With ‘Rebirth’ out of the way, it’s time for us to meet the family. What this issue may lack, it makes up for with stellar characterisation and a Superman comic to be excited for.
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Patrick Gleason
THE SON OF SUPERMAN’ chapter one The Last Son of Krypton must decide whether to help his young son use his new and rapidly increasing abilities, or hide them from the world. THE CREATORS: The team supreme that brought fans the adventures of Damian Wayne in ‘Batman and Robin’ returns for the adventures of Superman and his offspring.
It was a smart move for DC to hand over the reigns to “Superman” to the team of Tomasi and Gleason. One of my favourite ‘New 52’ titles was their run on “Batman and Robin,” if anything, it proved just how good a superhero comic could be while exploring the relationship between a father and son. Thankfully, the pair are as excellent collaborators as they are storytellers, but they could be in danger of rehashing old ground. As “Superman: Rebirth” established, the pair are not quite finished with looking into this particular dynamic, but this time their focus has shifted to the new Pa Kent and his superson, Jonathan. Could it have been mory worthy of their time to give Superman and Lois a daughter instead? And I cannot help but notice Jonathan even has a resemblance to Damian Wayne. I think this comic is wonderfully told, but with such an opportunity as Rebirth has presented, it’s a shame they didn’t make a bigger change.
The first issue of “Superman” is a further introduction to Jonathan, elaborating on him more than ‘Rebirth’ was able to and setting up his place in this new continuity. It is encouraging to see the team give this book a reason to exist, right here in the first issue, especially when a lot of books struggle to do so over the course of an entire run. By the end of the issue, we have some idea of where the story is heading, and it seems Jonathan is going to be right at the centre of it. While I still feel three Superman books is excessive, at least each one feels unique and distinct.
What initially appears as a pretty regular slice of life on the farm for the Smiths (formally the Kents), soon unravels as Jonathan’s powers manifest themselves. In an unfortunate turn of events he unwittingly kills his own cat with a blast of heat vision. This scene feels like it has been ripped right out of any number of other Superman origin stories; we’ve been witness to plenty of instances when the young Clark used his powers with disastrous consequences. However, there is enough potential here in this issue to separate it from those stories. In the past,Clark would attempt to actively use his powers and in most cases this would act as a metaphor, but Tomasi and Gleason are taking a different road. It appears Jonathan is not in control of his abilities, in fact they seem a lot more tied to his emotions. It is going to be interesting heading forward to see how this plays out. Especially, as we pick up through visual clues that he may or may not be more powerful than his father. Jonathan’s heat blast isn’t your usual sharp, clean lines, but a billowing column of heat and and energy. Further evidence can be found towards the end of the issue, as half heard conversation between Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman suggests that Jonathan is not safe where he is and there is concern for his power levels.
To me, the way the creative team are centering on Jonathan suggests that “Superman” looks to be an all-ages affair. It’s almost as if they’re going for a Harry Potteresque ‘chosen-one’ storyline. For an older, possibly cynical, reader this may feel a tad bit hack, but for newer, and especially younger readers, there is a certain thrill to be found in “Superman” #1. The last page sees Superman enter Jonathan’s room, resplendent in his new and improved costume, to deliver the most parental version of the ‘come with me if you want to live’ line ever uttered. Of course, this could have had a bigger impact if Jonathan had no knowledge of his father’s superhero alter ego, but it is charming none-the-less.Continued below
Gleason’s art style suits this approach too. His line work is bold and smooth, with not many sharp edges, everything seems to be pumped up with air. His faces are simple and adorned with large features, especially the eyes. Gleason gives his characters the largest and most expressive eyes outside of any Manga title. I could literally write an entire paragraph on the eyes in this issue. There are times when his characters are inconsistent, he has a habit of smooshing them as to fit in the panels, it often makes them look ill defined. Meanwhile, John Kalisz’s colours are straight from the crayon box, seemingly taking inspiration from the bold, primary colours of Superman’s costume which adds to the all-ages feel.
While we’re on the topic of Superman’s costume, one of the issues my colleague Alice W. Castle raised in her review of “Superman: Rebirth” is we never got a proper reveal, prophesying they were probably saving it for this book. Well I can confirm that she was of course right, and boy how. The opening of the book is a large, double page spread of Superman’s chest covered with the iconic ‘S’ symbol and from there Clark is almost exclusively wearing his costume, if not underneath his flannel shirt and denim-dungaree combo. Gleason is always vigilant in making sure Superman and his costume is placed in the right spot for the biggest impact. It all builds until that aforementioned, last page of Superman stood, god-like in his son’s room.
There has been a great deal of characterisation and set up in this issue. As I mentioned earlier, I think it’s a good thing that a book can establish these things as soon as they can. Though unfortunately the plot does appear to have been sacrificed, there is just not a lot of story to be getting on with. The action is all confined to the Farm and other than Jonathan’s power levels, there is not hint to where this book is taking us. I’m willing to stay with it however, so long as they can stick to the landing with what they have set up here and incorporate it into an actual storyline. Seeing the ‘Trinity’ together, in what is possibly my favourite panel, is enough to whet my appetite. The way the three of them meet outside of the farmhouse, shrouded in shadow, is how I want them to forever be presented in this Rebirthed universe.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – A very good start to this particular Superman book. If the focus remains on Jonathan, it could turn out to be one of the most surprising, all-ages book of the year.