[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artists: Brent Peeples, Richard Friend, Hi-Fi
In the clutches of All-Yang, Keenan Kong has been taken to the past. To 1937 America in an unspecified Chinatown. At first Keenan is approached by humanoid goblin creatures with rounded heads, pinhole slanted eyes, and giant teeth. As they approach him and begin getting a little two close for comfort, a hero arrives, Slam Bradley, the star of Detective Comics #1! Right away he comes to the rescue and starts pummeling the goblin.
Soon though it is clear that something is off, the overly cool All-Yang isn’t distressed that his goblins are being beaten down!
He tells Keenan to look closer, to focus his Qi to his thighs to unlock Trigram 3 enabling him to see the truth of things. Soon the goblins aren’t monstrous henchmen, they’re innocent Chinese people going about their day being attacked by a power tripping thug!
Keenan rushes to action to stop him but it is too late, by the time Bradley is stopped, the Chinese all fear him and run away.
Next All-Yang takes him to a restaurant where another powerful foreigner is causing problems. He has taken something that belongs to the Chinese. A tablet of great power which will greatly help Keenan become who he was meant to be. All-Yang tells Keenan to eliminate him but the young hero can’t maliciously do it, the man may be mean but isn’t doing anything wrong. All-Yang won’t take that and destroys him with fire and has Keenan retrieve the tablet. Soon after Keenan returns to our world and finds himself in a healing tank.
What does All-Yang want with Keenan? Why give the New Super-Man a powerful weapon? What has he done with I-Ching?
To younger readers this issue may look weird and not make a lot of sense, but Yang is illustrating brilliantly the inherent racism that has existed in Comics for a long time. Many of the oldest comics were written during war time, they went a long way to make non-white Americans looks evil or hideous. Yang has set up a fantastic reasons for his ‘villain’ to be fighting. He is just in his cause, trying to stop racism and another people’s wrong doing. New Super-Man has always done a fantastic job of making each character have valid and justifiable reasons for fighting, even when they don’t match up with common American or even Western beliefs.
Artist Brent Peeples does a fantastic job in this issue recreating the 1930’s look of comics to visually set up the storytelling that is critical for this story. He also draws Keenan to be a slightly more mature and hardened looking person, which plays perfectly into how much he has changed over the last 16 issues.
When Keenan is revived he is seen in a completely black suit with the ‘S’ on his chest being silver, much like the suit Superman wore when he returned after his original beating at the hands of Doomsday. The costume Keenan typically wears is significantly different from Clark’s which makes the similarity of this healing suit a little on the nose.
New Super-Man #16 is a fantastic issue which explores the inherent racism that was in comics for a long time as well as showing the differences in ideology between Western and Chinese philosophy and politics. Yang and Peeples have done a fantastic job with this issue!