Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Back Issue Box: Son Of Superman; Part 2

Last week I presented the first part of Son of Superman, an Elseworlds super-sized trade from 1991.

I bought this off the shelf but haven't read it in forever so it has felt very new to me. In fact, I specifically split the book into thirds and have each section separately. So I haven't finished it yet! It will all be a surprise. 

I decided to review this Chaykin, Tischman, William, Loughridge product because it echoed what is happening in comics now. In it, Jon Kent, the son of Superman, has taken on the mantle and is much more of a social conscious here than his father. 

Chaykin and Tischman never shied away from controversy or pushing boundaries. Chaykin in particular writes complicated characters. No one here comes across as completely pure. So seeing Jon skew left and even linking himself to some questionable characters is no surprise. Having Superman skew a little right is no surprise either.

What is interesting is how the writers make lots of other characters be varying shades of gray for the political sides operating on Earth in this 'future world' from 1991.

JH Williams art is gorgeous throughout. Again, this is a mix of moments of personal reflection as well as high action. Williams brings it all together beautifully. There is one scene with the Justice League that really shines. 

On to the middle section of the book. It is interesting to me that this 100 page story has very obvious story breaks on page 33 and 66, making this breakdown easy for me. But almost too easy ... I wonder if this was meant to be a 3 issue mini-series instead of being packaged like this.

Our first part ended with Jon joining the terrorist group The Supermen in invading a presumed government secret lab in Arizona. 

The battle-armored Pete Ross and Lana Lang join Jon in invading the place. The cowboy McAvoy gets shocked unconscious. 

And then, surprising no one, Jon finds his father in a stasis tube. 

For what it's worth, the surprise that Superman is alive is said on the back cover. Spoiler alert!

Jon grabs his father and takes off with him while Pete and Lana hold of troops and retreat themselves.

It is the standard issue, heavy tubed, green-tinged stasis tube.

Lana and Pete snipe at each other a bit. What good is freeing Superman if he takes off before you can talk to him.

But they did grab intel from the place. It is, unfortunately, encoded in Kryptonian. Lana knows there is another place they can find some help in translating this. It's Smallville.

Perhaps this is because it is a Chaykin book but Lana is extremely fetching, maybe outright sexy in this book. Here she is doing all her terrorist hacking in a bikini.

Now I might remind you that these are middle-aged folks as years have passed since Superman went missing. Pete looks like he is in his late 50s. Lana looks like a 20 year old. 

One thing that I have really liked about this series is the use of media as both a tool for exposition as well as showing how it can be used to twist the news. 

Here the news says the attack by the Supermen was on a CDC site and that they have absconded with Ebola and Anthrax spores.

Now I don't know about you but I think the Supermen blowing up malls and killing innocent shoppers is bad enough. I don't think you need to make up stuff about them.  

As for Jon, he brought Superman back to the Kent home. 

Remember, Superman has been missing for pretty much all of Jon's life. So his being back is completely awkward for everyone, but especially Lois. 

Finally Jon sits them down and the weirdness and time melts away when they both say he is like the other.

Great splash page here with Lois and Clark reunited and feeling so good. Great hug, great lack of background to focus on them, great image. Love Jon being all goofy as he looks at the love of his parents.

Superman being alive might not have been a surprise.

But McAvoy, the six gun packing cowboy in the employ of Lex Luthor, turning out be the Martian Manhunter? Now that is a surprise!

Why use guns? Why not try and stop Jon and the Supermen instead of running? Why working for Luthor?

So many questions.

But it shows that in this world of the future, there is a lot of gray. Even the Justice League is sort of compromised.

Thankfully, Chaykin has Superman dress down Pete and Lana for sullying his name.

He never gave them permission to use his name to promote the obvious terrorist group that they are. 

Lana says the world is different but that is a slim excuse to be killing people who aren't responsible for the plight they are fighting.

So much for saving their hero. They decide to cut off the electronic communication rather than be yelled at by Superman.

What is disappointing is Jon calling out Superman for that response.

Jon can't understand why Clark can't see that the world is different and heroes need to fight differently. Clark does himself no favors by saying that with crime down and order up, Jon should be happy. 

Hmmm, hard line order is a fascist line. Jon even calls him an Ubermensch! Oof!! Is this what Dan Didio thought of Superman?

Still, despite how noble the Supermen's idea of wealth equity might be, Jon shouldn't be so supportive of this group. I mean we saw just earlier in this book that they killed 15 people in a bomb strike.

But again, it shows just how gray everything is here.

Would Tom Taylor have his Jon back someone who bombed the rich? Or looted? Because more than ever, there are the haves and the have nots.

Surprisingly, Luthor is pretty happy with Superman being back and wants to push him back onto the Justice League quickly.

And Superman does join, even adopting the black garb of the new league.

Here he almost singlehandedly stops a tsunami from demolishing a city.

I love that second image of Superman, so close to my image of him. Smiling, saving the day, sun beaming behind him, hands on hips. Perfect.

I keep bringing up how what is good and what is evil is tricky in this new world. No one seems pure. There is a lot of gray. And there is a ton of deception.

You thought J'onn working for Luthor was crazy?

How about Batman discovering that Wonder Woman is supplying Amazonium metal to the Supermen to build their armor?

The League seems more like a figurehead, a phony symbol of safety for people as the political powers feast on the common person. Now we see that even within the League, the heroes are picking sides.

Remember when Lana said she knew something which could help her decode the Kryptonian information in the Arizona base? Well she had Pete head to Smallville and dig up the rocket Kal came to Earth in.

Using that hard drive, Lana is able to translate the data. It turns out that this wasn't a government installation at all. It was a Luthor installation. And it wasn't just a prison. Luthor was running experiments on Superman's DNA. 

Hmm ...

Luthor playing with Superman's DNA?

So the Arizona installation wasn't a government base. it was Luthor site.

But then we learn that the lines between those two things is blurred.

Luthor owns America.

I like this Luthor, the perfect mix of evil scientist and ruthless businessman. 

I told you that the book has some pretty clear break points.

Disgusted by the corporate nature of the League now, Superman heads to his Fortress.

He finds it completely empty, robbed. Someone has taken everything. 

This is another great shot of Superman and a nice contrast to that angelic one earlier. On this splash page is looks completely alone and almost defeated. The sun is a spotlight on him but he is small on the page. It shows how empty the rest of the space is making him look small.  Great page.

And a nice place to hit pause.

So we have a League which works 9 to 5. Wonder Woman helping the Supermen. J'onn helping Luthor. Clark and Jon both good people but on different sides of the political spectrum (although seem pretty centrist to me). 

As always, Chaykin brings an intelligence to the proceedings. The art is fantastic.

What did you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jon and Clark are also two differently educated and nurtured people as well, centrist as the may be, skews and all. Jon is a different generation from Clark and Clark is out of time and out of place due to being in the tubes.Jon tries to save the world while being Jon while Clark is trying to catch up to everything he left behind and that's where his ideals are tested : he's treating the world as he did back then but he has lost so much from that time.

Superman in the fortress isn't just a page of defeat, it's a age of the passage of time, a time that left Superman behind, a cruel reminder that all are left behind. But if Clark can bounce back from that, if he can still hold to the core of his ideals, he will triumph even the passage of time and that's why the splash page is so good. A lot of things in the book work within tthe story but they also work on a great metacontextual level but for the human nature.