SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “New Super-Man” #2, on sale now.
After the first issue origin story that showed Kenan Kong to be, well, a bit of a jerk, “New Super-Man” #2 by Gene Yang and Viktor Bogdanovic reveals a bit more of the “heroic heart” that led to his recruitment by the mysterious Ministry of Self-Reliance. He’s still kind of a jerk, of course — you can’t change that overnight — but the most intriguing bits of the issue center on the nature of Kenan’s new powers and his brash indifference to the Ministry’s rules, leading to a decision he cannot take back.
The Powers that Be
Pretty much immediately after gaining his powers, Kenan finds himself fending off the Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman of China, both representatives of the Ministry and founding members of a new “Justice League of China.” Kenan suggests maybe they shouldn’t use that name, but in the end says what the hell and brands himself the New Super-Man.
So it’s kind of rough when his powers fade out after a pretty low-grade attack from Bat-Man.
After being fitted with a Ministry visor designed to contain the potential eruption of heat vision while doubling as a shock collar deterrent against his bad behavior, a now-powerless Kenan tags along on a JLC mission. He saves the day, but takes an energy blast to the face that everyone — Super-Man included — expects to kill him. Instead, it restores his powers.
This sort of energy storage/release has a number of antecedents in comics (Sebastian Shaw, etc.) but how does it connect to the Superman mythos? There are some parallels with the clone Superboy’s original “tactile telekinesis” powers, but more likely it will relate to New 52 Superman’s habit of blowing up. The recently killed Rebirth-era Superman did temporarily lose his powers after dispersing the solar energy that fuels his Kryptonian cells as a Super Flare, after all. It’s possible Kenan simply has a much greater metabolism, and since the writer of a number of those Superman stories, Yang, is tackling this book, it seems likely there’s a parallel to be revealed..
As Super-Man trades barbs with Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman (It might take a while to get used to all these hyphens…), what had merely been Kenan’s brashness in issue #1 turns into something else. It quickly becomes apparent that “New Super-Man” is actually shaping up to be the new “Justice League International.” Super-Man is Guy Gardner, Wonder-Woman is Black Canary, Bat-Man is Mister Miracle or maybe Blue Beetle, and Dr. Omen is Maxwell Lord. This sort of reckless humor and high stakes action is a difficult feat to pull off, so it’s a bit of a thrill to see it come together so well here.
The biggest moment this issue, though, has to be the last page reveal. The Ministry of Self-Reliance is a shadowy group that is not supposed to exist, creating state-sponsored superheroes in such a way that they seem to appear organically. They have an agenda, they demand control, and they lay down the law to Kenan about just how things are going to go.
So, of course, Kenan, wanting to impress a girl, pulls a Tony Stark.
The first time he was disobedient, the Ministry sicced two heroes on their Super-Man and fitted him with a tether. How they respond to this development — and how Kenan’s conspiracy-minded father reacts — remains to be seen, but should nicely fill the drama-quota of a series already soaked in action and humor.
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