New Super-Man: Made in China volumes 1 - 6: by Gene Luen Yang with art by Viktor Bogdanovic.

In the first few pages of this book my expectations of how a Superman story might unfold were trashed. Right off the bat Kong Kenan does not seem to be hero, never mind superhero, material. Granted, I haven't read any kind of Superman comic for close to five decades, but this New Superman didn't seem to have much in common with the Mr Nice Guy of my youth. Nonetheless, he is targeted by a secret, scientific foundation to become China's new Superman. 

I should have known better than to doubt Gene Luen Yang. While my interest flagged a bit after that beginning, I continued to read. It didn't take long before I was completely engaged by the novel. 

The story arc is fabricated of layers of convoluted intrigue. Ancient mythology is integrated with modern Chinese politics. It is full of complexity as multiple cadres of super powered individuals claim to work in the best interests of China. Readers will question the motivation of many if not all of them. Then there are surprising revelations. Alliances are formed and broken.

The continuing question is what kind of hero will Kong Kenan become? Which side is the right side? Who will he end up supporting?

The illustrations are primarily shades of blue with some other warmer colours. It includes classic action scenes loaded with energy and power. The facial expressions work most of the time but other times there is a kind of blankness (is this supposed to be stoicness?) to the characters. Some individuals seem truly evil, but this can be deceptive. In this novel, who to trust is a major dilemma.

I liked the humor that wends its way through the text, although, and this is my only real complaint, the font is very small. However, given that I feel this way about all the graphic novels I'm reading these days, this seems to be more about my aging eyes than anything else.

What I appreciated most about this novel was the character development. Kong starts out as a self centred narcissist, but over time begins to mature into a more considerate person. I like how his relationships between the other Chinese Justice League members, Wonder Woman and Batman, evolve and consolidate making this a book about friendship and trust. I suspect readers will be anxious to read the next in the series, especially with that ending!

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