Superman #11 came out last week, the second part of the introduction of the Super-Sons duo and subsequent book. It is a rollicking time, pure simple good fun. And it sold me on the prospect of the concept that a Damien/Jon will be a book to pick up. Sometimes you need to smile and I think these two will get me to do just that.
For the last 30 years, DC has been struggling with how to make Superman and Batman be friends. The Dark Knight Returns had a Superman was mockingly called (and still referred to as) a boy scout and a school boy. Batman became an overly prepared, paranoid, grim being. Right or wrong, it wouldn't be easy for people presented that way to be besties. So for years we have had a vestigial memory of the World's Finest pair creeping into comics with either Batman or Superman always saying 'Despite our differences ...'
What I wondered was if the youthful exuberance of Robin and Superboy make the scions be friends more easily? Or would the heightened experience of adolescence make their differences all that more difficult to overcome? Maybe that is the whole concept of the book. Can someone less entrenched in a way of life reach out to someone different and compromise?
This issue shows how it won't be too easy for Damien and Jon to just suddenly become quick friends. But the potential is there, perhaps nudged forward by proud fathers. And maybe, just maybe, that common ground of being dads will nudge the World's Finest closer. Maybe ...
Creative team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason seem to be having a fun time in this issue, putting the super-sons through their paces, plopping them in crazy situations and making them flail a bit to get to safety. Gleason's art is perfect for this style book whose premise lends itself to the wild pizzazz he brings.
On to the book!
The boys find themselves on top of a mountaintop, stripped of their costumes, and needing to complete three tasks together to get home and reclaim their mantles.
Meanwhile, from the Batcave, Superman and Batman watch the proceedings.
I love how the opening challenge was escaping an old fashioned death trap ... a room with spiked walls coming together. I don't know if this makes the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel candidates for Father of the Year.
The problem is the boys escaped on their own, not working as a team.
The first challenge is to defeat their friend Nobody and reclaim the Robin symbol and the Superman shield sweat shirt.
Mostly working together, they are able to defeat her. But Robin immediately runs ahead to the next challenge, getting onto a train moving away.
Jon recognizes this for a hard lesson of learning to work together. Even Damien gets it. But if both boys realize that working together will end the lesson, why does Damien run off? Perhaps he is out to prove to his father that he doesn't need friends? That he is self-reliant?
I love how Nobody asks Jon to watch out for Damien.
The next task involves defeating Damien's pet Man-Bat who is trying to keep them off the train. The boys are able to manhandle the beast into a freight car. But that was the easy part. The bridge is out.
With the train falling to disaster, Jon is able to lure the Man-Bat, providing the boys with a flight home. But again, despite Jon's resourcefulness (acknowledged by Batman!!!), the boys haven't truly teamed up.
The lesson needs to continue.
Heading over the ocean, they decide to take a break and grab a nap on Goliath's back.
The panel here is brilliant with the boys basically the Yin and Yang of super-heroics, a visual representation of those 'differences' Batman and Superman always talk about.
Despite Jon reaching out, maybe saying he wants to be friends, Damien is quick to shut him down.
Ahhhh Damien, always the assassin-trained brat.
Once on shore, the boys get tossed around by a Superman-created hurricane. They can't stop it and so get flung into the mud.
Finally Superman shows up to lay down some wisdom. They boys need to learn to work together ... and now ... before stuff really hits the fan. I love the hometown wisdom of learning to come together because life isn't fair.
The question is did Batman's comm really go out? Or did the Dark Knight want to admit that even he needs help? Funny.
And when the boys both barf from their windswept adventure, it is even funnier.
Finally the boys head back to the Batcave where a crazy Clayface like creature, created by the genetic samples Batman has, has the super-fathers in its clutches. Now it is very clear this is one last test. This creature isn't a real threat to Superman or Batman.
But finally ... finally ... Jon and Damien work together. They defeat the creature and 'save' their fathers.
Maybe, 'despite their differences', they can be a team.
Finally Alfred steps in as the loving Grandfather figure.
No more tests. No more challenges. He gives the boys their capes back, the last pieces of their costumes to have them reclaim their legacy.
It is a nice moment.
I love how the shadows of their fathers loom over them. Yes, it can be the actual shadows of Batman and Superman. But it also is a feeling of responsibility to these legacies, a way that these two will need to grow up and into these roles.
It all seems like it is going to end well.
The fathers are actually acting like friends, talking about their pasts, inviting each other over for dinner, going out to cut a family Christmas tree, and genuinely acting like allies.
But then the impetuous nature of youth takes over. Damien hurls a verbal barb at Jon. Jon gives one back. And just like that the two are back at each others' throats. And it is 100% on ... axes and saws and fire all being used! The look of disappointment and anger on the father's face is priceless.
Hey, if they can't be easy friends, how could they expect their sons ... after one day of chumming around ... be the best of friends.
And so I think this fundamental difference in upbringing and outlook will be brought to bear in the Super-Sons book. Can this odd couple get along well enough to save the day?