Friday, August 19, 2022

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #14

Superman Son of Kal-El #14 came out last week and I have to admit, it has taken me some time to muster the energy to review this book. Because, I have been having a hard time enjoying this book with its plodding pace. And this issue, while there is plot progression, has some many small things which bother me as a reader that it truly feels like a failure.

Writer Tom Taylor is trying to make this book into a social justice take on Superman. And that is fine if the story is up to snuff. But as I have said before, he seems to drop the fallout of some of the actions that are happening from that angle, never showing us what ramifications there can be. In this issue, Superman invades another country. And while Gamorra may be enslaving people, they are still a nation. Invasion never seems to be the right answer these days with sanctions being a more palatable response. But not here. To think that a hero called Superman is leading an incursion into a nation seems insane but we are there. What will every other country in the world think when they see a hero based in America taking down their government? But I doubt we will see that. It would ruin the 'feel good' part of this.

But almost worse than that is Taylor making Superman a guest star in his own book. It is clear that Taylor really wants to write a book about Jay Nakamura and the Revolutionaries (the group he introduced in Suicide Squad). So they get all the action and the best lines. Taylor jokes on line how he is confused with Tom King. Here it rings true. Jay is to Superman Son of Kal-El as Ruthye is to Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow

It is a shame because artist Cian Tormey is doing solid work here. This is a mix of action and tense dialogue scenes. But he isn't given much Superman to work with here.

There are other things in this issue that don't make much sense either. So let's get to it.

We start with Lois Lane airing the dirty truth about Gamorra on The Truth. It seems to be taken as iron-clad fact such that the President is watching it. And Gamorran President Bendix turns on a force field around his country.

But I have to ask, why is Lois doing it here? Shouldn't she be writing about this in the Daily Planet? Think Perry will be happy that she is airing this scoop on an independent and unverified website. Don't you think people will wonder about how true it is because she is saying it here and not on the Planet? 

Lois shouldn't be using The Truth like this.

And maybe, just maybe, this could have been a Jon moment. A time where he could implore people to trust him as Superman. 

I don't like Lois doing this at all. 

So she airs that bombshell. That should open the eyes of the world's leaders to then sort out what to do.

But instead of seeing if this revelation will lead to change, like perhaps Jon opening the eyes of people with his demonstrations, Jay has rounded up the Revolutionaries to invade.

So again, this isn't Jon making a decision. This is Jay making a decision and Jon going along.

Look. I'm not defending Bendix. But super-heroes removing a government and installing another? That leads to ordinary folk getting upset. Or registration acts. Or fear?

So Jon thinks Bendix is evil? What is to stop him from thinking Russia is evil for making weapons? Or other countries for making children labor in factories? Or America for being capitalist? 

See how easy it is to go down that slope?

And Jay doesn't sugar coat it.

He wants to topple an existing government. 

And Jon is right on board.

What will other heroes think? Can the Justice League allow this sort of stuff to happen?

At the very least, Jon tells this group of heroes who we have seen murder without remorse in the name of their cause that they have to tone it down. They chide him for his naivete. It is only when Damian shows up and tells them they have to follow Jon's lead that they fall in line.

Again, a moment where Jon could have inspired is instead handed off to Robin. 

I did like this like by Wink. How did Damian get on a submarine? That made me chuckle. This was the high point of the issue. Love what Tormey did here with an exclamation mark being the background of the panel. And Wink's look of incredulousness is fantastic!

The presence of the force field makes it risky for Jon to fly in. No one knows what the reaction might be. So instead, the plan is to have Jay go in intangible and turn the field off from the inside.

Jon gives Jay a new superhero suit and a Legion flight ring to help augment his powers.

But look at this cringe worthy set of panels. Jay makes an engagement ring joke. The two have been dating for about a week. Regardless of combination of genders or identities, this is not a good scene. If Saturn Girl made that joke, I don't think people would be happy.

This feels like a needless moment thrown in.

Sure enough, Jay is dropped into Gamorra and as Jon watches from above, we see Jay get a good action scene. Now called Gossamer, Jay phases and goes solid as he pushes his way through the facility.

Again, this could have been a moment to showcase Jon. Instead, Superman watches the action in his own book.

And then this moment. The scientists running the force field turn it off on their own. They want Bendix out.

So maybe Jon should have waited to see if internal forces of revolution were churning. Instead, with the field down, Jon and the Revolutionaries fly in.

But there is problem. 

Jay's mother has been weaponized and pitted against her son. 

Finally, Jon might have to do something.

So -
Lois breaking a story on The Truth, not on the Planet.
Jon teaming up with murderers.
Jon agreeing to overthrow a government.
The cringe-y engagement ring scene. 
Jay getting all the action.
Jon basically a guest in his own book even though multiple scenes could have showcased him as a truth-teller or an inspiration. I mean this wants to be a Jay and the Revolutionaries vs Gamorra book.

This book just doesn't seem to be working for me.

Overall scene: D+


Anonymous said...

The book is not egregiously bad like I find Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman these days. But it's not good. It's just "there," and reading it does nothing for me. Nor are these stories I'd ever seek out in a trade.

I plan to continue buying the book through the crossover when Superman returns, to see if it leads to a new status quo and more interesting storytelling.


Martin Gray said...

A very fair review. To think, we’re getting this when we might have been getting a tween Jon and Damian book - if they were tackling Bendix Jon would certainly have agency, and things would be a lot more fun. Oh, to have a comic book rather than an agenda.

RicG said...

Liked how you pointed out that maybe Lois's actions aren't cool. With Jay's mother literally being weaponized against him later in the book it felt like maybe this thread is what the comic should be about. It tie's Jon & Jay's stories together in a way that felt their relationship could be more interesting than it has been until now. It's just that with everything else going on it hasn't been given space to breath.

I'll be interested to see if they do something with it in the book going on.