Friday, March 12, 2021

Review: Superman #29

The Philip Kennedy Johnson era of Superman officially began this week with the release of Superman #29

Johnson wrote the Future State books of Superman:Worlds of War and Superman House of El. I thought both books were solid and showed that Johnson seems to have a very good understanding of Superman is. How Superman is always going to help and always puts others ahead of himself. Suffice it to say, I was relieved. And as a result, I was looking forward to these books.

Then Infinite Frontier #0 came out and Johnson's story was all about Jon and how the Spectre seemed to think Jon was on a dark path to being a tyrant. 

Suddenly I was less excited. Hasn't Jon been through enough? Haven't we had enough 'dark takes' on super-family characters?

Superman #29 seems to build on that, focusing on Jon. We see him back from the Legion future and dealing with the knowledge that he gained there. He's withdrawn, upset, and seems poised to have some emotional turmoil send him spiraling. While Jon's concerns are valid, I thought this was just a little off.

Artwise, the book is very solid. We start with this tremendous wraparound cover by John Timms showing the extended family and a bunch of villains. I really love Timm's Supergirl so I was happy to see it one last time. Inside art is done by Phil Hester who brings an economy of lines that allow the story to unfold perfectly. It really has an energy. And his expressive work is brilliant, showing so much.

On to the book.

'The Golden Age' starts with Superman and Superboy fighting green space dust mites which have crossed into our universe through some breach.

As our heroes throttle these bugs, there is a running narration about how at some point children realize that their parents aren't infallible and invulnerable. And when that realization happens, fear can creep into their hearts.

So we start right off the bat with Jon being afraid.

Now I suppose we saw that fear when he shrank Metropolis in Future State. But fear is the mind-killer.

Great work here by Hester as you really feel the action.

After turning back the bugs, a nearby STAR Labs satellite fires a cannon to try and seal the breach.

Unbeknownst to our heroes, they are being observed. STAR Labs is gathering data and relaying it to Amanda Waller. Having read Suicide Squad #1, Waller is really leaning into 'I'm probably a villain' territory.

But there is more than just that to sour me a little.

Superman's powers are effected by the breach. Jon's aren't. I suppose we are going to get some sort of 'Jon is stronger than Clark' thread. I don't need that.

And then Waller seemingly interested in testing Superman's limitations is also a bit too evil for my liking.

Her plan to keep the breach open longer almost backfires when swarms of the mites come back. Luckily, the second cannon blast seals the breach off.

But we see how Superman is weaker. The cannon blast draws blood.

As I said, Jon is sort of withdrawn this whole issue. Superman can sense it.

Flying home he tries to engage Jon in some game they played when he was a boy.

I do think Jon is a pretty complicated character with a crazy timeline. As we were reminded in Infinite Horizon, Jon was born on a Convergence world. He's raised on the last Earth. He now lives in this new universe.

But more importantly, he has aged rapidly. Remember, he spent years being tortured by Ultraman but in some sort of compressed way. Superman appropriately says that Jon playing with pine cones wasn't that long ago for Clark and Lois.

While exploring that history is fine, I like to think about the smiling, happy Jon who created the UP and joined the Legion. I don't want some scared, anxious Jon. I don't want Jon suddenly suffering PTSD when Brian Michael Bendis said that Jon was able to handle it all.

But Jon is emotional. 

He doesn't like being called Superman. He doesn't want that title. His dad is Superman, not him.

Hester plays with shadows here nicely, leaning into dark thoughts, being in the shadow of Superman and the size of that.

And then this bomb drop.

Jon knows when Superman is going to die.

And it is soon. 

Now I know ... all too well ... I am old. But back in the Bronze Age, that Superboy in the Legion was kept away from such knowledge. And moreover, he had that knowledge blocked from his memory by Saturn Girl/post-hypnotic suggestion so he couldn't know this information.

No wonder Jon is so sad and withdrawn. He knows that his dad is about to die.

I don't know if I like that Jon knows this stuff.

But there is little time to rest.

The breach is back open. And Kelex knows that the first breach originated in the STAR Labs satellite.

So what do we think of STAR Labs being re-cast as an almost exclusively villainous/corrupt organization.

So off the Supers go to fight once more.

I'll have to see how this plays out.

But I don't know if I want Jon to be further traumatized and definitely don't want him villain-ized.

There is a back-up story by Sean Lewis and Sam Basri.

Metropolis is now called an Intergalactic City? I guess aliens live there now.

In this, we see an insecure Bibbo dating a gorgeous woman who turns out to be an illusion. The aliens behind this are hoping to break the spirit of the 'common man' in Metropolis and have targeted Bibbo as that person.

Great to see Jimmy as a Mr. Action investigative guy here. 

And always a fan of Basri.

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

Thanks for another insightful review. I agree, this tone is wrong for Jon; also,,it’s shouldn’t be his book. I hope that this story doesn’t drag on for ages.

Anonymous said...

Interesting interview with Phillip Kennedy Johnson at:

www . gamesradar . com /new-superman-writer-promises-world-building-at-a-level-not-seen-since-the-seminal-death-and-return-of-superman/

"Johnson: Between the two books, there will usually be one story happening on Earth, another happening in space.

"Anytime the story's on Earth, you'll be seeing a lot of Lois, Jon, and Kara, with plenty of appearances by other familiar characters."


Martin Gray said...

Cheers for the link, TN, I can see me enjoying the Earth stories more than the space ones... I like dialogue! And we have the promise of Kara.

kenkraly2004 said...

Great review Anj. Superman #29 a good starting on point for the man of steel post Infinite Frontier #0 artwork great and the story I liked and Phillip Kennedy Johnson has a good feel for the character. He gets Clark as a character

Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

So glad to hear that Supergirl will be here!

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

I agree, John shouldn't know the exact date of his father's death.

Good nexs for the Kent family, i can't wait to see their adventure on eart.

Steve said...

I saw an interview with the writer t oo and he said we'd see world building better than anything going back to Death of Superman (I paraphrase). Already dissatisfied with his writing to date, this had me decide to check out. A noob boasting he'll be better than anyone, especially as he's following Bendis is just too big a turn off, especially with how I don't like his stuff to date.

Anonymous said...

The Bibbo story was infinitely better, it reminded me of the old Superman Family adventures issues. Not excited at all about the Infinite Frontier and the "new" continuations of the current issues.

At least Superman and Lois is good, so there's that.