Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Review: Son Of Superman; Part 3

I begin the last week of 2021 by completing my review of the 1991 Elseworld's OGN Son of Superman.  As I have said before, I find it interesting that 30 years ago, a Jon Kent, left-leaning and politically active, picks up the mantle of Superman. That story is playing out in comics now. 

This was a 100 page giant so the review was split in three, Part 1 and Part 2 are up earlier this month.

The thing is after rereading this, I wonder if this should have been something more. Who knows if DC was interested in trying a longer mini-series back in 1991. But some of the bigger topics here - the differences between Jon and Clark's views of the world, the role of media and influence, a corporate run America - they're all just scratched at here. I would have liked to read more.

But give writers Howard Chaykin and Dave Tischman some credit here. They sprint to the finish line but in an impressive way. They introduce a lot of concepts and character beats here so most of the characters feel fully formed. If I want more, that is a good sign.

The art is detailed and slick by JH Williams. I like his take on Jon's costume and the new-look JLA suits. The action is energetic. And the page layouts are innovative and engaging.

Hope you liked this book as much as I liked reviewing it.

The Justice League is compromised on this world. J'onn is working with Lex who is planning a corporate takeover of the government.

Meanwhile Batman has discovered that Wonder Woman is supplying the 'Supermen', a terrorist group trying to bring about economic equality, with Amazonian tech.

Batman is in Diana's bedroom skulking, trying to see if she gives him any concrete evidence. In classic Chaykin style, she is of course, in a bit of undress. And Batman keeps watching.

I like this interaction a lot, showing the murkiness of this world. Diana has watched the haves move away from the have nots. Her mission in Man's World isn't moving forward. So she decides to join in with these known killers.

It is a little oily how easily our heroes like Diana and Jon fall in with these guys. But this is also a world where Kyle and Wally are happy to collect a paycheck for their heroism and J'onn works for Lex. This is a world of heroes with feet of clay.

Clark has been awakened after being captured and doesn't recognize the world he is in.

Meanwhile Jon is trying to right the wrongs he perceives in the way the world is now.

It leads to a lot of awkward silence.

That is until Lois tells them to snap out of it. No matter the world, Lois doesn't take any nonsense.

But this is a Chaykin comic, so of course she is wearing hosiery with seams.

One thing that I have been hoping for in the current Superman: Son of Kal-El is to see some sort of discourse. There, writer Tom Taylor is showing us one side of the political landscape and showing it in the simplest terms.

Here Clark and Jon decide they need to work together to stop what is happening. The Arizona lab Superman was being held in literally disappears off the map. Jon assumes it must be 'big government' covering something up. Clark assumes it is Luthor.

Both think the other is naive. 

I bet if this was an ongoing we would see a lot of this clash.

Meanwhile, the warring factions of the Luthors and the Supermen come to an odd ending.

Pete Ross, the head of the Supermen, the group blowing up malls demanding wealth be shared, decides to sell the group and all its technology to Lex Luthor for $200 million. 

So much for the virtues and impregnable ideals!

With the Supermen threat done, Lex goes to work on Superman.

He has some 'fake news' drummed up of Superman destroying the Statue of Liberty. With the public thinking he is out of control, the League decides they need to bring in the Man of Steel. 

That is, the League except Batman.

In a nice change of pace from current comics, the World's Finest fall into an easy team-up. It's time to bring all the unjust to face justice.

The line Bruce says about 'beating the living daylights' out of people is pure Chaykin. He has used that, even had Batman say it, in any number of books. 

So we get this nice splash page from Williams of the folks who actually seem to be the least compromised heading into battle. 

And since they are shedding the shackles of whatever has held them back in the current world, Batman and Superman put on their old school togs.

Sweet page.

The sides get even blurrier. On one side is J'onn, Wally, and Kyle.
On the other side is Batman, Superman, and Superman. But then Diana decides to join the World's Finest.

Look at how wide eyed Jon is as he sees treachery face off against righteousness. Maybe he realizes he is on one of these sides.

How I wish we got more of this. It would be great to see the somewhat inexperienced Jon learn about the 'real world' and how he has to work within it.

Superman and J'onn square off. But Clark points out that while J'onn is an outsider, he is an adopted son.

A blow from Superman incapacitates J'onn to the point that his McAvoy cowboy identity shows. Now the truth about J'onn's involvement with Luthor is out in the open.

J'onn rationalizes it by saying his help kept Clark alive. But when you lie with dogs, you get fleas.

Great page layout and panels from Williams here. 

While Batman and Diana deal with Aquaman and the rest of the League, Jon heads straight for Luthor.

In what is not surprising given all we have read before about Lex experimenting on Superman;s DNA, Luthor has some powers now.

I just love this panel where we see Lex floating. The wind blowing, his big smile, the airship in the background ... it all works showing how confident Lex is, how above it all he thinks he is.

That is simply Luthor.

Turns out he isn't that powerful though.

Jon buries him pretty easily.

Lex is brought to justice.

As is Pete. 

Lana was pure to the cause as was Diana. 

So Pete is brought in too.

So there is nothing left but the wrap-up as well as hints on what could have been had there been more story to tell.

Clark and Jon head to Smallville which is now a bustling town. Things have changed.

Maybe it is time for these two to talk about their differences and come to understand each other. They also need to learn what Superman means in this new world. 

How I wish we got later discussions between these two. 

And more of this.

Superman the elder decides he'll retire and enjoy a nice life with the again raven-haired Lois. 

These two deserve some happiness.

And seeing some latter day Mr &Mrs Superman stories would be awesome.

And Clark can retire because Jon has taken over.

I have to say this was a fun little Elseworlds. It is very Chaykin, intelligent and thought provoking. It's beautiful to look at. I wish there was a sequel!

Thanks for letting me take a look back at this book and its theme playing out in comics today. 

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

The betrayal of John is something very heartbreaking here but somehow, out of all the things in this book, seems to have been the most resonant thing with the writters at DC, always putting J'onn against Clark with his "but we're both aliens yet you chose them over me" idea not realising why J'onn did it in the first place and why Clark replied with "I'm an adopted son". Though Diana starting the ruckus with the JLA is just hilarious given the attitude the "Ambassador of Love and Peace in Man's world" would soon take in almost every iteration of hers. Make me chuckle to this day.

The whole series was really good and it seems that out of the entire comment section of the blog, in all my years here, I'm the only guy who liked that elseworld. Ah well. I liked the ending as well, a masterful passing of the torch and the passing of the times and one of the very few times Clark felt physically human which is something I liked. He might be Earth's Superman but he's also Smallville's Clark Kent and Krypton's Kal-El and those last two are very vulnerable physically and would have probably liked to take it easier after they had a kid, just like both their dads did. It's a nice nod. It's not the Superpowers and super stamina that make Superman, it's the convinction and the strong morals and that's what's passed on to the next generation with John. Even with those boots.

As for a sequel, it shouldn't get one. An adaptation is one thing but it did what it needed and told a great story just like The Dark Knight did for Batman. There's no need to continue it because it would miss the point. I know comics and bandee-desines are meant to be endless, mostly due to corporate rather than artistic wishes but this stopped at a good place and I'm happy for it. I'm tired of an infinite jerking around good characters that have to be in with the new trends. Superman is Superman here and Jon is Jon and that's great. It's why I liked Batman Beyond and Spider-man 2099 after all.

At some point, you have to pass the torch or risk dwelling into really heavy subjects and sadly, comics never wanted to do that. Even in comics that try to deal with the idea of Superman aging so slowly and making all of Earth into a half-kryptonian paradise due to the spreading of kryptonian DNA from his descendants, even then the comics make it happy or with Superman 1.000.000 and so on. And that's because unfortunately both the writers, editors and their audience, don't want to see that kind of far-off story. They don't want to hear the narrator say "Siblings, lovers, spouses...humans live in peace thanks to these strong bonds. But such love is not allowed for Superman(as an example). For the superhero Superman, a dark and lonely battle with the forces of all evil and no end in sight is all that awaits him, tomorrow." and be reminded that the hero either needs to fight the crime all their life or end it and get married to have kids. But both the readers and the editors want their cake and eat two of them and it's why stories are so watered down and rebooted and characters miander these days.

Rant over. Thanks for this review and here's hoping we get to revisit some merrier and a bit sillier Super Sons content in the future, even from the Silver Age.

Anj said...

Thanks for the great comment and commentary.

I liked this one more when I tread it this time than I think I did when it first came out.

Definitely worth a reread, so glad I did it.

Chaykin has a particular touch which I think you either like or don't like. I think his stuff is pretty solid so I always find something worthwhile.