Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Review: Superman & Robin Special #1

One of the best things that I feel came out of DC Rebirth was the introduction of a tween Jon Kent and his subsequent friendship with Damian Wayne. The Super Sons was always a great read as it was sort of World's Finest Lite, with the differing personalities of the sons adding nice fodder for plot and characterization. Under the writing of Peter Tomasi, we got to see the two boys grow, learn to respect each other, and get into wild hijinks. 

Brian Michael Bendis took over the Superman books and in the midst of that run had Jon age up about 6 years. This wasn't an instant aging. Jon was stuck in another dimension where he was tortured for what felt like 6 years. Back in the main DCU, only months passed. Suddenly we had a near Superman. Unfortunately that meant that it wouldn't be easy to have anymore Super Sons books. While we did get another mini-series, it was a flashback. You can only go to the well so often that way. And it was a shame because I loved those Sons books.

Last week, Peter Tomasi got one more bite at the apple, coming out with Superman & Robin Special #1, a team-up between Jon and Damian, now in their current DCU forms. In some ways, it reads a little sad because both Jon and Damian realize that maybe it'll be a little weird to hang out like they used to. In some ways it is confusing, as Tomasi includes some dialogue that seems off-continuity or not just right. In some ways it is nostalgic as Tomasi references things he put into his Superman run which his now several years old. But in many ways, it read like a Super Sons story filled with crazy twists and wild action. As such, I enjoyed this.

Add to that the art by New Super-Man artist Viktor Bogdanovic. The boys looks great. The action is wild. And everything flows very well. There is some big action here as well as some quieter emotional scenes. They all shine on the page.

On to the book and the particulars. 

We start with Jon at home watching a silly kids' television show and having cereal for dinner. Lois thinks it is okay for him to act as a kid now and then. After all, for her, she missed 8 years of his aging. She still thinks of him as a kid. She feels like part of his life was stolen from her.

It is a good moment and one of the things that I feel has been sort of glossed over a bit in the current world. If Jon was 10 when he was captured by Ultraman and was tortured for 8 years, it is hard to think he would come out of that experience unscarred. It is even stranger to think that he would grow emotionally and intellectually while stagnant in the volcano he was marooned on. At least the topic is touched on here.

But I don't think Tomasi is saying Jon is a 10yr old trapped in an 18yr old body. Because Jon did spend 8 years trapped. And I have to empathize with Jon. Occasionally (or maybe more than occasionally), I am also watching some silly kids' show and eating cereal for dinner.

Lois leaves and suddenly Jon finds Damian there. Robin had left a signal device in the Fortress which is showing something odd is happening there. Maybe the two should go investigate.

I love that the sons called their patrolling 'World's Finest night'. That is pretty cool.

I also really like the way Bogdanovic draws Robin. He definitely looks like a scrawny kid next to the beefier and older Jon. 

Damian climbs into a waiting Bat battlesuit to fly to the Arctic with Jon.

En route, the two talk about their current relationships with their father. Clark is, of course, in deep space and unavailable. Batman and Damian seem to be estranged. (I don't read Batman so if anyone has context, I'd love it.)

But both wish they could talk to their fathers more. 

Again, these two are very different. But they also have a lot in common and can learn and grow from each other.

I also like that Damian is much more the child here, leering over Kandor and claiming himself Sun God as a joke. It is Jon who has to be the adult and tell him to stop it.

I had forgotten about the Kandor Compromise. We are going back to Batman/Superman #8 where two different Kandors exist with Zod getting half the populace to care for on his off world.

So what was it that triggered Damian's alarm. The time cube which Tomasi had used in his Dinosaur Island stories during his Superman run has gone off and has somehow brought this bat-demon with it.

Interestingly enough, this things is growing and aging over the course of minutes. The boys have a hard time corralling it.

I think Tomasi may have been trying to create some sort of resonance between Jon aging and this thing aging rapidly but I never quite got it. Very well designed by Bogdanovic. It is monstrous.

The boys ultimately have to retreat. And then Jon drops a bomb. This thing is going to reproduce. And if it continues to age as rapidly as it is, it won't be able to care for its child. 

I don't know if I needed the baby part of the plot to add another layer of complexity to the proceedings. But here we are.

Remember this is a Super Sons sort of book which means things can get weird and fun. 

The time cube again opens up a portal, this time bringing in Nazis from WWII. (You may recall that the cube brought the Losers from WWII to Dinosaur Island in the prior stories.)

I love the glee Damian has when he sees a target he is more than happy to beat up.

Now don't ask my why Jon feels compelled to get into a Kryptonian battlesuit but we get a couple of big spreads of giant robos kicking Nazi tail. Too much fun. And these big splashes are well constructed and super-frenzied by Bogdanovic.

With the Nazis forced back through the portal, the sons hear a faint cry. The baby has been born. 

Rather than engage in more fighting, the sons show no threat of harm and send this thing through another portal, hopefully back to where and when it came from.

But for me the best part of the book was this end scene. Damian doesn't strike me as someone who has many friends. And Jon aging basically took Damian's best friend away from him. 

The two admit they miss hanging out together. 

I have to say I go back in forth in my own mind if the aging of Jon was a good idea. Sure it gave us Superboy and the Legion for a brief moment in time. But it robbed us of all the Sons stories that could come from a young Jon working with Damian. Of course, we now have a Superman book starring Jon, a new young woke hero. So we get those stories.

Was Jon's aging worth it? I guess we'll have to wait and see. 

Still, I am glad Tomasi and Bogdanovic got this special, a sort of epilogue of all the Super Sons stories that came before.

Overall grade: B+


Bostondreams said...

Robin has been away on his own personal journey over in his book, taking part in an a huge hero and villain MMA tournament and essentially fighting his extended al-Ghul family. The falling out with his father (and brothers!) came after it was revealed he was running a secret prison while leading the Titans. Sigh. Comics.

Martin Gray said...

I loved this, it’s the closest we can have to the original Super Sons, and Tomasi and Bogdanovic nailed it. More please!

Steve said...

Tomasi's stories only worked by ignoring how much of an evil little shit Damian is. With him going full on super villain in Teen Titans and elsewhere it was hard for me to read Super Sons. I kept on expecting the rest of the line's vile Robin to act up.

Anonymous said...

Such a nice reminder of how dumb it was to age Jon up the way they did. Super Sons was great.