By Mariko Tamaki, Brent Peeples, Richard Friend, Hi-Fi
New Super-Man #19 is refreshing, even by this series’ progressive standards. This issue takes a break from the story of Kenan and follows Laney Lan. Tamaki’s writing opens the door on some of her driving forces and struggles as a character, elevating her beyond a Lois Lane stand in. The mild humor of the issue is welcome in a similar sense, as it makes the story aware of the tropes it plays off of. This recognition is what separates the hero and his team from what’s expected of a new character. It gives the entire series quirkiness. Those interested in finding out more of what distinguishes should check out #19, as it summarizes a few of the main points from the first arc of the series and doesn’t expect much from the reader.
Despite the busyness of the plot, the issue has a definite flow. Laney is a reporter and forced to be ready to work at a moment’s notice. We see this illustrated, as expected from the issue’s title: “Day in the Life of a Shanghai Reporter.” It doesn’t seem to take a breath until the last few pages, leaving a lot to digest after the pages are closed. Although the characterization Laney receives is more than welcome, this makes it difficult to process all the plot points together, leaving only a few lasting impressions. At the very least, though, this issue should serve as hope for more of this strong character.
On a micro level, her struggles are well done. After reading this issue, the reader becomes aware of Lan’s multifaceted familiar issues, her workplace frustrations as an aspiring writer, and her ethics as one. Her drive is funneled through directness as she strives to find the most interesting story, unafraid to put herself on the same level as the Justice League of China itself. The resulting ramen scene is a delightful treat from this characteristic. Tamaki gives her complexity as he reveals just one scene later what determines the point that a truth should see the light.
The art here is fairly standard overall. The most successful of it is in Laney’s coloration. In a crowded elevator, her pink baseball cap and jacket rub up against the greys and blacks of male business attire, drawing attention to her personality. Similarly telling of the character are Peeples’ quizzical expressions. Laney’s inquisitiveness is always front and center when she’s on the job. Unfortunately, some of other expressions seem just awkward enough at times to draw the reader out of the story.
Despite its flaws, New Super-Man #19 is fun and insightful. It treats one of the series’ lesser known characters with a fresh story and is able to introduce new readers simultaneously. The artistic team captures the series’ mantra of knowing when to have fun and when to take itself seriously well, as it balances jokes at the expense of its North American counterparts with emotional moments.