Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Review: Superman #8

Last month, I sort of lost my mind as I reviewed Superman #7.  In that book, Lois decides to leave her son in the hands of the previously homicidal Jor-El after seeing the two break up a crime ring. That made no sense. In that book, Jon Kent returns and tells his parents that Jor-El is insane and needs to be stopped. That shouldn't be a revelation. Everything about this particular story has felt off kilter and wrong. Since Man of Steel when Lois and Jon left, I have been wondering if Brian Michael Bendis would be able to convince me as a reader that these characters made decisions they normally would.

I am sorry to say that Superman #8, out last week, did little to change my opinion that the entire Kent family made decisions they wouldn't have and shouldn't have in regards to Jon and Jor. This issue we get to hear Jon fill in the gaps of the years he has spent away from home and all he has witnessed. Again, given the actions of 'Mr. Oz', none of this should shock Clark or Lois. Jor-El had gone mad, tortured by whoever plucked him from Krypton's death. Having Jon hang out with him unsupervised is the very definition of a poor parenting decision.

The art is split between Ivan Reis and Brandon Peterson. Peterson's work has a more organic feel to it, reminding me in places of Stuart Immonen (high praise indeed). The expressive work is top notch. Reis (and inker Joe Prado) continue to be stellar in their fine lined, precise work here. The book is gorgeous to look at.

Still, I can't quite shake off the idea that this story should never have happened. On to the book.

 The story starts with Jon telling his parents the earliest days with Jor-El.

When pressed why he joined Jor-El on this trip, Jon reveals his own personal crisis he is dealing with. He loves his father. He loves his father being Superman. He wants to follow in his father's footsteps. But those are huge shoes to fill.

Should he want to fill that role? Can he fill that role? What is his place in the universe? These are questions that all adolescents deal with. But when Superman is your father, it has to be an even bigger weight.

To be honest, this is actually one of the reasons I became such a big Supergirl fan at such an early age. I could read comics. I could aspire to be good like Superman. But I knew I couldn't be that perfect. Supergirl, with her trial and tribulations, her failures and learning, her desire to be like Superman ... that all made more sense to me. She didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her love life was a mess. She wanted to be great but felt dwarfed by the legacy around her. I could relate to that.

Maybe Jon should have spent a summer with Kara instead?

Both realize that they are oddities. Jon is half human, half Kryptonian.

Jor-El was somehow saved from death by an unknown force. He shouldn't be alive.

But then we see just how deep Jor-El's existential dread goes. He is a man of science, of rules and order, of precision. What if the universe is chaos? What if there are no rules? What if everything is arbitrary and you can do whatever you want? What if there are no answers?

That's madness.

And Jon is out there seeking answers! This is the wrong philosophy to feed him. Heck, even he knows it. After this conversation with Grandpa he decides to try and find his way home.

Is anyone shocked that the murdering madman remained a murdering madman?

Scans show this is Jon and he is fine.

But once again, these are parents who lost 6 years of their kid's life. They should be blaming themselves. They should be angry at themselves.

And Jon saying they should be proud because they raised an 11 year old who found his way back is damning with faint praise. What if Jor-El killed him? Twisted him? What if Jon resented them for leaving him in the hands of an abuser? All of those were much more likely outcomes than a well-adjusted Jon coming out of this unscathed.

It makes absolutely no sense that they would allow that to happen.

As for Superman, he is irate that this all happened. He needs to hit something. He needs to work off this steam. He's furious that not only did he lose all those years of time with Jon, he has no one to blame but himself!

I love as he flies off to do find anything to smack, he is telling himself to stop. He can't lash out when angry. It isn't healthy. I kind of liked that self-reflection. How often do I say 'Anj don't send that email ... don't send that email ...'

But beforeSuperman can talk himself down, he happily runs across Mongul. It is Mongul's bad luck to start a scheme at this moment. Because he takes the beatdown that Superman is looking to dole out.

Okay, that is a great splash page.

Don't know if I like Superman having a short fuse that he needs to deal with physically. But I guess facing this Jon situation is something that would upset anyone to this degree.

I love how Lois knew he was heading off to pound something.

And I love that she immediately sniffs a story opportunity when she hears it was Mongul.

That's a nice little character moment, something I love about Bendis. He always includes these.

Back in the Fortress, Jon continues to tell his story.

Even though Jor-El is clearly suffering a mental breakdown, he still points Jon and himself towards missions of good. And Jon felt like he was accomplishing something.

It turns out that the unsettled nature of Earth, the petty differences and squabbles, exist everywhere.

Nice double splash page and interesting sentiment there.

One adventure has Jon and Jor run into Kilowog and Arisia. This is, perhaps, the chestiest rendition of Arisia I have ever seen. It was almost distracting.

Jon, who has been looking for a way home, asks if they could drop him off. But before the Lanterns can delve deeper, Jor shows up. Maybe they are afraid of him? Maybe they respect Superman too much? But instead of asking more questions, the Lanterns fly off. That seemed a little off for them as well. They can sense something is wrong. Arisia asks Jon if he is in trouble.

They're Lanterns! They are supposed to be space cops! They should be mandated reporters or investigators of crimes or abuse against minors. Do the right thing!

Unfortunately, Jor overheard Jon asking to go home. It leads to months of silence between the two.

Seriously, how could Lois and Clark leave Jon alone with this guy.

Just when Jor-El finally apologizes, the ship is sucked into a black hole. I love the color effects here.

Alas, Jon comes out of the black hole only to find himself face to face with the Crime Syndicate.

I wonder if he even knows about these guys.

I'm sorry.

This whole arc is just so hard to tolerate.

I just have a hard time with believing in the initial plot point. Clark and Lois shouldn't have let him go with the lunatic Mr. Oz.

I have just as hard a time believing in the second plot point. Lois would never leave her son alone with Jor-El. 

As a result, all that happens from that is infuriating to me. Especially since it likely spoiled the Jon character, the bright, cheery young Superboy.

Overall grade: C-


Anonymous said...

Everything about Bendis's much ballyhooed run, from his horrible handling of the characters (especially Lois) to doing yet another retcon on Krypton, is terrible. I don't know how you can continuously force yourself to struggle through & find things to praise. It's like digging for rhinestones in piles of manure - not worth the effort.

"Especially since it likely spoiled the Jon character, the bright, cheery young Superboy."

I'll bet money Bendis was hired BECAUSE he said he'd get rid of young Jon. DC's current brain trust (and I use that term as loosely & snidely as possible) hate any suggestion of happiness in their books. Having their marquee hero be a happy father with a happy child in a happy marriage is anathema to them.

I said it before on the Supergirl review, but I'll say it again & keep saying it til it happens - I cannot wait for this era at DC to be over with and replaced full scale with people who actually LIKE superheroes.

Anonymous said...

"Still, I can't quite shake off the idea that this story should never have happened."

That's because Jor-El being alive and turned into a murderous lunatic is a story should have never been told. Who thought it was a good idea?

Coincidentally, I've come upon some Post-Crisis fanboys loving this development because it "proves" Superman is good because of the Kents, exclusively.

I'm SO sick of the "Kryptonians are evil, Krypton is awful and should be irrelevant to Superman" garbage, and I blame it on John Byrne and his run. If "Mr. Oz" is Jor-El's Albatross moment, the "ultimate meaningless" scene is an Albatross moment for the whole franchise. It has tainted everything since.

"Maybe Jon should have spent a summer with Kara instead?"

There's no need for "maybes" here. He definitely should.

"But before Superman can talk himself down, he happily runs across Mongul."

Heh. Do you remember that scene during the "Krypton No More" story arc where Protector breaks into the Fortress and Superman retorts he was aching to "work off steam"?

Anyway, yes, this whole subplot was a mistake. I hope it is somehow undone because it makes everyone involved look extremely bad.

Martin Gray said...

Yep, this is a terrible story, yet I do praise the little gems, it keeps me from having to go off and find Mongul. Nice review, Anj - and did you notice that this is likely the Superman/Mongul fight that's in Naomi #1? I didn't but a smart Twitter person did!

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain with this arc Anj, I'm not a fan of Bendis' writing personally but issues like this demonstrate what he gets so wrong with his writing. You raise a really good point that Oz could have still been mad from his previous state of mind in the Oz Effect and if he had tried to force Jon to submit to his view of the world, Lois and Clark letting him go would have made them look like even worse parents. I really can't stand what Bendis has done to Jon and the Superman Family given how well they were written during Rebirth. It's been a tough time to be a Superman fan lately, luckily Wolfman's Man and Superman was a terrific read.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

"I just have a hard time with believing in the initial plot point. Clark and Lois shouldn't have let him go with the lunatic Mr. Oz."

"I have just as hard a time believing in the second plot point. Lois would never leave her son alone with Jor-El."

Agreed. Clark and Lois have acted SO out of character and have made so many odd decisions regarding this (and I include Lois's behavior since returning) that I HAVE to think they have been manipulated in some way, either by "Jor-El" or some other outside force. I hope that's how it turns out. Guess we'll find out in the end.

"...DC's current brain trust...hate any suggestion of happiness in their books. Having their marquee hero be a happy father with a happy child in a happy marriage is anathema to them."

I don't understand this notion that a superhero's life MUST be filled with tragedy and misery. DC has already tried to get rid of the Clark/Lois marriage with the New 52. That didn't work out, but I would not be bit surprised if they tried it again some day.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

Anonymous said...

Bendis did an AMA ("Ask me Anything") on Reddit on Tuesday, can read through it here:


Lots of interesting material there. He reveals some upcoming covers, like for Naomi #6, which I think will be the June issue, Naomi is surrounded by a lot of "regular" DC characters, along with some Young Justice characters, along with Supergirl and Krypto.

Supergirl also appears on the cover of Superman #11 on sale 5/8 in the May solicitations, but appears to still be in space at least in her own title. Guess we'll see how May plays out.

On the Naomi #6 cover, we also see Tim and Connor, but not Damian or Jon. Bendis says the duplicate names are going to be worked out, on panel, between the characters. Should be interesting!

He also says it was his decision to age Jon up, and that there is going to be a big payoff. (Did we already know it was his decision, or was it still a toss-up if this was dictated by editorial?)

The whole DC universe is in an upheaval now, with more announcements expected this week. With the anticipated cancellation of half the DC titles, the multitude of character deaths in Heroes in Crisis, the unexpected continuity questions introduced by Young Justice, the odd characterization of Lois, the aging of Jon, and the introduction of sales at Walmart - well it's a tumultuous era.

Feels like something cataclysmic is about to happen, in both the DCU and in retail distribution.