Monday, 23 July 2018

Superman Volume 1: Son of Superman (Rebirth) Review

Supes, you gotta turn of the flash
on your camera, dude.
Writer: Peter J Tomasi
Artist: Jimmy Palmiotti
Collects: Superman: Rebirth #1, Superman #1-6

Background Information

Superman's past few years in the New 52 was... rocky. I maintain that Grant Morrison's Action Comics was a great Superman story, but it's hard to pretend that it caught on with general readers. The following issues were an absolute train wreck. Lois and Clark were broken up, Clark was de-aged so that he looked ultimately naïve and the stories themselves were great in concept, but poor in execution. The way they fixed this was very long winded, but long story short, DC brought back the old Superman with the old Lois Lane and got rid of the New 52 versions of each. I do something similar with my children all the time!


By this stage, I think we can safely say that DC Rebirth is good. It's sold well enough and rarely do we hear a word against it. Most of that, I'm convinced, is due to books like Son of Superman.

So the old Superman is in the main universe again with a wife and now a ten year old son. A "Son of Superman", if you will. This son, Jonathan Kent, is developing big boy powers of his own, so the old Clark Kent now has to teach his son not to kill people by accident. You know how it is; your child hits puberty and suddenly there's a lot of awkward conversations about girls.

I hope every Spider-Man writer sees this.
I get the feeling that the Rebirth initiative as a whole was designed to troll All-New-All-Different-All-Weather-All-The-Time Marvel. This is probably most relevant in Rebirth's Superman. Peter J Tomasi's Superman seems to point at Dan Slott's Spider-Man and say "See? Having a superhero married with a kid is a GOOD thing because it allows characters to grow and mature  and maybe one day you can get a movie where Peter isn't defined by high school!"

He then turns  Tom King's Batman and says "Hey, kid's develop best with two parents at home, too!"

To which, Tom King responds "Okay" (with his fingers crossed behind his back).

This book really sells itself on the positive family dynamic. There's a weird habit that a lot of shows have of portraying married characters as being on the brink of divorce. Son of Superman bucks that trend by giving us a Lois and Clark that are happily married. The drama, instead, comes from the Superhero action which is accentuated by Clark's efforts as a father. It helps that Jon's character is probably just as well-written as everyone else's. Many comic writers try to portray children as snottier adults, but Tomasi's gives us a son of Superman who is more wide-eyed and in awe of those around him. As a result, we actually like this character as opposed to, say, Damien Wayne, which needed a pretty long adjustment period and even then people cheered when he died because they thought Tim was going to be Robin again.

The actual events of the story, the "what exactly happens here?" are a bit of a letdown, though. Superman takes Jonathan back to the fortress of solitude, where a Kryptonian robot that's hell-bent on ethnic cleansing gets activated and decides that  Jonathan must be killed for not being a purebred. Was this thing programmed in Auschwitz? I thought Krypton was meant to be more progressive than this! The whole thing completely fails to be engaging. The whole is fixed by... wait for it...

...getting Batman involved.

The bad guy is the one with the S on his chest.
Hang on, DC, are you trying to tell me that a man capable of moving the earth out of its orbit needs the help of a grown man who depends on his butler? Why is Batman even here? I know he's had the more popular movies but it's not like you need to introduce him to anyone! You could live your entire life in a cave and I bet you know who drives the Batmobile! Why not include Blue Beetle? Booster Gold? John Constantine? You could build your universe this way, but no; you need to lend credibility to the claim that Batman is all DC has!

This is an unashamedly pretty book, as well. Every character is designed to be highly expressive, which adds to their relatability. The way Johnathon is drawn hits home how (literally) wide-eyed and optimistic the lad is. Superman looks his age without looking past his prime. The book is big, colourful and bombastic in the way it communicates its action, like a gang war during Mardi Gras.

There are some who are going to claim that Son of Superman is a return to hope and optimism that "SOUPAMAHN WAS ALWAYZ MENT 2 B!" I don't know if I would say that, but it's certainly Superman starting on an era that he was always meant to reach eventually. Time will tell if Bendis has an inch of respect for what happened in this run... Dammit.

Four out of five Mardi Gras gangsters.

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