Friday, March 23, 2018

Review: Super Sons #14

 Super Sons #14 came out this week and very nicely ended the Mother's Day story in which Talia Al Ghul tries to lure Damian back to the dark side. I was very impressed with this arc as it both answered the much asked question 'Where is Talia in all this?' as well as pushing forward the characterization of both of the titular sons. As I have said in the past, the friction and differences between Jon and Damian is such fertile ground for story-telling. Writer Peter Tomasi definitely knows how to mine it!

The thing that I have liked about this is how both Jon and Damian are being influenced and inspired by the other. They come in as Batman and Superman writ small. But I wonder if this friendship and this mingling of ideas during adolescence is what is missing from the Bruce/Clark friendship. They met later on in life and in heroing career. It is, as they say, harder to teach an old dog new tricks. But here when we see Damian's rough edges being sanded down by Jon's optimism, or Jon bending the rules when necessary when nudged by Damian ... well it all works.

Carlo Barberi and Art Thibert really bring a dynamic and definitely youthful feel to the book, with zany expressions and great, sorta anime, qualities. So that jibes well too.

In the end, it just reminds me how sad it is that this book is ending.

Last issue, Talia showed up and asked Damian to embrace his birthright and come back to the League of Shadows to take his place as heir apparent. He refused.

He then discovered that Talia, financially strapped when the Leviathan Inc. crime syndicate was shattered, was now acting like a street level assassin. Her target this time? Lois Lane.

I did wonder last issue how the mighty could have fallen this far. I couldn't believe that Talia would be so shattered that she'd be working as a killer-for-hire. Tomasi answers that concern form me right out of the gate. She wants to test Damian. And the best way to do it is to lure him out under the impression that she is killing again.

How great when a story point you have problems with are answered so perfectly!

Lois is in Gotham trying to score a scoop. Talia has tracked her to a coffee shop. And the sons have tracked Lois there as well.

Even though Talia is playing the part of assassin, she is well suited for the role. If Damian won't show up, she'll still finish the contract. She shoots her high-powered rifle into the shop only to have the bullet snatched out of the air by Jon.

And then, we get these panels which just show how great the medium of comics is. The idea that in one second Talia's scope is empty and in the next Damian fills the view, his foot about to connect is great visually story-telling. Simple and effective.

The book then basically splits into two parts.

On the rooftop, Damian and Talia brawl while having a heart to heart. She is dismayed at how far he has 'fallen'. He should be living the life of an Al Ghul, killing those who stand against him and working towards world domination. Batman is holding him back. She wants him to reach his potential. Hmmm ... interesting take if you believe the cold-blooded killer.

There is something chilling about her saying that Batman 'thinnned' their blood line. For one, it reeks of old school elitism, of powerful families thinking their bloodline alone is the reason for success. But more, how crazy narcissistic do you need to be to think that the freaking Batman, with all he has accomplished, has diminished your family! That line struck me.

Meanwhile, Talia has sent out a squad of ninjas to fight Jon and finish the Lois killing.

Superboy must still be a relative unknown to the public at large. As he is skirmishing with the ninjas, a woman comes to try to save him! He ultimately has to save her.

What I love and have always loved about Jon is how excited and, well, kid-like he is in his adventuring. Earlier, when he grabbed Talia's shot out of the air, he joked about being 'faster than a speeding bullet'. Here, he seems to be trying to come up with a slogan ... 'Evil beware when your name ..." (I think that is supposed to be 'your'.) It is fun and awesome. I wonder how long he has been writing in his notebook in school various catchphrases.

But the jig is up. Lois catches him. He is out on a school night, in Gotham, fighting ninjas. He is in deep trouble.

I love this exchange though. She asks him 'what are you supposed to be?' feigning she doesn't know him while with the person she is interviewing. In a very familiar and familial answer, he says 'a friend.' How Donner-riffic!

And she smiles at that response. Maybe that shaved some time off of his impending punishment?

Meanwhile, the brawl continues between mother and son. They seem pretty evenly matched.

Her talk is pretty cold though. Damian throws a knife which misses her head by millimeters and she almost chastises him not killing her, saying it is such a 'Bruce move'. And then she lays him out with a straight kick to the gut.

Imagine criticizing your child because he didn't kill you. That is messed up.

However, she must have seen what she needed to. She leaves saying she is confident that he will eventually come back to her. And he makes her swear to leave Lois alone.

It all ends rather abruptly to be honest. There wasn't anything in particular I heard or saw from Damian that made me think she would feel that way enough to end the fight. But still, it shows just how malevolent she is and just how far he has come.

Last issue it looked like Jon might be put off on being friends with Damian knowing that he was raised to be an assassin. I wondered why Damian has never really said he hates that aspect of his past, or is ashamed of it.

And then Tomasi answers that story question for me. The boys are going to go their separate ways when Damian calls Jon back. Damian says outright that he isn't proud of his upbringing. He has learned he can be better. But for me, the thing that stuck out the most, was his calling Jon by the nickname 'J'. There is something human about that, something friendly and normal. It means Jon has got through to him a little.

This book is such a great and entertaining title. I love these two and their hijinks. So, of course, DC has to cancel the book.

Overall grade: A


Gear said...

It’s nice to see Talia and see more of her relationship with Damian.

I’m going to miss this book.

Anonymous said...

"So, of course, DC has to cancel the book."

Of course.

DC is watching you, you know. They read you blog. Every time they're cooking up a new direction, someone says "Cancel whatever runs and books Anj is enjoying right now".

They're evil. PURE evil.

Joking aside, I'll miss this book. It's great fun and I like the crispy, colorful art and the character interaction.

I hope after Bendis is done we have a "World's Finest" book featuring different members of the Super and Bat Clans teaming-up. It would... should... be awesome, but I don't trust DC after the way they mishandled the Power Girl/Huntress team-up book.

" 'Evil beware when your name ... "

I can't tell whether Jon is ripping off The Shadow or the Green Lantern Oath.

Anj said...

LOL to second anon.

I know that DC doesn't listen to me. If they did, Forever Evil would never have happened!

Martin Gray said...

It’s a wonderful issue, great character moments, fantastic art... how often does someone actually draw a convincing city in comics? I really can’t bear Talia, Batman and Damian are really playing with fire letting her run free... she’s like Deathstroke and her dad, a character we’re meant to forgive a little for their ‘sense of honour’.

They murder people for a living. Any sense of honour they have is deeply twisted - Talia could find a reason to kill Lois at any moment. She should be locked up, far, far away.

I don’t want this book to go >choke<.

Anj said...

Love the >choke<

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard any news about Supergirl on Wondercon?

I listened through the publishers panel live stream, but nothing on Supergirl. I think someone tweeted before about Supergirl being involved in the Titans or Teen Titans. She wasn't on the new Titans roster, and while the full Teen Titans roster wasn't given, it was led by Damian and was nicknamed the Teen Tyrants which sounds like a terrible fit.

I could use some good news if anyone has some.