Google “Sikh comic book characters” and you'll find this pretty dismal list of sidekicks, bodyguards, assistants, and in one case, girlfriend. The superhero genre of comics is awash with white, able-bodied, heterosexual, male protagonists – a status quo that's being challenged, again and again, by projects such as the new female Thor, and the campaign to get black actor Daniel Glover to play Spiderman. And that's exactly what the creators of Super Sikh are doing with their new work.

When I think of Sikh comics characters, I recall exactly three instances. First, the Punjabi superwoman Super Kudi, mascot of the Delhi Comic Con last year, never heard of again.

Second, Captain Nemo in Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, nebulously portrayed as a Kali-worshipping man in a turban, never self-consciously Sikh. Third, the real-life costumed Sikh Captain America, Vishavjit Singh, who also makes cartoons about his experience as a Sikh man in the USA. But none of these examples even come close to writing a Sikh protagonist into the mainstream superhero comics tradition, which is what Super Sikh aims to do.

It is indisputable that the existence of such a character, such a project, is extremely important. The Sikh faith, aspirations, and experiences of Sikh people are invisible in comics, and this is precisely why Deep Singh, created by Supreet Singh Manchanda and Eileen Alden, deserves finesse and nuance in how he is portrayed. Here's what I discovered.

Deep Singh fits quite neatly into most of the identifying traits of superheroes set out by Richard Reynolds in 1992.

He is an orphan living with his aunt and uncle in India, he leads a double life, and he is an extraordinary character in a mundane setting. He has an IT job by day, and is a highly skilled SAS Special Forces Agent by night. The introductory issue opens with a woman, presumably Singh's aunt, complaining about his dangerous lifestyle, and worrying about his marriage prospects.

He's more Batman meets James Bond than Spiderman.

Here's where Singh doesn't seem to meet Reynolds' delineation – he doesn't wear a costume, he has no super powers. And his story doesn't use fantastic elements, at least so far. He does wear a turban and a kada (and presumably carries other markers of his Sikh identity), has super skills, and uses technology. And loves Elvis, in what I hope isn't just a cutesy little cosmetic trait.

It's still unclear what his relationship with law vs justice is.

The superhero is sometimes a justice-loving vigilante, like the Batman, and sometimes a private agent whose interests coincide with the government's, like many portrayals of the Iron Man. Our man is with the British secret service, so I'm dying to know how the story arc will fit that in, in the context of the history of British colonisation of India. The superhero is often patriotic and loyal to the State – but which State?

The fight scenes are formulaic to the point of parody.

There is literally a single panel that goes BOOM! Personally, I hope this is more of a caricatural scene-setting exercise, but fans of traditional superhero comics may relish this for its own sake.

The choice of antagonist is... interesting and could turn problematic very quickly. 

Taking off from the question of moral loyalty, I really hope that the Taliban-leader antagonist – named 'Salar Al Amok' – isn't a simplistically deployed character.

Much post-9/11 discrimination of South Asian or South Asian origin people in the US is based on the assumption that they are all Muslim. While it is critical that cultures are acknowledged as separate, sometimes reactions to this are tantamount to non-Muslim South Asian folks saying, in an equally Islamophobic sense, "But we're not those brown people!" An interview with the creators suggests that Al Amok is “an evil guy” but that they “humanise him”. Hmm.

First reactions

Personally, I'm disappointed by the introductory issue. If something revolutionary is being proposed, it should be followed through right to its execution. And its execution so far is too garden-variety pop-art for my taste.

The moral universe that Singh inhabits seems like an uncritical acceptance of the times that we live in, where so much discrimination, stereotyping, and systematic killing is carried out in the name of fighting Islamic extremism. Singh's parents even – in a plot point that seems as parodic as the fight scenes – die in a humanitarian mission in Africa.

Or perhaps I'm just reading too much into a work that wants to write a mainstream Sikh hero into a mainstream tradition, and it's just readers like me – who enjoy and prefer darker anti-hero comics such as The Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns to mainstream superhero fare anyway – who want more from it.

The two counterpoints to my own disappointment I imagine are that, first, this might develop into something more complex than it seems; and second, even if that doesn't happen, we really really need a Sikh super-hero anyway. We just don't need him to be perpetuating stereotypes of his own.