Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.
Max Robinson is reading…
New Super-Man #6
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Penciled by Viktor Bogdanovic
Inked by Richard Friend
Colored by Hi-Fi
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
“Dad, hold the ship steady for a sec! I’m gonna go stop that plane! This is a job for the New Super-Man!”
Gene Luen Yang’s Superman run was a thoughtful, bold take on a character plagued by inertia. With the conclusion of the first arc of GLY’s second DC title, New Super-Man, it’s clear that the MacArthur Genius Grant winner is even better when you give him the largely unexplored Chinese corner of the DC Universe to play with.
First and foremost, “Made In China” has established a truly great original character in New Super-Man/Kong Kenan. The idea that Kong Kenan is a bully who, by nature of possessing a portion of Superman’s power, has to find the hero within himself is really novel approach that makes Kenan both a fitting tribute to the Man of Steel and a unique character in his own right. Kong Kenan—and the Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters-inspired Chinese super-dissidents or weaponized Genetically Modified Starros—is emblematic of Luen Yang’s ability to mix old DC concepts with new ones in interesting ways.
The finale of New Super-Man’s opening arc finds Kong and his newly-revealed-to-be-a-superhero father trying to save a plane full of Starro-possessed innocents before government heroes The Great Ten arrive to blow it out of the sky. It’s a big “answer the call to heroism” moment but GLY doesn’t cheap out: This is a desperate, to-the-death struggle and victory comes at a high price. As often as Marvel Studios recycles the “asshole learns to fight for something bigger than himself” plot, New Super-Man approaches that story without the illusion that people change overnight. As a result, Kong’s journey feels all the more powerful and his losses the more painful.
Bogdanovic is a really solid fit for this book, with a fluid and dynamic style reminiscent of Humberto Ramos at his best. He excels with facial expressions, a crucial detail given how quickly New Super-Man shifts from comedy to pretty heavy drama. Moreover, Bogdanovic’s got a canny sense for layouts. The most impressive page in the issue isn’t a flashy aerial battle between The Great Ten and The Justice League of China, but a series of steadily shrinking panels during a pivotal character’s death scene.
New Super-Man’s a true gem of a book, something that feels fresh and strange and funny even among DC’s currently exemplary crop of new titles. If DC’s smart, they’ll let Gene Luen Yang tell stories with these characters for as long as he wants.
David Uzumeri is reading…
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Nico Leon
Colored by Marte Gracia and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by Cory Petit
“…you’re already a million times better than him.”
Civil War II has been, especially in the past issue or two, a complete hot mess. Why the plot of those issues, related through dialogue and flashback by a character who participated in them, written by the same writer, would be probably the best book I read this week, I can’t explain at all. But here we are.
Bendis has always excelled at the emotional, interpersonal, quiet beats, and this issue is chock full of them, as Miles Morales relates some of the events of the last two issues of Civil War II (the latter of which isn’t even out yet) to a room full of his friends. Nothing else happens, it’s just a character recapping, but the beats feel so true, and the reactions so real, that it works. It’s the kind of impressive alchemy Bendis usually works on other people’s bad events, filling in the emotional gaps for the perfunctory main narrative; seeing it happen with his own event is just kind of baffling, but the book’s so good it doesn’t matter.
Nico Leon is a real find; he’s done one-shots and back-ups at Marvel before, but this seems to be his first big arc, and he’s great at the kind of subtly emoting characters that make extended dialogue sequences work. I’m excited to follow him onto Mariko Tamaki’s Hulk, but I really hope he works with Bendis again in the future; they just seem particularly well-equipped to work with each other in terms of their styles and strengths.
Bendis has been on this book in one way or another for sixteen years now, and the fact that it continues to work this well is a tribute to the fact that the dude just never seems to tire of these concepts and settings, and he’s damn good at it. I think the time is definitely approaching for Miles to fly the coop from his creators, but until then I hope the stories stay this damn strong.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!