New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #21 Review
New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #21, by writer Gene Luen Yang and penciler Brent Peeples, is the second part of the Seas of Change arc, and the League finds itself in a sticky political situation here. Already at odds with their own government, the Chinese League is put in the position of protecting a defecting North Korean boy who also happens to be gifted with powers of the sea that he doesn’t yet understand.
Where Yang seemed to struggle last issue with defining the new League’s role and mission statement, this issue takes a step in the right direction by firmly establishing them as the rebels that are willing to defy their own government to do the right thing. These heroes love their country, but they refuse to hand over the young Aqua-Man, despite possibly creating an international incident with North Korea. Wonder-Woman, particularly, seems to be the moral backbone of the group, having to convince the others to save the boy’s life. This creates some interesting team dynamics, considering the headlining hero of the book isn’t even the most morally upstanding member of the team. In fact, Super-Man isn’t even all that likeable compared to the rest of the members. That may be by design, as his character is in the process of trying to better himself, but hopefully, Yang gives us something more to like about him soon.
This issue also contains a political message about the state of things in North Korea, as it shows the abuse the new Aqua-Man has endured in his home country, and the lies he has been told about the outside world. In a scene at an outdoor market in China, Yang shows Aqua-Man witness a dog being fed better than the average North Korean citizen, and then he follows it up with the young boy drinking his first soda in delight. This could have come across heavy-handed, but in the hands of Yang, it was touching, and a little sad.
Brent Peeples’ pencils had their time to shine this issue, as well, with several of his action scenes exploding off the pages, especially in a sequence where Avery Ho (China’s Flash) has to stop a hail of bullets from hitting the new Aqua-Man. Peeples’ work has markedly improved from just last issue, where several action scenes seemed stiff and confusing. Additionally, the pencils were complimented very well by the inks of Matt Santorelli, and Hi-Fi’s colors, particularly in the extra creepy scenes involving the living bones of Munmu the Dragon King, and the transformation of Aqua-Man.
Overall, this issue was a fun read with great character moments, and it leaves the reader wanting to know more about the North Korean Aqua-Man, with his mysterious powers and his heartbreaking story of oppression. The creative team had a little bit of a rough start last issue with the title change, and the new focus on the League, but part two of the arc found its footing, and the story is shaping up to be one of the best this book has seen since it began.