Kate’s Review: “New Super-man: Made in China”

33232743Book: “New Super-man (Vol.1): Made in China” by Gene Luen Yang, Viktor Bogdanovich (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, June 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: #1 New York Times best-selling author and National Book Award nominee Gene Luen Yang continues his work at DC with New Super-Man, Volume 1, a part of DC Universe: Rebirth!

An impulsive act of heroism thrusts an arrogant young man into the limelight of Shanghai as China begins to form its own Justice League of powerful heroes. As the government creates their own Superman, will they live to regret the person they’ve chosen? Rising from the ashes of Superman: The Final Days of Superman and the death of the Man of Steel, will this New Super-Man step up to the challenge, or be crushed under the weight of his hubris and inexperience? 

Award-winning writer Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Superman) and on-the-rise art star Viktor Bogdanovic (Batman: Arkham Knight) introduce readers to Kong Kenan, an all-new superhero who could change the world…or be the end of it, in New Super-Man, Volume 1.

Review: For those of you keeping track, one of the best moments that I had at the ALA Annual Conference this year was getting to hear Gene Luen Yang speak about his career and his “Reading Without Walls” Initiative. Yang has written some of the best graphic novels I’ve read, and I was thrilled to hear that he not only really likes Superman, but writes Superman stories for DC. He focuses on the idea of Superman as an immigrant, and when he was writing Superman stories before this new endeavor the question of identity was a huge theme in those arcs. But now with Rebirth, Yang is doing something different: He’s writing a new Superman story, with whole new characters. Was I skeptical? I mean, kinda? After all, isn’t Clark Kent Superman? But I also knew that Yang is super awesome, so skepticism aside, I was all over getting my Superman loving mitts all over it.

One of the things that “New Super-Man” does right is the origin story. Instead of giving Clark Kent a completely new origin, or getting rid of Kent to make room for a new person to take over the Superman mantle, Yang goes in another direction. Kong Kenan is a regular teenage boy in Shanghai, China whose random and out of character act of heroism gets the attention of Dr. Omen, a scientist for the Chinese Government. China has decided that it wants to have a group of superheroes not unlike America’s Justice League, and Kenan is recruited to be Super-Man. One super science experiment later, and he is given super human powers. Sometimes I have a hard time swallowing it when old secret identities are swept aside for new ones, but when they’re done right I think they can be great. Yang does it so right. It not only avoids a new character being shoe horned into a role that’s already been well defined, but it also gives the familiar role, i.e. Superman, a new mythology that is more about expanding mythos instead of changing it.

Kong Kenan himself is a very complex and interesting character. When we think of Superman we tend to think of earnest and loyal and dutiful Clark Kent, an all American hero and Boy Scout. With Kenan, well, it’s a little different. He’s not a bad person at all, but he is definitely flawed. He’s kind of a bully, as we meet him bullying a classmate (whose father is the CEO of an airline, the airline that Kenan’s Mom was on when her plane went down), and then acting like a bravado filled narcissist for the TV cameras. But he is also desperate to impress his father, who is an outspoken critic of the Chinese Government who has been emotionally shut off ever since his wife died. It isn’t exactly the environment of Ma and Pa Kent, but it does give Kenan some difficult emotional issues to work through. His Super-Man powers are freeing for him, which is kind of a fascinating dichotomy when compared to Clark, who has always had an underlying sense of Otherness because of them. But I also really liked that we didn’t just get Super-Man, but we also get Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman, as China wants their powers too. Wang Baixi is a chubby tech nerd who has taken on the Bat-Man cowl, and I love his dry with and quiet seriousness. But Wonder-Woman is the most fascinating, as Peng Deilan is very determined and willing to call Kenan out on his nonsense as well as being a moral center in a lot of ways. She feels like the true leader of the team, and I want more more MORE of her in later issues. And yes, there is a Lois Lane equivalent, which is definitely important! Her name is Laney Lan, and she’s very adorable. And it’s refreshing that she actually doesn’t seem to hold any torch for Super-Man, at least not yet. Don’t get me wrong, they should probably absolutely be together, but she’s very focused on getting the story and not the superhero.

I also greatly enjoy the art in this series. I’m so used to Yang’s own artwork, but it wouldn’t really fit for the superhero/DC aesthetic. Viktor Bogdanovich’s artwork definitely feels more comic book-y, and I love the vibrant splashes of color and the vibrancy. I love the greens and reds and blues, and love how the characters tread the line of realism and pure comic pop.


I am so excited to see where Yang takes his characters in this take on Superman! I knew that I didn’t have to worry, but it’s still great knowing that he’s really doing the original story all the justice in deserves.

Rating 8: An action packed and fun filled ride, “New Super-Man (Vol.1): Made in China” is a creative and splendid new take on the Superman story.

Reader’s Advisory:

“New Super-Man (Vol.1): Made in China” isn’t on any relevant Goodreads lists at the moment. But I think that it would fit in on “Diverse Heroes in Comics/Graphic Novels”, and “Comic Creators of Color”.

Find “New Super-man (Vol.1): Made in China” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review & Giveaway: “Girls Made of Snow and Glass”

32768509Book: “Girls Made of Snow and Glass” by Melissa Bashardoust

Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, September 2015

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from ALA 2017

Book Description: At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Review: “Snow White” fairytale re-tellings have had quite the resurgence it seems over the last few  years. And many of them, like “Girls Made of Snow and Glass,” are attempting to re-imagine this classic tale into something new and different. Not an easy feat. To add to this, this novel was also marketed as somehow connected (based on??) the smash Disney hit “Frozen,” as well. Which in turn was based on yet another fairytale, “The Snow Queen.” In all honesty, I picked this one up with a bit of trepidation, worrying that all the elements listed above, plus the fact that I knew it had LBGT elements, would combine into what could only be described as a hot mess. But I’m not to proud to admit when I’m wrong, and while I would consider this one a home run, it did manage to pull all the elements it committed to.

The story follows to young women: Mina, a young woman without a heart, who never the less seeks out love, hoping to find it in a King with a young daughter. The daughter, Lynet, is our second main character, a young woman created in the image of her own dead mother. Chapters alternate between these two main characters, and while each of their stories plays out in different manners, what’s at the heart of their struggles is the same: the meaning of family, what is love, and how they, as women, must make hard choices in order to navigate the world in which they live.

Honestly, in many ways, this book took the best advantage of the opportunities to respond to a fairytale that is completely based on woman vs. woman competition due to beauty. There is a lot to unpack there, both with the relationships formed between women, as well as the value on beauty above all else that society, and women themselves, place upon young girls.

I was honestly very surprised with the direction that this story went at different points in the book. Obviously, it was refreshing to read a version of the “evil queen” who was sympathetic, who had made tough decisions to protect herself and what she wanted, and knew that it was wrong that she is being punished for it. Lynet, too, was more than the simpering, often one dimensional princess character that is often found in these stories, and hers the romance containing LGBT elements. For all the hype around this aspect of the series, however, I did find this romance to be a bit underfed. Lynet’s story is only half of the book after all, and Mina’s romantic storyline read as more fully developed. This is unfortunate, but I applaud the author’s intentions in this aspect.

My primary criticism of the story was the writing style. Perhaps it simply wasn’t the type of writing I prefer, but at times it read as a bit middle grade and simplistic for a young adult novel. Especially for a young adult novel that was trying to do and say some big things about found families, the wide varieties and intrinsic value of loves to be found in the world, and the challenges that women face when trying to control their own lives without being punished for it. For all of these large and complicated topics, for being based on not one but two action-packed fairytales, at times I just found myself to be bored. A couple of scenes in the middle, specifically, should have jumped off the page, but somehow seemed to wilt, leaving me under enthused.

But, these criticisms aside, “Girls Made of Snow and Glass” did an excellent job of reimaging a fairytale that has almost be “reimagined” to death at this point. Just when you start to think that there isn’t much more that can be done with a story like this, an author comes along and proves you wrong. If you’re a fan of fairytale retellings, and especially if you’re looking for better representation in your fantasy fiction, check out “Girls Made of Snow and Glass” and enter the giveaway below to win a copy for yourself!

Giveaway is for an ARC of “Girls Made of Snow and Glass” and is open to U.S. entrants only. Giveaway ends on Tuesday, November 7.

Congrats to @melissadougher for winning this giveaway!

Rating 7: Fantasy fiction with a lot to say about found families and feminism. Come for the familiar, stay for the new!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Girls Made of Snow and Glass” can be found on these Goodreads lists: “LGBT Retellings of classic Fiction/Fairy Tale/Myth” and “Snow White Retellings.”

Find “Girls Made of Snow and Glass” at your library using WorldCat!

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