Friday, February 8, 2019

Review: Adventures Of The Super Sons #7

Adventures of Super Sons #7 came out this week and continued an almost frivolous romp through the DCU. This series has been a tour through Silver/Bronze Age DC with issues running through horror comics and silly sci-fi stuff. This issue seems to marry two of my favorite things: DC Legion lore and 1940's film noir. There is nothing like an old school prison break film! Chuck the sons of Batman and Superman into the mix and you have something transcendent.

Writer Peter Tomasi brings a Philip Marlowe feel to these proceedings as Robin, thrust into the role of prison warlord, gives voice over narration that would make Bogart blush. The story here is aptly titled Noir Town, leaning into the film noir conceit. And these pot-boiled words and swift violence all sounds so natural coming from Damian.

Despite that particular flourish, Tomasi does his usual excellent job of littering the story with name drops, homages, and even tips of the hat to creators that makes this a treat for grizzled readers like me.

After a couple of months off, Carlo Barberi is back on art and brings his stylized elan to the proceedings. His work fits the material so well. But there is one panel which made me smile wide as near perfection. More on that soon.

If there is one downside, it is that The Gang, the alien adolescents obsessed with Earth super-villains, remain the glue holding it all together. I'm a little fatigued of them. That said. as always, I'll miss this book and this version of the sons when it goes away.

On to the book.

The book starts with a 9 panel grid of slowly eroding darkness.

At then end, we see an eyehole blown through this wall. Someone is speaking to the character in that darkness.

It's an interesting set up. We know that the sons are on a prison planet so it doesn't take a genius to figure out who would be imprisoned in a dark room. But I like the progression of the page, especially the yellow circles of energy peeking through, a nice foreshadow of what is to come.

Then we see that the 'eye' is Joker Jr. He is trying to help Superboy (let's face it, we all knew it would be Jon held captive in a pitch black cell).

But Rex Luthor has already set up his new Gang here on jevenile detention planet Takron Galtos. This includes new copies of classic super-villains. Grundette is the muscle, a female version of Solomon Grundy.

Another interesting thing about this place is that it is run like New York City in Escape From New York. Sure it is a prison. But there are no cells. It is just a city of prisoners running things themselves. The strong survive. They make their own rules. They're just trapped.

And there is that title of Noir Town, setting the table for us.

We flash back to the sons, Rex, and Joker Jr. being processed.

It looks like Gordanian foot soldiers are the guards.

This new scavenger Tommy Tomorrow drops off his prisoners. He then drops so many DC sci-fi references that I had to reread to catch them all. Sun Devils. The Citadel. The Planeteers. Takron Galtos. It all means so much to me!

And the idea that Takron Galtos would evolve from Juvenile Detention planet to the prison planet of the Legion time is pretty cool.

As I said, this isn't a place with cells and routine. The kids are just dropped into a new society run by the inmates. There is a little Lord of The Flies feel to that set-up.

It is here we learn that indeed it is Superboy being thrown in 'Shadow City' to depower him.

But Damian being sent to 'Levitztown' is inspired. Brilliant.

 In two short weeks, Robin has become a power player on the planet, swinging his way through the place as he seeks out Superboy. He has earned some respect, mostly through intimidation and brawling.

This includes seeking out Rex Luthor's new recruits and trying to beat information out of them. And the new Gang members are easy to pick out. Just look for cosplayers of some of the more famous JLA villains - Felix Faust, Dr. Alchemy, Lord Satanus, Evil Star, even Crazy Quilt. Barberi does a great job showing just how ridiculous it all looks.

Robin gets some good information from a guy dressed as Sinestro who claims to be a member of the GLC. I am surprised Damian trusts him so quickly. But he does and he gets some intel.

 This leads Damian to a version of the Titans' foe Gizmo.

After a couple of threats and a choke hold, Gizmo spills the beans. He sold a 'solar plug' to Joker Jr. Damian can track it with a sensor. And Gizmo has no love or loyalty to Rex. After all, Gizmo was subjected to brain surgery he didn't want.

I don't know if I trust this guy though. Right after Damian leaves, he notifies someone that Damian is on his way.

 Using Bulma's Dragon Ball Detector ... okay I can dream can't I ...

Using Gizmo's solar plug detector, Robin zones in on Superboy.

You have to love his Sam Spade internal dialogue, talking of his muscles tightening as he enters the fray. This sort of stuff appears throughout the book, well worth reading.

But it was this panel of Robin landing, a McFarlane-style cape just cutting through the scene like shattered glass, that made me smile. Barberi brought the fire there. It just strikes me that Damian would use a massive cloak/cape like this if he was trying to be hard core.

 In the end, I do think that Gizmo tipped off the Gang because Rex Luthor and Grundette are there waiting for him and they bring the smack down.

But then Damian hears an explosion from behind the wall. He knows who that is.

Perhaps one of the best things I have read recently is this panel. Sporting a wry smile, Damian says 'Hi buddy'.

Could you ever imagine Damian, way back in Super Sons #1 calling Jon his buddy? It is this character growth that has endeared these two to me. Wonderful.

The source of the explosion? Jon.

"Hi, D."

Buddy? D.? These guys are besties now. No denying!
Love this ending.

And this reminded me of something else.

I don't know.
Maybe I am reaching.

Anyways. This continues to be a fun comic with inside comic homages and great characterization between the sons. Throw in Film Noir dialogue and it makes me happy.

Roll on the next 5 months!

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Top review. I wasn't overly enamoured with this one, an issue without both heroes, battling and bantering, is a disappointment. I've never seen Escape From New York, so that reference escaped me... I just thought the title was punning on Thornton Wilder's play. I am so stupid, not linking the narration to Film Noir; mind, apart from that, it didn't scream 'Noir' to me - no femme fatale (I am not counting Grundette!), lots of colour, no sense of inevitable doom.

And yeah, the Jon 'reveal' was so obvious that the first page was pointless - mind, you know how I feel about stories opening now and flashing back for no good reason. And yeah, the Gang, again. And this is no Tommy Tomorrow I recognise.

Still, it was an enjoyable, zippy read, nicely written and drawn excellently - just not as great as a top issue.

Anonymous said...

Well, this review and book are worth more than one comment, so I will add something here:

Not sure if I would have spotted Robin's 1940s noir narration if there hadn't been a tip-off in the title - no fault of Tomasi, just my own lack of observation. But I got a kick out of it.

I enjoyed the grids of black panels with various spots of light peeking through. Don't know what the extra splashes of light were, almost looking like moons in partial eclipse. Perhaps reflections from the solar plug light. In any event, they made the otherwise nearly completely black panels more interesting to look at.

One thing of interest, I thought, were the black splotches - a kind of sponge effect - on a few pages mid-book, at the panel edges and gutters. It also appeared in-panel surrounding Robin, and Superboy, at the very end, as well as on Robin's face, and explained as dust from the explosion. Maybe it's just a meaningless artistic effect, or maybe it's a cinematic foreshadowing of the explosion at the end - like a brief flash forward you might see in a film.