Friday, May 20, 2022

Review: Superman Son of Kal-El #11

Superman Son of Kal-El #11 came out last week and was a very good issue in a title that has been sort of hit and miss for me at times. I really feel like this issue sort of encapsulated all of the good things that I have liked about this book into one crisp tale. This felt like a 'done in one' even though it clearly is a chapter in the longer Gamorran arc. And it places Jon in the spotlight as the new Superman, complete with Superman like ethics. Well ... except for one piece which I hope will be addressed moving forward.

Writer Tom Taylor has seemed to make a name for himself by writing 'feel good' heroes who are as ready to fight social injustices as they are to trade haymakers with super-villains. This book and Nightwing both stand out for their progressive stances. He also has a knack of bringing warmth to these characters who for a while have been muddled in the grim and gritty. And perhaps best of all, he definitely leans into the past, building on continuity as he forges forward. This is a Jon who was involved in some tragedy as a kid, who lived in volcano being tortured for years, and is still trying to live up to the ideals of his father. All of that makes him who he is now. Add to that some great new twists involving Pa Kent and Alfred and this whole book really crackled from a character point of view.

Artist Cian Tormey brings solid work here. There isn't anything flashy. But the scenes roll out nicely. Anyone who can bring authenticity to a heart to heart between Batman and Pa Kent is doing the work. Like Taylor, I think it is the character work that sings here as body language and expression really amp up the script.

So bring on more issues like this please!

On to the specifics.

Last issue the Kents and Jay were flown to a JL safe house to protect them from any further Gamorran assassination attempts. At the same time, Batman warned Jon that Jay Nakamura isn't quite as nice as Jon thinks. In fact, Batman says Jay is involved with international terrorists. 

In the strongest scene of the book, Pa Kent decides to have a heart to heart with Batman. This is amazing.

First off, we learn that Pa and Alfred called each other monthly. Mostly to brag but also to talk about how difficult it was to be the father to the World's Finest. I think this is the first I am hearing of something like this but it makes such perfect sense I can't believe it hasn't been thought of before.

Just amazing.

And Tormey here sells the scene as a natural conversation. Pa leaning on a railing as the two sip coffee.

Batman is worried that Jon's feelings for Jay might make him easy to be manipulated.

In a savvy way of showing that Batman isn't flawless, Pa brings up the Dark Knight Dalliances of the past. Yes, he has almost married a super-villain/thief/anti-hero. He also partnered with the assassin head of Leviathan and had a kid. Perhaps Wayne Manor is a glass house?

Maybe Batman should let Jon learn some lessons on his own.

You have to love Pa's strength here to stand up to Batman. Incredible.

Batman worries that if Jon makes mistakes people will die. Superman can't make mistakes.

And then we get this flashback to when Jon accidentally killed his cat waaaaayyy back in the earliest Rebirth days of Tomasi and Gleason. 

Jon learned a hard lesson that day. But it galvanized him into being someone who is supremely careful with his powers, someone who will never let another being be hurt. 

Now I would have loved to have forgotten about the Goldie event to be honest. But here Taylor uses it to define Jon today. So making something I disliked into something important I do like is the sign of great writing. 

Nightwing has offered to mentor Jon. So if Jon is wondering what to do about Jay, why not ask Dick for some advice.

Sure, Bruce is a bit paranoid and is always looking for the dark in things. But maybe Jon should just ask Jay. After all, that's what Superman would probably do rather than investigating from the shadows.

And really that is what people in a relationship should do. 

I like this friendship a lot and hope we keep seeing snippets of these two interacting.

When asked about his 'terrorist ties' Jay is glad it wasn't a break-up.

Still, he is involved with The Revolutionaries, the ex-Suicide Squad members who are very progressive in their politics and their metahuman acts.

Jay talks about how they helped save him as he escaped from Gamorra.

Jay says the Gamorran super-soldiers also have bombs in their heads and seem to be able to be controlled from afar. This leads Jon to worry about Inferno, the burning man in JL custody. Perhaps Superman has delivered a spy and death device to the League.

But this was, for me, the most important panel in the book. Because I need to see some follow-up to this.

Jay says he is working with The Revolutionaries. And guess what, they kill at times to save people. 

Will Jon just accept this? Look the other way? Doesn't Superman say 'there is always another answer?' Or will Superman give in and say that killing a few people for the greater good (as the Revolutionaries define it) is acceptable? And isn't that just perception? Isn't Bendix also saying that killing people for his version of a greater good is acceptable?

I hope Jon draws a strong line here, either with Jay or the Revolutionaries. Because I don't think I want Superman being friends with murderers.

Knowing that the hard side and consequences of Social Justice actions have been mostly glossed over by Taylor, I worry this will slide by.

But the immediate threat is Inferno in the Hall of Justice. When the Atom (so nice to se him) tries to tamper with the indwelling bomb, Bendix takes control and tries to incinerate the League's headquarters.

Jon grabs him and flies him up to the thinner upper atmosphere, quenching the blaze and allowing him to talk to Bendix through Inferno.

Here is where we get the payoff to Pa's earlier talk. Jon says he is in complete control of his powers. He knows he isn't hurting Inferno. He wouldn't hurt him. But he can send the message to Bendix that the president will be held accountable.

But again, how can Jon espouse all of this AND be allies with people who kill when they feel it is justified. This is good fodder for stories ... I hope.

Now I don't know how this is possible other than comic book physics but Jon is able to combine his vision powers to destroy the brain bomb. Okay ... I'll buy it. He saves Inferno who now remembers who he is. That is being Superman.

Now that is a solid issue all around with great character beats, great reveals, and great action. Heck, we get guest star stints from Batman, Flash, and the Atom too. 

I hope the conversation between Jay and Jon picks up. Maybe Jon feels he has to break up with Jay, that their politics and the lengths they will go are too different. Maybe Jon will inspire Jay and the Revolutionaries. As long as this is addressed, I'll be happy. 

But that hope doesn't diminish how much I liked this. Great issue.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Excellent review, especially your point about Jay’s moral stance re: murderers. I hope Taylor does address this.

Definitely the best issue yet?

Dick McGee said...

To be fair to the writers, his father has done impromptu super-vision-based brain surgery under stress in the past. The most prominent recent example of which was Manchester Black's "micro-concussion" temporary de-powering, which (as Clark explained) could just as easily have been permanent destructive tissue removal instead. No reason Jon couldn't do the same on a skullbomb.

Does seem like seeing a full accredited doctor for a follow-up at some point would be a good idea, even with comic book physics in play.

Anj said...

Yeah, I didn't understand the Manchester Black thing either. Heat vision through your eye to get to the brain has to cause damage ...

But I will allow it.

Anonymous said...

Batman wound up drinking from the "World's Best Mom" mug. Well, one of them had to, but it seems funnier that he would be the one.

I was thinking Jon's microsurgery could be like the stereotactic radiosurgery treatments that target a tumor via multiple beams, each of them harmless (or relatively harmless) to the regular tissue they pass through, but converging at the area that needs to be treated, forming a powerful cumulative effect at that spot. Like Gamma Knife radiation which sends many beams at the same time, but there are also systems where a machine moves around and fires from different angles.

While Jon only has 2 eyes and they aren't that far apart, he can move around fast enough to shoot countless bursts from many different angles.

I don't think this would work with heat vision, but X-Ray vision could work, using microscopic vision to aim.

And we already saw, in some earlier issue of Superman or Action, that Jon has some kind of super-vision that is more advanced than Clark's, though I don't remember the details.

Anyway, makes sense to me!