Review: ‘Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman’
Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman
Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Art by Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Jorge Jimenez and others
DC Comics; $16.99
Rated T for Teen
The now twice-monthly Superman title is maybe the all-around best book of DC Comics’ 2016 “Rebirth”-branded relaunch initiative, in which they renumbered all their books and accelerated some of the publishing schedules, but didn’t reboot their complicated-enough continuities as they did during 2011’s similar “New 52”-branded relaunch. Ironically, Superman is also one of the hardest “Rebirth” relaunches to get into for casual readers, given its extremely complicated set-up.
Much of that is dealt with as quickly as possible in Superman: Rebirth #1, which serves as the first chapter of this collection, as eight of its 20 pages are given over to flashbacks. At one point the current Superman even tells Lana Lang, “I know it’s confusing, but I am Superman, just not the one you know.”
In short, the Superman and Lois Lane (and their child) from the old, pre-rebooted DC Universe survived into the new, post-rebooted New 52 Universe, and after the convenient deaths of the New 52 Superman and Lois, they have gradually replaced their counterparts. Luckily, Superman‘s sister title Action Comics has been concerning itself with the hows and whys of this overly laborious set-up, so after the first 20 pages, Son of Superman offers pretty smooth sailing for anyone who may have been ignoring the mostly not-very-good crossovers and story arcs that brought the characters to this point. (The easiest of the new Superman titles to get into is undoubtedly New Super-Man, which should do very well in libraries and bookstores thanks to its solid storytelling and the name of its writer, Gene Luen Yang, but its art is far inferior to that here, and it features a Superman who isn’t the “real” Superman.)
Living under assumed names on a farm in Hamilton County in whatever state Metropolis is in, Clark and Lois have been raising their son in secret for the past five years, more peacefully than not. Things get decidedly less peaceful when circumstances force Clark to resume being the world’s Superman (after the death of New 52 Superman), and their son Jonathan begins exhibiting Kryptonian superpowers that he obviously has no idea how to control yet.
So Superman takes his son under his wing and begins to train him, beneath the suspicious eyes of Batman and Wonder Woman, and it’s about that time that an ancient Kryptonian robot of sorts shows up, bent on wiping Jonathan out of existence for the genetic sin of being half-human. The bulk of the book’s balance, then, is Superman fighting The Eradicator all over the world and even on the moon, while trying to keep Jonathan safe from, um, eradication.
It can certainly be read as one big fight scene, and the very talented pencil artists Patrick Gleason and Doug Mahnke (who take turns as primary artist, to accommodate the book’s new twice-a-month schedule), are both longtime pros with plenty of experience drawing super-comics in general and, in Mahnke’s case, these characters in particular.
They do a superb job of selling superhero combat and all of Superman and his foes’ spectacular powers. Co-writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason do have some story goals here too, of course, and these include re-introducing Krypto The Superdog and a new Superboy, as Clark and Lois realize maybe the safest place for Jonathan is at his father’s side, learning how to use those dangerous powers safely, and in service of good.
Despite the rocky start, then, this is a pretty action-packed premise-setter, and the stories in the issues that follow–and will be appearing in volumes two and three of the trade paperback series—are far better than this one. This is a pretty good place to start in DC’s new “Rebirth” line of comics, even if casual readers have to wade through a lot of continuity gobbledygook (to Tomasi and Gleason’s credit, they breeze through it as quickly as possible–it honestly could have been a lot worse if they went into greater detail).
It’s rated “T for Teen,” as most of DC’s books that are not specifically aimed at children are, almost as a reflex it seems, but there are a couple of scenes that border on disturbing. When Jonathan attempts to rescue his cat from a hawk that has seized it, he lets out a blast of heat vision, and Gleason draws a much more gory and detailed image of a melting, dripping cat skeleton than was probably necessary (For story reasons, I realize he likely wanted it to be traumatizing, but there are more subtle and sophisticated ways to convey that without such an image).
There’s also a bit of body horror related to the reappearance of Krypto, and I can see either image bugging younger, more sensitive kids (they certainly would have upset a grade-school version of me!). But there’s nothing in here that should trouble any teenage readers and, as I mentioned, future installments will only get better and more new-reader friendly.
If you get just one new “Rebirth” Superman book for your young readers, well, you’ll probably want to get New Super-Man Vol. 1. But if you get two? This should definitely be the other one.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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