Are There Lesbians? No
New Superman and the team are in trouble with the Green Lanterns, again, and in North Korea a high school boy starts sweating oceans.
The battle between DC and MARVEL is vicious and rarely takes prisoners. It tends to leave as many survivors as a snap of Thanos’ fingers – only a rare few are left untouched by its tragedy. There are some, like me, who intend to ignore it by burying our heads in the sands of indie presses like Image, Aftershock, and First Second. Yet again and again I find myself drawn back onto the battlefield – on one side or the other depending on whats being produced and who is producing it. I spend a lot of time waving the flag of Thor and Captain Marvel, as well as Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run, but I am also deeply in love with DC Bombshells and Gotham City Sirens (RIP). This time, however, I have been taken by surprise. What engaged me was not the underdog or the badass ladies (though a little of that as well), but the most bland and boring of all superheroes – Superman. I don’t actually have strong opinions about Clark Kent’s Superman, mostly because I don’t really care enough about him to have any emotion behind my them. The Justice League of China might just have changed that however. Collating issues 20-29 of New Superman, this volume was surprising and engaging in a way that many superhero stories often aren’t these days. After all, it is hard to be genuinely surprised by characters that have been rebooted every which way for the last 20 or more years. Everyone knows who Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are, and, more importantly, what they stand for. Their dynamic is familiar enough to readers that when it changes for any reason, even an indie comic turncoat like me can see when they act out of character.
The draw of Justice League of China is that these are completely new characters. Yes, they have the same super-hero names as their American counterparts, not to mention many of the same powers, but they have different relationships with one another, as well as with their powers. Personally, the scenes that I found the absolute coolest were related to this. The first was when Aqua-man (Dragonson) meets his father for the first time. (a DRAGON. made of BONES). The second was when Superman accidentally transports the team to the realm of ghosts and they meet their potential future selves. These future selves are a reflection of their current anxieties, and it is an interesting take to watch this new team deal with not only their anxieties about their powers, but also how they are represented in the media – namely as simply Chinese versions of American superheroes. “I’m North Korean.” Aqua-man says at one point, but despite causing a national emergency, this fact is promptly overlooked by the Chinese media.
Justice League of China, despite a journey into the realm of the dead, and an over-simplification of the relationship between China and North Korea, avoids coming across as overly dark or gritty. Rather, the comic is pretty damn light-hearted and funny, with an over-the-top nature that I have really missed in my mainstream comics (insert hipster glasses here). It makes a nice change to the DC films that have been my main experience of the brand recently. The comic exudes a vibe more akin to Thor: Ragnarok and Aqua-man than any others. It is filled with it’s own sheer joy of being a comic and the specific nature of that media. The strong lines and colours really add to this feeling. I am reminded of older comics, or even children’s comics – there is so much colour on every page – but with a clean, grown-up edge to it.
The Flash is a hot, sassy girl, Batman is a tubby patriot, Robin is a ROBOT, Aqua-man is not actually Chinese, Wonder Woman is an ancient snake goddess, and Super-man is a cocky shell wrapped around a ball of anxiety. What a team. I picked up this comic because it was different, and because this white girl is always ready to read about anyone who isn’t. I won’t lie it was also because the Flash is a babe. The Justice League of China made for a genuinely solid and funny read, enough so that I actually plan to go back and read the preceding issues of New Superman. If anything can get me to read about a character I’ve previously shown little interest in then it can be judged nothing less than a sheer delight.