Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #4

Hey all, thanks for patience while I was on vacation! I am back and will start chipping away at the backlog.

I thought I'd start with Superman, Son of Kal-El #4, the latest in the new series documenting Jon Kent's adventures while wearing his father's mantle. This was also the first issue released after the upcoming reveal that Jon is bisexual was released. 

I actually liked this issue a lot. It was probably the strongest of the title so far as it played up both Jon's taking up the mantle and showed how well his father taught him to care for people. I loved the interaction with the Justice Leaguers. And in particular, I liked a scene he had with Lois.

Writer Tom Taylor has shown he is going to make this a comic about a super-hero fighting liberal social issues and I have complained about the easy way he is showing on side of these problems, leaving the scene just when things could get muddy. In this issue, we see the same unfortunately. I wonder if this Taylor setting Jon up for a fall. We'll see. That would be gutsy.

The art is by Daniele Di Nicuolo, a name I don't think I have seen before. He is within a stone's throw of John Timms art, the style similar, although his veers a bit more into manga. 

On to the book. 

Last issue ended when Faultline, the unwitting agent of Gamorra, was dropped on the Kent Farm like a gravity bomb. 

We saw the farm destroyed on last issue's cliffhanger. Sure enough, it really happens.

But like any good cliffhanger in old time serials, we start this issue a few seconds before that ending. Jon has sensed the danger, felt the ripples of the approaching human bomb, and tried to gather up Ma, Pa, and Jay.

But Jay seems to be able to go intangible. We learn he is post-human. He can phase. 

Is that an interesting twist? A crazy coincidence? 

Remember, Jay just happened to be standing next to Jon when the school shooter attacked. He suddenly got the ear to the S-shield? Has Jay been stalking Jon, setting this all up? It would be daring if that is where this is going.

The Justice League shows up to the defend the Kent Farm. Hippolyta gets tossed away by the mega-gravity powers of Faultline. 

Before Flash can suffer a similar trouncing, Jon steps between the speedster and the villain. 

I like how even though Faultline has destroyed his family's home and battered a super-hero, he still knows she isn't a villain. She isn't a deliberate threat.

He definitely is a caring hero.

Even here, I like how he is forgiving of Faultline who has no recollection of how she ended up there.

And I like how even Hippolyta is taken by Faultline's story. The Amazon will personally protect her.

I really have been enjoying Hippolyta in DC books. I hope Diana's return doesn't mean the Queen will step back.

I love Jon's awed declaration about the personal protection of Wonder Woman.

The anime influence seems pretty strong in Jon's expression here.

In what is my favorite moment of the book, once Faultline is taken away, Wally has a quiet moment with Jon.

He immediately reveals his secret identity. And he talk about how he is always available if Jon ever wants to talk about trying to fill the big shoes of a legacy hero.

Jon is still new to all this and pretty much a solo agent. So I hope he takes Wally up on his offer. And how great for Wally to step up and be so open and available. That is pure Wally.

This was a great little sequence.

The Kents take the destruction of their farmhouse remarkably in stride, almost shrugging like it is part of the job.

I am glad that Taylor pauses to show us how this effected Jon a bit more. We get this splash page of Jon's memories in this place. He calls it 'his fortress', a place he probably felt very safe given the love we see in this montage.

Something like this would have a bigger impact on someone younger and newer to the business of super-heroics.

Later, Jon and Jay catch up with The Aerie and Twink, two characters from Taylor's Suicide Squad run.

It seems Jay is from Gamorra and was experimented on. That is how, like Faultline and the fire person from the beginning of this series, he obtained his powers. It is how the Aerie and Twink got their powers. And, as proof, they have 'years of research' they show Jon proving how Gamorra is stockpiling post-humans.

They want President Bendix taken down for these atrocities. Now that Superman has saved those Gamorran refugees, the Kents are being targeted by the Gamorran government.

So let me see. Jon just happens to meet Jay, a refugee from Gamorra. Jay feeds Jon stories about how terrible Gamorra is. And now Jon is going to battle the entire nation. It seems all too pat. If you were Jon, wouldn't you wonder if you were being set up here? Dragged into a battle?

I suppose that is why we see Jon given evidence. So that it isn't just hearsay. But I think I would start being a little suspicious here. Perhaps that is the wisdom of many years of reading comics. I doubt DC would ever have the guts to have Jay do a heel turn.

Jon brings the files to his mother who says it is interesting and most likely true but that it isn't enough to run. I suppose that is the difference between Lois at the Daily Planet and Jay at 'The Truth' website.

She warns him not to cause an international incident. But she knows he probably isn't going to listen to her.

Going after President Bendix isn't like going after The Toyman. This is serious business. And you would think Jon would listen to his experienced mother. But ...

Instead Jon goes flying to Gamorra to see Bendix and ask the President if he ordered the attack on the Kent farm. Jon is accusing Bendix of crimes.

The first panel of Jon's floating boots outside Bendix's office is evocative of Superman floating and calling out General Zod in Superman II. It is similar to him floating outside Luthor's office in the animated series.

But this isn't a super-villain who has attacked the world. And you might recall in the animated series, Superman doesn't attack Luthor, just says he is watching him. But Jon flies right in.

Don't you think that every political leader would be watching this and wondering 'is Superman coming after me next if he doesn't agree with my decisions?' Don't you think the President of the US is wondering if his next tax law, voting issue, or budget cut might meet with the ire of this 'hero'? Do you think the Supreme Court Justices are wondering if Jon might think he knows the law better?

This is why inserting politics like this into comics is tricky. Because real life isn't this easy. Jon might know that Bendix is a bad guy. But this seems foolish. In the real world, this is a mistake.

But again, Taylor takes the easy way out.

If Bendix did nothing, he could show this footage to the world and ask the other leaders 'are you next'? You could wonder what the ramification of this political overreach by Jon might be. But that might be going against the message of this book.

Instead Taylor has Bendix attack Jon, proving he is a villain. He triggers Jon's powers to overreact. Suddenly Jon is as out of control as Faultline. Okay, it is a decent cliffhanger.

I thought this issue was great up until this last scene. The early interaction with the League and Lois were all solid showing how Jon is picking up the mantle of Superman. 

I also understand the political leaning of this title and what Taylor is hoping to show. But as usual he is making this seems so easy. When things could become difficult politically or socially, Taylor changes scenes or has someone do something idiotic.

Maybe Jon will be scrutinized for this attack on a government, even an 'evil' government. Maybe Jon will wonder if he is being manipulated by Jay. Three issues ago, Jon wanted to nothing more than go to college. Now he is attacking political leaders on the other side of the world.

I know that this middle-aged man is not the target audience here. But I can hope for good story-telling. And I trust that Taylor will make politics and ambitions not seem so black and white as he has so far. That said, we are 4 issues in. I'm still waiting.

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

Excellent review, I’m still suspicious about Jay, surely he’s Bendix’s secret son! But DC having revealed Jay is the first male Jon will snog, it really is unlikely they’d reveal that he’s a bad guy.

He’s still deeply dodgy, and certainly no journalist, though.

Steve said...

Are you reading Icon? It is showing the ramifications you wish Taylor would acknowledge.