Friday, July 7, 2017

Could New Super-Man be the book that best represents DC Rebirth?

What book comes to mind when you think of the original announcement of Rebirth?

To me it’s not a question. When I think of Rebirth, and its promises, I think of New Super-Man. I think of Kenan Kong. I think of the Bat-Man and Wonder Woman of China, or even the new addition of Robinbot. When it comes to Rebirth I think there is no other book that personifies the promises and message of Rebirth greater than New Super-Man, and I’d like to tell you why.


When it came to Rebirth one of the biggest talking points was bringing back the Legacy of DC. Now when you think of Legacy, you’re probably wondering how a new book with a lot of new characters has any kind of history or touchstones to harken back to. It really doesn’t have much of what you’d actually think of as Legacy, but what it lacks for in that department it makes up for in perceived history and the world building it does in just a single title. You get a fresh new look at a world you’re just coming into right along the main character. The world itself isn’t new and it does a great job of selling that.  

What Gene Luen Yang does with New Super-Man is uses the main character as an entry point to a world we hadn’t seen much of, if any. We come into a world already full of history and it's own sort of legacy, we just have to learn about it. He does it with a mix of characters already known, with newly created characters just with a veil of recognition thrown over them in the form of Super Hero names we know and love. We get Baixi the Bat-Man of China. Or Deilan the Wonder-Woman of China. We even get a Flash that shows up eventually which I’ll go more into detail on later.

We end up slowly going through these characters and learning a history with these characters that really tells us so much about the world of Superheroes in China. We learn that Baixi actually came from a Bat Academy in which children are trained with the best of the best finally earning the cowl. Just like typical Legacy, this perceived history also comes with its issues and problems that arrive from that history. With New Super-Man we get it in the form of Baixi’s sister and his arch-enemy who is also competing for the cowl. By letting our entry point to the idea being a Batman we come into the story a little more knowledgeable which allows the story to implant more history and world building without coming on too strong. We learn about this Bat-Academy, it’s methods of choosing the wearer of the cowl, possibilities of future enemies while creating character conflict, and that’s not even mentioning the aspects that are hinted at with things like Hard Light and constructs being used possibly hinting at a Green Lantern Corps of China.

A more connected universe

I tried looking and I don’t think this was ever something outright promised, but it was something DC sort of threw to the wind when it came to DC YOU. They wanted representation and stories with not a lot of continuity or interconnected universe problems really getting in the way. With Rebirth they’ve gone completely the other way with it wanting to have a more connected feel with moments and changes being felt throughout the DC Universe.

Whether it be The Last Days of Superman, Flash with his Godspeed story, or Lex with his ever expanding search for power, a lot of the DC Universe has reverberated through the pages of New Super-Man.

The fact that it feels more connected to the DCU than a lot of other books isn’t by itself all important. It’s the fact that it’s telling it’s own story full of enriched characters, ton’s of felt history wholly dependent of the DCU while also having these touchstones from the rest of the DCU. When the China White Triad along with Avery Ho show up you have almost all but forgotten the aspect of The Flash during the Godspeed arc where Avery kept her speedster powers. By now she’s more a part of New Super-Man than she ever actually was of The Flash. When Lex shows up having business with Dr. Omen it’s worked into the story in the way that’s believable while also expanding the view of the book.

Hope and Fun

I group these two together as I think they’re both a little less tangible. They’re feelings and emotions and assigning those aspects to a book can be a little subjective.

When you first meet Kenan Kong he’s kind of an asshole. He’s shown to be a bully, picking on a chubby kid all the while not looking too fit himself. He’s shown to be selfish and conceited and by time he gets his powers he seems mostly in it only for the attention. We see this by just how fast he goes out of his way to say just who he is, throwing all ideas of a secret identity out of the way immediately. When I look at all these aspects they’re not exactly what I picture for Hope and Fun. Luckily this was all set-up for where the series eventually turns.

When I do think of Hope or Fun, nothing comes more to mind than a team book coming together to eventually have perfect synergy all while having cheerful and fun moments spruced throughout. I think of the Young Justice cartoon, or the old school Justice League cartoon, or even Johns’ New 52 initial run in the Justice League, or his Teen Titans run. Something Rebirth has severely lacked in its team books New Super-Man has had in abundance.

A large part of this book's fun comes from the team aspect of the book. When it comes to Kenan coming into his powers he’s also coming into a new team along with a new working relationship with people who are more experienced than him though possibly not as powerful as Kenan could be. Which obviously does wonders with Kenan’s previously detailed ego and self view. We get antagonistic relationships while they also form a bond and over time the team development is really well earned. Far more than any other team book in Rebirth, some of which are even double shipping.

When we first start out with those original characteristics of Kenan it allows the character to both grow with his team but also gives us a lot of opportunity for fun. We get the hope of this team coming together and overcoming the forces in power and each of their own histories. Through both the growth of the characters as individuals and growth as a team we get a healthy dose of Hope and Fun that I would say is unmatched by any other book in Rebirth so far. This is the best team book going in Rebirth and well worth your time and investment If you came into Rebirth looking for the sensibility of older DC with the hope  and fun that was promised.

On top of the team aspect there’s a constant underlying joke of New Super-Man being a chinese knock-off of the American version, and it doesn’t shy away from it. We get chinese knock-offs of a lot of characters while also hinting at others. It makes for a fun atmosphere where you’re constantly reading wondering what you could get a glimpse of next. The fun is that it mostly comes in the form of the heroes, while leaving the villains open for imitation but new approaches of their own. Which is why a character like The Jekyll, which seems to be a Joker-esque character, makes only a small appearance but makes a pretty big impact leaving you wanting more.

It all culminates and what I would call the most consistent and promising book of Rebirth. I feel it single-handedly brings back a lot of magic to the DC line. If you look at the original DC Rebirth announcement and wonder what book from the past year of books best represents what was originally promised look no further than New Super-Man. With it’s first trade just out June 27th I can’t recommend it enough.


  1. Hmmm.. point taken. Actually ive never even read a single issue of new superman. I always thought it would be a waste of money since im more focused on the big ones. But what the heck, im gonna try the trade, coz why not.

    1. Thanks for the read. I really recommend it. What it lacks in big DCU impact it more than makes up for in good and fun stories with great characters.

  2. Great article. Of course, I agree, New Super-Man has been the most pleasant surprise of Rebirth and the most consistently enjoyable book. One thing I never considered was that this is really a team book. Kenan Kong is the main character, for sure, but we've learned so much about Baixi and Deilan through the series, and I've really come to like those characters a lot too. And they work better as a team than the other DCU teams do currently--a little dysfunctional at first, for comedic purposes, but they do pull it together for the big wallop finale. Everyone should grab the first trade collection and read it!

  3. Yes bitch! You have stated what I have been feeling and think since the beginning of Rebirth.

  4. I think that New Superman is an interesting mix of the Superman mythos and Chinese folklore.

  5. A great rundown of a great new series! New Super-Man is ALWAYS the first book I read when it hits the buy pile. . .if I can beat my daughter to it, that is! I love that I know practically nothing about the Chinese mythology, so every issue is full of discovery of new things and ideas.
    Unfortunately, it feels like the kind of book that won't last long. DC isn't exactly throwing much weight behind it.

    1. Thanks for the read! The sales are pretty down for the series right now and was part of the reason for wanting to write up something about it. I had hopes for the book for a little while as it had a lot of things going for it outside of just sales, but it's hit a point where I can't see it continuing much longer. I think it and a few other books are just waiting for the next line of Rebirth to be announced until they get cancelled.

      It's sad, but hopefully with the trade just having come out I can at least convince a couple people to pick it up in trade form.

  6. Yes!!! Easily the best Rebirth book.