Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #5

Superman Son of Kal-El #5 came out this week, the famous kiss issue where we learn that Jon Kent is bisexual. The reveal was announced last month and was met with the standard publicity buzz. Seems like every pundit on every news outlet had an opinion.

And yes, that kiss happens in this issue. But part of me wonders if there is an aspect to this kiss yet revealed. Even before the sexuality of Jay/Jon was revealed, I felt Jay was something more nefarious than a liberal do-gooder in college. This issue ups the ante on that. Would DC every have the guts to make one of their first bisexual characters and Jon's first same-sex love a villain?? More on this later.

My biggest problem with this book has been the sort of superficial way writer Tom Taylor has been handling the real-life political issues he is having Jon fight. The real difficult parts of these scenarios are left unexplored and happening off panel. This issue is no different. Jon zooms to the rescue but he might be making more problems than he is anticipating. Or Taylor has to think that his readers are content with the feel good moment without thinking of the real life repercussions of his actions. Either way isn't good and why a relentlessly 'ripped from the headlines' super-hero comic can quickly become preachy, ridiculous, or both. In particular, one thing Jon does strikes close to home and probably would make a bad situation worse.

As for the art, no concerns about John Timms who continues to just bring his action and style to the proceedings. I have liked Timms since his stint on Harley so he is welcome here.

On to the book. 

Last issue, Jon invaded Gamorra to confront President Bendix. 

The evil dictator lashed out, hitting Jon with some weapon which made his powers go out of control.

Here we learn what happened. Jon was hit with a localized solar flare which super-juices his body.

I like the concept. We saw a version of this form of attack in All-Star Superman. And even in the triangle era Superman there was an arc where he needed the Parasite to drain the excess energy from his body. 

It isn't necessarily an attack. But a super-charged Jon is taking in everything his vision and hearing is sending his brain. And that means he can use this energy to run around and save everyone's day.

The first thing he does is scoop up the burning man Bendix used as bait and rescue him, dropping him off with Wally in Keystone City.

Now I am sure that in the comic, Wally gets him to STAR labs and all is well. But we have seen this guy go nova when he is stressed. Isn't there a chance that something like that could happen here? I know Jon gives Wally a heads up. But everything has risks and benefits. Isn't Jon, in some ways, endangering Keystone by dropping this guy off there without taking care of him completely.

Regardless, Jon is off to the races. He saves a lost girl. He stops a reporter from being kidnapped. One super-feat after another.

Now this encounter left me shaking my head and is the exact sort of 'let me make a real life problem seem easy to fix' sort of scene that has bothered me.

In Hub City, the hospital is overwhelmed. Ambulances are stacked up outside. One single doctor is seen crying and at a loss outside the ED. So what does Jon do? He flies all the ambulances from Hub City to Metropolis General.

Okay, from a distance, Jon is helping an overcrowded hospital and maybe saving lives. That is the easy thing.

But is Metropolis General so open they can take these patients? What if they are also overcrowded? What if one of the patient's in the ambulance was a complicated patient whose entire care is at Hub City? What if Dr. Edwards is overreacting and the hospital has initiated emergency measures to deal with the influx? What if the city has activated their emergency measures so other more local hospitals will start receiving the ambulance flow?

Trust me .. this one is ripe with problems. 

But when you put a complex real world problem like hospital over-crowding into a comic with a flying man it all seems so easy.

The super-charging does have this weird effect on Jon though. He is out of control with his souped up abilities. But he is also exhausted from having expended so much.

Here he rescues someone who was going to be hit by an oncoming truck. But in the process, he breaks the person's arm. 

Run ragged, Jon realizes he might need to slow down.

But again he is off before any real consequences can play out on the page. Does this guy threaten to sue him? Or maybe thank him because a broken arm is better than death?

And then we get Jon heading to Jay's apartment to take stock of everything that has been going on.

Now I freely admit that I often see villainous intent when there isn't any. You might remember me as the guy who thought that Shay Veritas was a villain in waiting. (She never did don the black hat, did she?)

Anyways, there is something about Jay which just feels off. Remember he sought out Jon at the college. He was right there when that school shooter attacked. He has immediately brought Jon into the fold of his ambitions.

And here, the 'you can't do what you do without the world's trust' sounds almost ominous. Like maybe he is prepping Jon to do something awful knowing that Jon has garnered enough social clout to get away with it. You can't go and assassinate President Bendix for example if you already look 'out of control' breaking people's arms.

I don't know. That line seemed heavy.

Jay also has sound-proof headphones that allow Jon to sleep for 9 hours. But this is a mega-charged Jon. I don't know if the hearing that let him hear problems all over the globe could be shielded by something bought off Amazon. It's another red flag.

And then this 2 panel sequence which happens right before the big kiss splash.

'I'm the one person in the world you don't have to worry about' is said because Jay can phase and Jon can't hurt him.

But check out the mesmerizing green swirls behind Jay as he stares into Jon's eyes and says this. In comic book parlance, that sort of background screams hypnosis and psionic nudging. And if you make worry mean 'you can trust me to do what's right' and not 'you can't hurt me', it could be that Jay is trying to convince Jon to listen to all he asks for. Because, you don't have to worry about my motives.

I know. It would be gutsy .. I mean GUTSY ... for DC to make him a villain.

But even this panel.

After the kiss, Jay says they have to start their plot against Bendix.

Not, we have to start educating people about the injustices in Gamorra. He doesn't say 'we need to use our platform to air our grievances'. He says they are plotting against him.

You know, like the Joker plots against Batman. And Jon's repetition even sounds like someone conditioned.

I know ... I know ... it can't be true can it? What do you all think?

To be honest, of everything that happened in this book from the kiss to the weird Jay stuff, the hospital vignette is the one that I keep replaying. It just isn't that simple. And this sort of lackadaisical approach to real-life issues weighs heavy on me.

Overall grade: C+


Martin Gray said...

Well thank goodness it isn’t just me. It seems people who have looked at this issue can’t get beyond the joy of representation and notice the details which, let’s face it, aren’t exactly hidden. I don’t trust Jay for one minute. Just so long as Jon is actually bisexual, there should be nothing wrong with DC showing a bad guy willing to exploit that… it’s a mind controller making Jon think he’s bi that would be dodgy. Mind, the majority of commentators wouldn’t acknowledge the distinction.

Martin Gray said...

I forgot to say, I love an overpowered super-person, the first time I remember is Superman #321 with that amazing Garcia-Lopez cover, but it must have been done previously

Dick McGee said...

"Okay, from a distance, Jon is helping an overcrowded hospital and maybe saving lives. That is the easy thing."

You may be right about them trivializing the complexity of the problem, but maybe some of the issues you raise aren't really there? If Jon's senses are so amped up and he's processing all the input effectively he should already know whether Metropolis can take the influx, or whether Hub City has started "emergency measures" and how long those will take to work. That sort of superhuman awareness and calculation is well within established Kryptonian abilities, as much so as carrying a bunch of ambulances at super-speed to a distant city - and you didn't question that part of it for a second. Kryptonians are grossly OP, even today. Silver Age ones were even sillier, with a superpower for every occasion when the writer felt like it.

OTOH I do wonder whether Jon is going to fly all those ambulances back when they've offloaded, a process that can take hours at the best of times (although I suppose they might skimp on the usual paperwork here). If not, is Hub City lacking most of its local ambulances until they can drive all the way back from Metropolis?

Anj said...

To think that Jon has the supersenses to understand hospital workflow is a stretch for even Silver Age Superman.

But I didn't think about the ambulance issue. Yet another problem.

Anonymous said...

Another problem is that I think the bridge Jon used for the airlift would have collapsed when held the way Jon was holding it in its middle. Perhaps what we didn't see is that Jon was zipping at super-speed back-and-forth along every inch of the bridge to support every spot of it before it started to break apart. We'd have to ask an engineer how many milliseconds it takes for sections of a bridge to collapse. Not many I would suspect. (I'm sure Timms would have loved to have drawn that super-speed image, though, if it was intended.)

I was skeptical on Martin's review, but I think I'm being persuaded, that there is something potentially off with Jay, or the way he is going about things. I was ignoring the green swirls even though Martin mentioned them too, but you observed in addition the way Jon repeated the line about plotting against Bendix. Which adds to the suspicion. These could be red herrings and not clues, though.

I like Wink and The Aerie, Jay's friends. They've done heroic things, and I believe they may have made appearances outside of Taylor's books? So I came to trust those associates, though it's certainly true that the Revolutionaries went about things their own way. Maybe Jay is exerting influence on them too.

Happy Thanksgiving to anyone in the US.


Mart said...


Anj, Anj, Anj...

Oh well, you're almost convinced TN! Think of me and the good doctor as a tag team!

Aerie and Wink have appeared in, I think, DCeased, but that's also Tom Taylor.

Anonymous said...

Martin! I found your studies in this area of research to be foundational and indispensable.

I did a search and found the appearance I knew I'd seen somewhere. The Aerie and Wink appear in several panels in Andrew Wheeler's story "Love Life" in "DC Pride." They are part of the Justice League Queer that shows up to help Jackson Hyde defeat Eclipso. I believe it's considered in-continuity, and since JLQ participated in the DC Round Robin contest, maybe they will have a series at some point. I think all competitors probably will, eventually. The winner, "Robins," is underway right now.

The team includes Wink and The Aerie, Apollo and Midnighter, Traci 13, Batwoman, Crush, Steel (Natasha), Bunker and some others I don't recognize, but the DC Fandom wiki shows the full roster also includes Extrano, The Ray, Shining Knight, Tasmanian Devil, and Tremor.

Ah - you reviewed the book and liked that story.


Martin Gray said...

I did, but my memory is the proverbial sieve. For example, I know there’s another JLQ story soon, but I can’t remember where!

Anonymous said...

Just happened to stumble on it - an Andrew Wheeler story in the upcoming "'Tis the Season to be Freezin'" winter anthology, drawn by Meghan Hetrick. There's no extra charge for apostrophes or quotation marks.

Looks like a fun book - including teamups with Mr. Freeze, Killer Frost, and Captain Cold, but who are Polar Boy and Blue Snowman? Guess I'll let myself be surprised.