Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Super-Man #16 Review and **SPOILERS**

Brang the All-Yang, Y’all

Writer: Gene Luen Yang 
Pencils: Brent Peeples 
Inks: Richard Friend 
Colors: Hi-Fi 
Letters: Dave Sharpe 
Cover: Philip Tan & Beredo 
Cover Price: $3.99 
On Sale Date: October 11, 2017


Ooh, have I been waiting for this issue! Last one left off with Kenan Kong and Evil I-Ching in Chinatown, USA, circa 1937! So you know we’re gonna see some buck teeth and fu manchus! And the best part is that, because it’s written by Gene Luen Yang, it’s not racist! What’s that? You say it might be presented in an instructive capacity, and not for my sick entertainment? No way! Let’s find out in my review of New Super-Man #16, which shouldn’t make me feel badly or wrong-headed at all!

Explain It!

Long Island’s local channel 55 used to show Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto movies late on Sunday nights in the 1990s. I would tape them and watch these films gleefully. I enjoyed the Charlie Chan ones more than the Mr. Motos, truthfully, but I enjoyed each not on the merits of the insipid mysteries and ludicrous premises that were presented, but because of the overt stereotyping and racism. I can remember one movie—Charlie Chan and the Chinese Princess, I think it was called—where Mr. Chan (portrayed by the jowly and absolutely white Sidney Toler) played opposite a nearly full cast of actual Chinese and Asian people. Never mind that his sons, featured in several films, were of Asian descent. And his chauffeur, played by the brilliant Mantan Moreland, was essentially a black caricature. I watched these films with great joy, feeling quite superior to this time, decades past, when such fare would have been better considered. It was my privilege to do so.
I don’t know that there are similar avenues of racism that present themselves in the same way today. There’s no end to the stereotypes that can be found on the internet—I’m sure you could watch the very same Charlie Chan movies online, if that was your wont. But if you’re not looking for it, then it’s probably not as prevalent. I discovered Charlie Chan one night flipping channels, and for lack of anything better to watch I was hooked into a weekly viewing. But if you were to stumble upon the same online, it would be nothing to click away and look at some lovely memes or perhaps a video of some cats. Which, strictly speaking, I could have done myself. I could have turned off the television. But this isn’t about me, this is about New Super-Man #16, when Kenan Kong finds himself in Chinatown, USA in 1937. This would have been at the dawn of the comic book, and on the cusp on entering World War II, when Asians were depicted as evil wizards and buck-toothed warlocks, and all of them had braids, for some reason. Kenan is surrounded by what look to be yellow goblins, and assists one Slam Bradley (a pre-Superman Siegel and Shuster character that appeared in Detective Comics #1) in pummeling a few of them stupid—until Kenan’s guide, once an all-white I-Ching but now a robed and wizardy All-Yang, tells Kenan to use his Qi to see what’s really going on, and he finds these yellow-skinned Oriental demons are actually just Chinese people! And not demons at all! Probably.
All-Yang commands Kenan to kill Slam Bradley with his heat vision, but Kenan is able to suppress that and manifest a new power...well, new for him, at least. He blasts Slam’s forearms with his freezing breath, more than likely rendering this man without hands for the rest of his life. All-Yang isn’t thrilled with this, so he brings Kenan into a Chinese restaurant across the street where he fries another racist with his own heat vision. How about that? If you master Qi, you’ve got the heat vision. All-Yang explains that the guy he incinerated had the Red Jade Dragon on him, stolen during a 1900 raid on Chinese palaces by the German Army. This is the source of his power—the dragon is even laid out in the shape on an “S!”—and Kenan’s got to retrieve it. And then he’ll manifest his final superpower.
So Kenan wakes up back in the real world, having been kept in a tube of fluid by his mom for two weeks while he recuperated from defeating Emperor Superman. If you aren’t reading this, all of that should be really tantalizing! Seriously, this book is just getting more and more gripping, and the characters more and more interesting. Of course Kenan is able to enlist the rest of the Justice League of China to get the Red Jade Dragon, but says that he intends to use it to jerk All-Yang around or something? They take the Chinese Batwing to Gotham City, where our heroes are attacked—by our other heroes, the Justice League Not of China! And Bat-Man turns his Batwing into a Robotech battle-bot! Why aren’t you reading this book? What the hell is wrong with you??

Bits and Pieces:

A trip to Chinatown in 1937 reveals a new path for Kenan, which does not, as yet, have anything to do with Chop Suey. There's intrigue, surprises, great character moments, and--why not?--a giant robot. This could be the issue you finally hop on board and start reading New Super-Man! Though frankly I suggest you start at the beginning because you're going to want to read the earliest issues anyway.



  1. Excellent review for an excellent comic. When I got home from the comic shop yesterday, I instinctively read this one first. That's right. Metals and Miracles can wait. I just gots to get my Kong Kenan fix. This comic could run for 50 issues and Yang wouldn't run out of material. There's still Bat-Man's sister/nemesis to explore...the Green Lanterns of China...Baixi and Wonder Woman's relationship....Kenan's desire to bring his family together....giant robots.....Endless Possibilities!!

    Reggie, I enjoyed your thoughts and reminiscences of those old Charlie Chan films and the like. I don't have those same memories but I really appreciate the context you provide for these comics. I just want to hop on Oprah's couch shouting "I LOVE THIS COMIC I LOVE NEW SUPER-MAN!"

    whoop whoop

  2. Nope, i have to disagree, it doesn't deserve this rating. The piecing is expeditiv and clumsy, it's full of cliché, and Kenan look like a fool throughout the issue.