Superman #10 came out this week and continued the wonderful run that Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are having on this book. If any character needed a #Rebirth, it was Superman who seemed to toil for the last decade or so, acting far from the Superman I grew up reading. Now, in this 'new' DCU, I have Superman books I can look forward to, Superman books I am loving. I haven't been able to say that for a while.
This issue reads more like a prologue to the upcoming Super Sons title. But that works for me just fine. For one, I am interested in that book. But more than that, this plays up the differences between the sons and the differences between the heroes. This isn't going to be an easy alliance between these young adventurers learning the ropes. And certainly, Superman and Batman are exactly the World's Finest these days. While this pre-Flashpoint Superman seems open to a more classic friendship, things are strained.
And so, in this issue, we see the senior heroes clench their fists and then calm down. And we see the younger heroes act calm and then clench their fists. We see Superman's optimism and wisdom play out in Jon. And we see Batman's preparedness and quasi-paranoia apparent in Damien. That's solid stuff.
Add to that a healthy dollop of humor and a hypnotic art style by Gleason, and I was sold on this issue. Solid stuff.
Back to the art, earlier in this title, I talked about how Gleason's current style felt a bit 'Rankin/Bass' to me. That it was a bit off, a sort of 'uncanny valley' feel. But over the issues, I have been more and more enamored of it. It is very engaging.
On to the book.
We start out at the elementary school where Jon and Kathy are thrilled to be at the holiday break. And Jon is acting like the good kid he is, picking up some litter he sees on the ground and telling Kathy to simply ignore the bully who is trying to antagonize them.
She says she should have punched the bully in the gut but Jon knows that isn't the right thing to do.
More on this later ...
But the scene nicely encapsulates who Jon is.
On the way out of school, Jon literally runs into a girl named Maya who says she is a nobody. I love this panel showing that Maya has her eyes on Jon. Is it a crush? Or observation? Either way, Jon fills up her vision (nicely rendered by Gleason).
And Kathy's subtle jealousy, a little pout on her face is priceless.
I don't know Nobody at all. I haven't collected a Batman comic that wasn't written by Grant Morrison in years. (And I don't count the current Detective as a Batman book, more a Batman Family.)
Riding home, Jon decides to break off and take a short cut through Dead Man's Swamp. There he is surprised by any number of undead appearing animals, all sporting glowing purple eyes. The shock of seeing them makes him accidentally fire his heat vision setting the place on fire.
Maya 'Nobody' shows up (wearing armor that looked very Neon Genesis to me) riding a huge Manbat creature. There is a nice callback where we see Jon's face reflected in her helmet's eye slits (from the prior school scene). In the subsequent minor skirmish, Jon (after exhibiting freeze breath for the first time) is knocked out.
Back to this Dead Man's Swamp. Do we think this means Solomon Grundy is going to show up soon? Are these purple eyed animals truly undead? Robots? Or are they more of Mr. Oz's shenanigans? And Nobody didn't seem shocked by them ... are they part of her observation tactics?
Jon slowly awakens, strapped to a table in the Batcave. Standing over him is Damien who is just as annoying and overconfident as ever. He has drawn Jon's blood. He seems to know everything about Jon, from the destruction of the Batcave on the moon to even his killing Goldie the cat. And he is rather disparaging about Jon's lack of control and Superman's out in the open heroics.
But this was a solo mission. Batman wasn't aware.
I love everything about this panel. From Batman's pose to Nobody fading out to the color palette, this was lovely.
Jon being kidnapped doesn't go unnoticed. Batman tells Damien to let Jon loose.
But before Batman can take control of the situation, Superman bursts through the wall and he isn't happy. Superman thinks Batman is responsible. Batman thinks Jon needs to learn control. Things are about to get ugly with the 'angry red eyes of pain' and a 'K-batarang' suddenly brought to bear.
It is only Jon who says that he isn't hurt and everyone needs to calm down. Ahhh .. from the mouth of babes. I love that Jon is the voice of reason here, showing his upbringing.
Once the initial concern over Jon is over, Superman slides back into his 'aw shucks' good old boy politeness.
He sees the cloaked Nobody and tells her to show herself. After all, how could he miss such a smile. I love Maya's look of awe.
And that is just pure, unadulterated Superman. Wonderful.
Superman is a little shocked to hear that Jon has super-breath now. And Bruce runs his analysis on Jon's blood. The hybrid nature of Jon means even new powers may happen. And Damien surmises that emotions might be how Damien's powers manifest. I love how Bruce casually says he'll keep Jon's blood in the cave ... always prepared this one.
The one thing that felt a little off was this exchange. While Damien and Jon go off in the cave, the fathers look on. Superman wonders if his and Bruce's fathers questioned their ability to raise their kids as much as they are. And Batman says all good fathers do (I can attest that I do).
But is this a good question to ask Bruce? When I read it, I cringed a little. Wasn't Bruce younger than Damien when Thomas died? I just felt like this was a risky question ... maybe I am overreacting.
Anyways, while off in the cave, Damien continues to abuse Jon emotionally, again bringing up Jon's uncontrolled powers and the death of Goldie.
Jon has had enough so what does he do?
He punches the bully in the gut!
Oh, what a delicious turnabout from his wisdom on page one. Even the best of us get worn down by pests and jerks like Damien. Even a Superboy loses his temper now and then. This was a splash page and it deserved the space. Just brilliant timing and pacing by Gleason and Tomasi.
But the fathers aren't happy. The implication is that the boys will head into a 'boot camp' to train. It felt a bit disingenuous given Superman and Batman were about to fight a handful of pages before. Can they really take the high ground here?
I thought this was just a fantastic entertaining issue. I love how the sons mirror the fathers. I love how Jon takes the high ground at first but is eventually broken by the relentless attacks by Damien. And the art is just beautiful. Bring on the Super-Sons. I'm ready!