Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #1

Superman Son of Kal-El #1 came out this week, a move which puts Jon Kent as the headliner of one of the primary super books on the shelf. Born out of 5g and Future State, the aged up Jon is now Superman, his father presumably off world.

I have been a fan of Jon's both as the Super Sons tweener rascal and the older Legionnaire. But does he have enough characterization to shoulder his own book? I was unsure. 

When the creative team was announced, I was definitely buoyed with some enthusiasm. Tom Taylor has written some of my favorite books out there. His run on All-New Wolverine is a favorite of mine. His take on Supergirl in the Injustice books has been great. And even his new run on Nightwing has been a 'feel good' oasis in the sometimes dark world of comics.

John Timms on art has had an incredible run on books for me including stints on Harley Quinn and Superman. His stylized work flows beautifully. I love the energy he brings to the pages.

Then I read the issue. And I am a little worried.

It is clear that Taylor is going to bring a socially conscious bend to this book. His Jon is going to fight for a better world, and that means taking on big problems, not just the Toyman. And I am not against socially cognizant stories. 

The thing is I just want good stories. I am fine with stories that have an agenda. When people have an agenda that they force into a story, it reads flat and preachy. When taken to extremes it twists the idea of heroism into something worrisome.

Please understand, I know all about Superman's history. I love Superman. I know about the early stories where he fought war mongers, slum lords, and mine owners with poor working conditions. I read all the PSAs as a kid and learned from them. 

But this is a tightrope to walk. I hope Taylor and Timms are up to the challenge. 

 On to the book.

We start out in the past. Superman is helping the League stop an attempted alien invasion when his friends assure them that they have it. He has somewhere he needs to be. At the Fortress where Lois is in labor.

Batman is defending the door.

I love this simple moment acknowledging these two are friends.

Wonder Woman is there as midwife helping Lois.

But everyone there knows this is a momentous occasion. Diana even says Jon could be the biggest hero of all.

Again, a nice moment by Lois as she says the baby needs to be born first. He can have all the ungodly expectations piled on later.

And so Jon is born.


Back in the present, Jon is helping put out a forest fire. We get the comment about record high temperatures and droughts making these all too common. That's nice! A little commentary about climate change without a homily.

And what I really like is how Jon joins in the fight with the all to human firefighters, working to douse this thing together.

I like that sentiment in action.

The military is also on hand and an attack chopper fires a missile into the heart of the fire.

Unclear why the attack, Jon derails it smashing the missile.

That is because he sees that inside the conflagration is a human who sounds all too scared.

Okay, this is fine too.

Inside, he sees a man who is on fire and exuding the flames. Jon surmises that it is fear and stress that is amping up these powers.

He is able to nicely talk the man down. With a simple 'I've got you', the man stops blazing.

Another nice moment and very Superman. Punch as a last resort. Always look for another way.

He turns the man over to the army who is there to deal with this. The man says he feels good and Superman should help the firefighters again.

Then one of the army officers uses his rifle butt to knock the man out. The soldier says that the man is less of a danger unconscious. And after all, does Jon want to fight the US government?

So there is a lot to unpack here. 

Yes, what this soldier does is wrong.

But do the actions of this man equate with the entirety of the US government. Should Jon distrust the entire government because of this?

Maybe the other army officers there are going to report this guy. Maybe Jon can report him. I don't think Jon should be scared of the 'government' threat because this simply isn't true. Maybe he should have confronted the man. Or then and there asked the other soldiers if they felt that was right.

Still, he witnessed a wrong doing and walked away.

Still troubled by this, he seeks out a friend to talk to ... Damian. 

Because Damian, the boy raised to be an assassin, is wise counsel.

Damian of course stirs the pot. The army is probably vivisecting this man, trying to weaponize him. (Of course, they also could be treating him humanely in a hospital ... that is still a possibility, right? Shouldn't Jon verify?))

According to Damian, Jon needs to start making people 'nervous'. He could be part of the cure, instead of treating the symptoms. He needs to fight climate control, inequality, the erosion of the free press, and the rise of demagogues. He gives Jon access to an underground news network which posts about these problems. Surely that is a fair and objective site.

And let's remember that Damian is the guy that six months ago built his own prison and held super-villains in stasis without a trial! Now he is the most woke guy out there. When did this happen?

Moreover, there is no way that Jon can defeat 'climate control, inequality, and the erosion of the free press'. If he does, it is going to be by setting himself up as ruler. If he doesn't, it means I am reading a book about an ineffective superhero. Or is he going to go the anarchist route and say the government is too corrupt? S For Vendetta?

Lastly, will these be Superman stories about these issues? Or stories about these issues with Superman?

I don't even mind the 'better world' change of the iconic phrase. Heck, 'The American Way' hasn't been there in decades.

It's one issue and I still trust the creators.

Because all I want is a comic book with good stories. Fingers crossed.

Overall grade: B-


Anonymous said...

It always seems to me that Tom Taylor can't possibly make good on the storylines he sets up, but then he surprises me and pulls it off. It's hard to imagine where he's going to go with this socially conscious Jon, but I doubt it will be dull.

He also always manages to make me laugh.

I think Taylor did a good job with a grown-up Jon taking on the Superman mantle in DCeased, and maybe that's what got him the job.

I wonder if Jon might actually go to work for "The Truth," with a new identity Batman or Damian will arrange.

Timms also did a great job with Young Justice.

And hey, it's a $3.99 book without a backup story, which replaced the $4.99 Superman book, and at least that's fantastic news!

Taylor has posted images of Jon's new costume, and I guess DC has a thing for big yellow belts now. Kara's current belt has turned into a corset, and Jon's new belt is going to look more like a cummerbund. I think it's ugly.

https: // www . instagram . com/p/CSC9-zLBIP0/


Mart said...

Great review, you say it so well, Anj.

I don't get this 'Truth' bit at all, the Daily Planet (Star) has been at the heart of Superman stories since the beginning, can we suddenly not truth them? Then again, as you note, this IS Damian Wayne, so he's not going to be right.

What a stupid belt, the buckle looks ready to shoot energy.

Anonymous said...

Great review as always, you express your viewpoints well. Your points about an agenda driven Superman story at the beginning of the view reflect my own as well. Taylor can write fun, quirky adventure stories in the superhero genre, but he's also known for inserting his obviously personal political beliefs into the story, and uses the heroes as mouthpieces for his views and the villains as representatives of the 'wrong' side. A lot of modern writers do this, which is why I've enjoyed comic books a lot less in recent years. When the story serves the agenda rather than the other way around as you put it, the message becomes preachy and forced.

To be sure, there are plenty of good socially conscious Superman stories even outside of the Golden Age era. Elliot Maggin's Must There be a Superman, What's so Funny about Truth, Justice and the American Way, Grant Morrison's early New 52 Jeans & T-Shirt Action Comics to name a few. But the story came first in these instances, and Taylor isn't good at letting the story take precedence over a soapbox to preach his message. I only hope his Son of Kal-El run doesn't take that path.


Anonymous said...

This comic was pointless. There's no reason why the story couldn't have just been Clark's Superman. It like they went "Superman is broken. let's replace him, but not really change anything else." I also don't like way he writes Damian. How old is he supposed to be again? It's weird to see you sound optimistic on this and so pessimistic on Supergirl when this seems to have a lot more pronlems.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments and shared concerns.

I think I am more optimistic about the creative team than this issue. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and read a bit more.

Nice all on the belt Mart.

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

A good story vith optimist and a evolution for his principal character, why supergirl doesn't have that kind of story.

Other question, where is krypto ? i hope he is not already dead.