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Kong Kenan
Kong Kenan as Super-Man from New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #20 (April 2018).
Art by Bernard Chang.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceNew Super-Man #1 (July 2016)
Created byGene Luen Yang
In-story information
Place of originShanghai, China
Team affiliationsJustice League of China
Great Twenty
Justice League
PartnershipsI-Ching
Superman
Green Arrow (Connor Hawke)
Notable aliasesSuper-Man
New Super-Man
Super-Man of China
AbilitiesImbued with Superman's qi:
  • Invulnerability
  • Superhuman strength
  • Superhuman hearing
  • X-ray vision
  • Superhuman speed
  • Heat vision
  • Freeze breath
  • Flight

Living embodiment of yin and yang:

Qi Manipulation

Natural Leadership

Kong Kenan (Chinese: 孔克南; pronounced Kong KEN Ann[1]) is a fictional superhero appearing in comic books published by DC Comics and is known as the Super-Man of China. The character, who first appeared in New Super-Man # 1 (July 2016), was created by Gene Luen Yang and initially designed by Viktor Bogdanovic.

Publication History

On March 26, 2016 it was announced that there would be a comic book series featuring a Chinese Superman who gains a portion of Superman's power for DC Rebirth. The title was previously announced as The Super-Man but was changed  into New Superman once Yang came on board and pointed out that there is no Chinese word for "the".[2] The title initially shipped monthly. It became New Super-Man & the Justice League of China for issues #20-24.

Character Biography

Kong Kenan is a 17-year old high school student from Shanghai. When Kenan was young, his mother Kuang Maitai was killed in a plane accident. Due to Maitai's death, Kenan would often bully Luo Lixin, the son of Luo Longde, who owned the airliner his mother died on, and developed a strained relationship with his father, Kong Zhongdan, an auto repair shop owner who joined a clandestine writers' group that Kenan described as "conspiracy nuts" shortly after his wife's death.

One day while beating up Lixin, the two are accosted by Blue Condor, an American-themed supervillain. Out of instinct, Kenan helps Lixin escape and stands up to Blue Condor, who mysteriously flees from him. Kenan's actions are captured on social media, turning him into a celebrity. Following an interview with reporter Laney Lan, Kenan is approached by a mysterious woman named Doctor Omen of the Ministry of Self-Reliance. Because of his heroic actions, Kenan is chosen to be the new Super-Man of China. Kenan is taken to the Ministry's headquarters, the Oriental Pearl Tower, where he is imbued with the life force of the recently deceased New 52 Superman.

First Adventures

Upon emerging from the power imbuing chamber, Kenan began trying out his new powers. When he arrogantly refuses to stand down, Omen deploys Peng Deilan and Wang Baixi, the Wonder-Woman and Bat-Man of China, respectively, to detain Kenan. During the fight, Kenan's powers stop working, allowing the pair to defeat him. Upon waking up, Kenan is lectured by Omen on his role as a superhero, which includes working with Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman as the Ministry's new Justice League of China. On the team's first mission, Kenan regains his invulnerability and defeats the supervillain Sunbeam. During a subsequent interview with Laney as Super-Man, Kenan foolishly attempts to impress her by not only revealing his secret identity but also reveals the Justice League of China's existence to the whole world. Laney's broadcast watched by millions, notably Lex Luthor, Perry White, Batman and August General in Iron of the Great Ten, who is infuriated by team's existence.

On their next mission, the JLC encounters the mysterious Freedom Fighters of China, along with Bue Condor. With his reawakened superhuman strength, Kenan and the League apprehend the Freedom Fighters but are unable to capture their leader Flying Dragon General. Before fleeing, Flying Dragon General lectures Kenan on the ideals the original Superman stood for and warns him about the Ministry of Self-Reliance. Kenan realizes his mistake of exposing his secret identity to the world and tries to check on his father, who reveals himself to be Flying Dragon General.[3]

Zhongdan indulges his past to Kenan, revealing that he, Maitai and his younger brother Zhonglun formed a pro-democracy group in their university against the oppressive rule of the Chinese Communist Party. When Maitai became pregnant with Kenan, she and Zhongdan retired from activism and moved to Shanghai to raise their family. However several years later, Zhonglun emailed them a clip featuring the Justice League, which inspired Maitai to resume her activities, taking on the superhero identity of Liberty Goddess. Shortly afterwards, Maitai died in the plane accident, which Zhongdan believes was orchestrated by the Ministry of Self-Reliance to silence her activities. Together with Zhonglun and his old activist friends, Zhongdan and his allies took up costumed identities and formed the Freedom Fighters to spread truth, freedom and democracy. As this unravels, the incarcerated Freedom Fighters stage a planned mass breakout from the Ministry's underwater maximum security prison, the Crab Shell, and steal a Genetically Modified Starro - genetic material collected from Starro created by the Ministry as a mind controlling device - from its containment field. Zhongdan pleads for Kenan to join him and the Freedom Fighters as a "true" superhero, who accepts. The two meet the Freedom Fighters during their assault on Shanghai, where Zhongdan reunites with Zhonglun, the Human Firecracker. When Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman confront Kenan and the Freedom Fighters, Human Firecracker shoots offspring of the GMS onto their faces while attaching the original to his own, putting them under his control. When Zhonglun reveals that he plans to use the Starros to force the country's bureaucrats to accept the Freedom Fighters' ideals, Zhongdan rebukes him for forcing democracy through mind control while Kenan demands the release of his friends. Enraged, Human Firecracker declares Kenan a traitor and sets the Freedom Fighters upon him. Kenan loses his powers during the fight, allowing the Freedom Fighters to beat him and leaving him to die in the Huangpu River. Zhongdan rescues Kenan and takes him to the Ministry, where he his healed by Omen and her assistant Mingming. When the Ministry is alerted that the Freedom Fighters have hijacked a flight to Zhongnanhai, Kenan and Zhongdan leave to stop them.

Regaining his invulnerability and superhuman strength, Kenan and his father board the plane while it is in mid flight and with Lixin's help, who was a passenger on the flight and escaped from the Freedom Fighters, manages to use the airplane's ice to free Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman from the Starros. The Justice League of China fight both the Freedom Fighters and the Great Ten, who attempt to destroy the plane with all parties on board believing it to be a lost cause. Kenan is able to defeat Human Firecracker and remove the GMS from him, saving everyone on the plane, but Zhongdan is mortally wounded from protecting Kenan when Zhonglun blows himself up with one of his explosives. With his dying breaths, Zhongdan tells Kenan to continue fighting for the ideals his mother fought for, not like the ones he or the Freedom Fighters tried to do. After his father's funeral, Kenan tells Baixi and Deilan his father's findings about the Ministry, and both vow to help him bring his mother's murderers to justice. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Doctor Omen has Zhongdan's body preserved in a tank, whom she address as "[her] love".

The Truth about his parents

Following Mingming's suggestion that his powers come from Superman's qi, Kenan approaches the martial arts instructor I-Ching to help control his qi and unlock his other powers. Under I-Ching's tutelage, Kenan is able to unlock superhuman hearing, which alerts him to several crises throughout the city. Afterwards, Kenan confides to I-Ching that he only saved the citizens to stop the pain from his new hearing powers, which makes him feel selfish. Sending their consciousnesses to the "realm of abstraction" I-Ching explains to Kenan each of his powers are based around the Bagua, eight trigrams used in Taoism that represent the fundamental principles of reality, together which form an octagon. Explaining that the "S" on his chest means "hope" in Kryptonian, I-Ching explains that the "S" also represents the shape of the path Kenan has taken along the Bagua to unlock his powers. With this concept, Kenan gains a better understanding of his powers and continues his training with I-Ching.[4] A few days later, Lex Luthor arrives at the JLC's headquarters to invite Kenan to America as a "security consultant" at LexCorp. With Omen's permission, I-Ching accompanies Kenan to his trip to Metropolis. At his research and development facility, Luthor explains why he recruited Kenan: to find and stop a Chinese Speedster who had repeatedly attempted to steal a pair of ancient Chinese artifacts called the "Ox Horse Door Rings" in Luthor's possession. Lex believes they can open a portal to a dimensional plane containing the energies needed to awaken Kenan's remaining superpowers. Despite I-Ching's warnings, Kenan readily agrees to help Luthor, but just as he is opens the portal he is stopped by the Speedster, a young Chinese American woman named Avery Ho, who warns that the portal Kenan and Luthor are opening actually leads to Diyu. Avery's allies, the China White Triad arrive to steal the artifacts from Luthor, starting a massive brawl which brings Superman to Lexcorp.[5] During the fight, Luthor and I-Ching get trapped within Diyu, where Lex reveals his true motive: acquiring the remains of the New 52 Superman containing his remaining powers. Kenan is able to unlock his X-Ray vision, allowing him to find the rings to reopen the portal and rescue Luthor (who fails to obtain the corpse) and I-Ching with Superman and Avery's help. Luthor angrily dismisses Kenan from his service when he rejects Luthor's further offers for unlocking his powers. Kenan confides with Superman about the nature of his powers and his uncertainty with unlocking them, but Superman congratulates him on his progress and encourages him to train more to help him with a future conflict. Meanwhile, the China White Triad abandons Avery and meet with their employer, Ching Lung (a Fu Manchu-themed villain from Detective Comics #1), who sheds his disguise, revealing himself to be a splitting image of I-Ching.[6]

Avery joins the Justice League of China as their Flash and races with Kenan throughout China after he unlocks his superhuman speed. While the JLC fights a monstrous turtle set upon Shanghai by the China White Triad, it is revealed that Wonder-Woman and the turtle are actually the Green Snake and Fahai, respectively, from the Legend of the White Snake. Fahai is eventually killed by Super-Man Zero, a powerful but unstable genetically modified superhuman and the first attempt to create the Super-Man of China, who had just been freed from the Crab Shell by Ching Lung.[7] While the JLC recuperates following the battle with Fahai and Super-Man Zero, Bat-Man reveals to Kenan that his robot sidekick Robinbot uncovered footage of Zhongdan's body housed in Omen's laboratory. Kenan confronts Dr. Omen with the knowledge at the same time Super-Man Zero arrives at the Pearl Oriental Tower. Granted additional powers and regal armor by Ching Lung, Super-Man Zero declares himself Emperor Super-Man and attacks the headquarters. During the destruction, Omen confesses that she is Kenan's mother, Maitai.

Despite Kenan's efforts, he is too late to stop Emperor Super-Man from kidnapping Omen. Emperor Super-Man takes Omen to Ching Lung and the White China Triad, who have also kidnapped a fully revived Zhongdan from his healing tank. After releasing all the prisoners from the Crab Shell, Emperor Super-Man takes over the Shanghai Tower and announces his plans to reconquer China.[8] With some spiritual guidance from I-Ching, Kenan rallies the JLC to defeat Emperor Super-Man. After successfully infiltrating the fortress and rescuing his parents, Kenan battles Emperor Super-Man, unlocking his heat vision in the process, However, they are interrupted by the Suicide Squad members Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, and Deadshot, who were sent by Amanda Waller to eliminate both Super-Men as potential threats to the United States. Kenan is nearly killed by Deadshot with a kryptonite sword but is rescued by his parents while the JLC and Great Ten defeat the White China Triad, Freedom Fighters and Suicide Squad. Dr. Omen reveals to Kenan and Zhongdan that she specifically chose Kenan to be the Super-Man of China to due him being her son and for his protection and further reveals that she had been working with the Ministry long before she met Zhongdan, having been ordered by them to infiltrate his activist group as "Kuang Maitai". When the Ministry called her back into service, Omen faked her death to deter Zhongdan and his allies from their activities, but to her dismay her death instead further radicalized them. When Ching Lung uses his abilities to transform Emperor Super-Man into a Doomsday-like monster, Kenan puts an end to the tyrant's rampage at the cost of his own life. Instead of dying, Kenan finds himself transported to an American Chinatown in 1937 with Ching Lung.[9] Kenan intervenes to protect several Chinese Americans from Slam Bradley's racist attacks against them by awakening his freeze breath to immobilize Bradley, while Ching Lung kills the similarly racist German diplomat Von Holtzendorff at a nearby restaurant. Recounting the atrocities Westerners such as Bradley and Von Holtzendorff committed against the Chinese, Ching Lung explains that Von Holtzendorff was in possession of a mystical amulet called the Red Jade Dragon, which he looted during the Boxer Rebellion. Ching Lung reveals to Kenan his true identity: All-Yang, the embodiment of yang and the twin brother of I-Ching, the embodiment of yin. All-Yang tells Kenan to seek out the Red Jade Dragon, which was last seen in America, so that Kenan can use its powers to complete his training and activate his remaining powers. With Kenan's fully activated powers, All-Yang hopes to make Kenan the new Emperor of China, just as he attempted to do with Emperor Super-Man, so that China can destroy its enemies. In exchange, All-Yang promises to release I-Ching, whom he previously captured and imprisoned in another realm. Kenan awakens inside of a lab within the Pearl Oriental Tower, where he reunites with his family and teammates and discovers that a week had passed since his "death". Kenan discloses to them about All-Yang and prepares to locate the Red Jade Dragon to rescue I-Ching, but is stopped and imprisoned by Omen, who does not want to see her son to die again. Kenan is broken out of his cell by Bat-Man, and the JLC heads to America to locate the artifact, which Bat-Man detects is in Metropolis.[10]

Acquiring the Red Jade Dragon

While in Metropolis, Bat-Man's transformed Mechabat accidentally attacks the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and the Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz). After the misunderstanding is cleared up, the two Justice Leagues become acquainted with one another. Kenan explains his situation and the Western Justice League use their powers to pinpoint the artifact's exact location, which Kenan and Superman follow to Lex Luthor's private estate. Despite Superman's and Luthor's warnings about a creating an international incident, Kenan breaks into Luthor's residence and finds the Red Jade Dragon in Luthor's treasure collection, which unlocks his final superpower: flight. All-Yang appears and congratulates Kenan; Kenan demands I-Ching's release but All-Yang refuses, saying that he killed him by sending him to the realm of ghosts. Enraged, Kenan attacks All-Yang, who counters Kenan's powers with magic. When Kenan refuses to take All-Yang's offer to be Emperor, All-Yang uses the Red Jade Dragon to open a portal to the realm of the demi-gods, unleashing several asuras on Earth.[11] While the Justice Leagues fight the asuras (who are resistant to their attacks), Kenan sends his consciousness to the "realm of abstraction" where he reunites with a visage of I-Ching, whose body is trapped in the realm of ghosts. I-Ching recounts his and All-Yang's pasts and their training as the embodiments of yin and yang. When the monks as their monastery implored each brother to accept a bit of the other one's nature to maintain perfect balance, All-Yang was insulted by suggestion to accept yin, which he viewed as beneath inferior, and abandoned his training, forcing I-Ching for embody both yin and yang. With Kenan's Bagua training complete and I-Ching being trapped in the realm of ghosts, I-Ching passes the mantle of yin and yang onto Kenan, which changes the "S" on Kenan's chest to a yin and yang symbol. With his powers fully awakened by the Red Jade Dragon and I-Ching, Kenan closes the portal, weakening the asuras enough to be defeated by the Justice Leagues. All-Yang attempts to kill the two Supermen, but Kenan absorbs All-Yang into his body. Afterwards, Kenan meets with his parents at the Oriental Pearl Tower where he tells Omen he is leaving the Ministry of Self-Reliance while rejecting Zhongdan's offer to reform the Freedom Fighters, declaring that the Justice League of China will now be working independently and help China and the whole world find balance.

Leader of the Justice League of China

As the leader of the Justice League of China, Kenan relocates the team to Northeastern China while seeing the advice of I-Ching's spirit and resisting All-Yang's influence to deal with being the living embodiment of yin and yang. The League repeatedly clashes with the Lantern Corps of China, the Ministry of Self-Reliance's new superhero team, who have branded the League fugitives for their defection.[12] The League intervenes at the China–North Korea border to rescue Ahn Kwang-Jo, a young North Korean defector with hydrokinetic abilities who can summon and communicate with mythical sea creatures, from North Korean forces, nearly sparking an international incident between the two nations. While under the JLC's care, Kwang-Jo is visited by the spirit of King Munmu, who reveals himself to be his "true father". Possessing the skeletal remains of the dragon form he assumed near the end of his human life, Munmu is angered over the current state of his former kingdom of Silla and bestows his power onto his "son" by encasing Kwang-Jo with his bones, turning him into an armor-clad dragon-human hybrid called the "Dragonson" and orders him to destroy North Korea.[13] Kenan and the JLC are able to turn the Dragonson back into Kwang-Jo by separating him from his magic sword, but are confronted again by the Lantern Corps, who attempt to turn in Kwang-Jo to the North Korean forces. While fighting the Corps, Kenan activates his yang form, which greatly enhances his superpowers but gives him an egotistic and violent personality. Yang-Kenan is able to free Kwang-Jo from his captors, but is too late to stop him from turning back into the Dragonson and escaping. Under Munmu's influence, the Dragonson uses his sword to open the Heavenly Floodgates atop Paektu Mountain, summoning large torrents of water to drown the Korean peninsula.[14] Realizing the Munmu also intends to kill innocents, the Dragonson fights off his influence and attempts to close the floodgates, but is prevented by yang-Kenan, the Lantern Corps and the North Korean Army, whose intervention cause the floodgates to unleash even more water. The Flash is able to bring Kenan back his normal self, and when he and Kwang-Jo are captured again by the Corps, Kenan activates his yin form, giving him ghost-like abilities and energy blasts but makes him feel detached and uninterested, which allows him and the Dragonson to escape from them, giving Kwang-Jo enough time to close the floodgates and save the country. Afterwards, Kenan recruits the Dragonson to the Justice League of China as its Aqua-Man while a water construct of Kwang-Jo is sent to prison in his place to trick the North Korean authorities.[15] Ignoring I-Ching's and All-Yang's warnings, Kenan activates his yin state to rescue I-Ching from the realm of ghosts but accidentally sends himself and the JLC to the realm instead. The JLC are confronted by nightmarish future versions of themselves, including an evil future version of Kenan fully immersed in yin and yang calling himself "Perfect-Man". I-Ching rescues Kenan from Perfect-Man, who reveals under I-Ching's interrogation that he became "perfect" after abandoning his teammates. With I-Ching's help, Kenan is able to send himself and his teammates back to the human realm while I-Ching is forced to remain in the ghost realm. Remembering I-Ching's last words to "let go of the goodness that can never be and embrace the goodness that is", Kenan is able to move on from his frustrations towards his parents' machinations and I-Ching's imprisonment and embraces his teammates as his new family.[16]

Kenan later helps Superman deal with a villain called Prophecy and assists Supergirl in dealing with the Fatal Five. When Kenan returns to America to pose for pictures he crosses paths with Deathstroke and successfully takes him down in order to bring him to China.

Personality

Initially, Kong Kenan was a self-centered bully who cared only for himself and looked down on those who he did not consider as important as he was. This all changed after standing up to Blue Condor and receiving the powers of Superman. Kenan is brash, headstrong and frequently rushes into situations without thinking. His core character is basically good, though he tends to make rash decisions based on his emotions. After the apparent death of his father, his attitude toward others changed and he became more focused. He has great respect toward Superman after meeting with him and receiving his advice and encouragement.

Powers and Abilities

Originally a normal human, Kong Kenan gained Kryptonian powers after being infused with Superman's qi. Initially, Kenan had little control over his powers and would occasionally fluctuate whenever he lost focus. Under I-Ching's tutelage, Kenan was able to organize his super powers around the Bagua, eight trigrams used in Taoism that represent the fundamental principles of reality, by corresponding each power with a trigam and focusing his qi into a specific part of his body, which include:

Trigram Body Part Superpower
0 Kūn
Belly Invulnerability
1 Gèn
Fists Superhuman Strength
2 Kǎn
Ears Superhuman Hearing
3 Xùn
Thighs X-Ray Vision
4 Zhèn
Feet Superhuman Speed
5
Eyes Heat Vision
6 Duì
Mouth Freeze Breath
7 Qián
Head Flight

Originally only being able to activate one power at a time, Kenan's synchronization with the mystical Red Jade Dragon unlocked his full potential, allowing him to use all his powers simultaneously while greatly augmenting them as well.

After I-Ching bestowed the mantle as the living personification of yin and yang upon him, Kenan gained magical abilities and resistance to magic, as well as the ability to enter separate yin or yang forms. In his yang form, Kenan glows in a pure white light that can be channeled into energy blasts and his Kryptonian powers become greatly enhanced. However, Kenan's personality becomes arrogant and violent in this form. In his yin form, Kenan glows in a black, shadowy substance and gains a ghost like form that makes him intangible and can fire electric-like blasts from his fingers. Much like with his yang form, Kenan's yin form changes his personality to be detached and lethargic. Kenan's yin form also allows him to travel to the realm of ghosts but at a heavy price.

Much like with Superman and other Kryptonians, Kenan becomes weakened when exposed to kryptonite.

Critical Reception

Kong Kenan has been received with positive reviews, with many critics praising Kong Kenan's likeable personality, character arc, and the way he uses his super powers. Many critics have deemed Kong Kenan as one of the best Asian superheroes of all time. ComicBookWire stated

The New Super-Man displays a charming mix of arrogance and compassion that allows him to work well as a hero while still containing a realistic level of flaws. His character is complemented by Wonder-Woman and Bat-Man, who give Kenan opportunities for growth while still serving as interesting characters on their own. In addition, the personalities behind Kenan's mother and father add a lot to the narrative, especially when it comes to making the book's emotions more meaningful.[17]

Aaron Berke from Comicsverse wrote

Kong's story has been remarkably nuanced and engaging. Where Clark Kent learned how to be Superman with the homegrown moral guidance of Pa and Ma Kent, Kong Kenan has been learning to develop himself internally with the ancient wisdom of I-Ching

and

Over the course of the past few issues, Kong has accessed many of his abilities by opening himself up to others. Kong began the series as a selfish bully, but I-Ching has helped to chip away the layers of self-obsession.[18]

References

  1. ^ Yang, Gene Luen (14 April 2016). "Naming Super-Man". DC Comics. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  2. ^ "Newsarama | GamesRadar+". Newsarama. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  3. ^ New Super-Man # 4
  4. ^ New Super-Man # 7
  5. ^ New Super-Man #9
  6. ^ New Super-Man # 10
  7. ^ New Super-Man # 11
  8. ^ New Super-Man # 13
  9. ^ New Super-Man # 15
  10. ^ New Super-Man # 16
  11. ^ New Super-Man # 17
  12. ^ New Super-Man and the Justice League of China # 20
  13. ^ New Super-Man and the Justice League of China # 21
  14. ^ New Super-Man and the Justice League of China # 22
  15. ^ New Super-Man and the Justice League of China # 23
  16. ^ New Super-Man and the Justice League of China # 24
  17. ^ ComicBookWire (2019-05-31). "Review: New Super-Man Vol. 1- Made in China". ComicBookWire. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  18. ^ "NEW SUPER-MAN #14 Review: Kong Kenan Vs. Emperor Super-Man!". ComicsVerse. 2017-08-11. Retrieved 2021-03-04.