Super-Man premiered, Laney Lan, the book’s Lois Lane equivalent (whose name my iPad always wants to autocorrect like she’s a local area network), was primed to play a prominent role in the series — Kenan Kong had goo-goo eyes for her, and her plucky reporting skills promised to help Kenan unravel the mysteries of his family. But somewhere along the way, series creator Gene Luen Yang seemingly lost interest in repeating the ideas of Superman beat for beat, or perhaps just couldn’t find room for Laney as the book began to sprawl. But as Yang prepares to relaunch New Super-Man as New Super-Man and the Justice League of China, Mariko Tamaki and Richard Friend’s one-off New Super-Man 19 circles back to turn a spotlight on Laney — maybe as a taste of a larger role in the story going forward, or maybe as a last hurrah for a character who never quite had a place.

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A Satisfying “Ending” in New Super-Man 18

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

New Super-Man has always been a messy book, and so it’s fitting that its “conclusion” should be messy as well. Clearly intended at one point to be the final issue of the series, New Super-Man 18 is Gene Luen Yang’s usual mix of strange pacing salvaged by strong character moments.

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Low-Stakes Silliness at its Finest in Super Sons Annual 1

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

A lot of times when I read comic books on assignment for this site, I dive right into the digital issues without first checking out the solicitation or even paying much attention to the covers. Going in blind sometimes leads to delightful surprises, like with Peter J. Tomasi and Paul Pelletier’s Super Sons Annual 1, where I was totally unprepared for the issue’s joyous left-turn into a Super-Pets-led rescue mission. Continue reading

Joy and Frustration in New Super-Man 17

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

There’s a lot of joy in the opening pages of Gene Luen Yang and Joe Lalich’s New Super-Man 17 as Kenan Kong and his Justice League of China friends get to meet their older, more experienced OG idols. Super-Man and Superman already met a few issues back, and Avery and the Flash are already buds, but this is the first time Bat-Man gets to meet Batman, and Wonder-Woman gets to meet Wonder Woman, and it doesn’t disappoint.

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New Super-Man 16 Drags Historic Racism into the Present

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

Recently on my morning commute, I’ve been catching up on the Washington Post‘s new(ish) podcast, Constitutional. The podcast’s third episode, “Nationality,” traces the story of Wong Kim Ark, a man born in San Francisco to Chinese parents whose Supreme Court case determined that being born in America made you an American citizen. And while that brief summary makes it sound like his story is a victory for the foundational ideals of America, the details paint a much less satisfying picture. It’s no secret that America is historically a deeply racist country, and that efforts to make forward progress are continually contested making victories hard-won. New Super-Man 16 reminds us how casually pervasive racism used to be, but also provides a measure for some of the progress that has been made. Continue reading