Friday, October 14, 2022

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #16

Superman Son of Kal-El #16 came out this week, the first issue of Jon's book since Superman has returned from Warworld. It also is the first book out since the news that the title was being canceled and rebranded as Adventures of Superman in the new year.

I call issues like these 'rest issues', a pause between big storylines giving the creative team a breather and the opportunity to showcase some character moments, catch up on lingering threads, etc.

In many ways, this issue was a primer for this book. If you were looking for a jumping on point, this would be it. The Bendix/Gamorra stuff is done. It is sort of a clean slate. If you are looking for a jumping off point and the overly long 15 Gamorran story didn't convince you, this issue shows what writer Tom Taylor envisions for this book. This is an activist Superman. There is some metatextual commentary on fandoms. 

One scene that does crackle is Jon confronting Lex Luthor. We have seen these two battle wits in the past. I like how Jon holds his own here. He isn't Clark so his dealing with Lex isn't like Clark's. The scene has the most energy in the issue even if a super-villain encounter is thrown in. 

The art is by Cian Tormey and Ruairi Coleman. It has a sort of organic feel. There isn't a sharp angle or jagged line in the book. It has a smooth feel which works with the book. The cover has the feel of Action Comics #285 when Supergirl was announced to the world. I like that too.

On to the book.

We start with a flashback of Jon learning to control his super-hearing by focusing on particular sounds. As a child, he concentrated on his dad's heartbeat. It made him feel safe. (We learn that Jon has been using that skill to try and listen out into the universe for that heartbeat.)

It is very interesting that we are seeing images of the black-suited, bearded Superman. This is the convergence Superman, the pre-New 52 Superman, who starred in the Rebirth Superman book until he was united with the New 52 Superman in the Superman Reborn arc.

That pre-Reborn history hasn't been mentioned since that book. We know that Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks (the original team for this version of Superman) are doing a retro arc in Action Comics in 2023. So maybe they need to remind the readers about this. (As crazy as it sounds, Superman Reborn was  published in 2017! 5 years  ago!)

In the Kent household, Lois has been up all night investigating evidence stolen from the Metropolis Police Station, Luthor-tech that would have helped indict him.

But she also has seen the news about Jon's revolution in Gamorra and his famous kiss with Jay in front of the cameras. Not surprising, there is a section of the population who didn't look on this well.

In what has to be Tom Taylor speaking to his critics through Jon, we are reminded don't read the comments. 

As I have said, Jay kiss or not, a Superman flying into a country with a super-army and removing its government should not just be glossed over. It does deserve a close eye. It should be met with some skepticism and fear. 

I wonder if we will get some of that commentary in this book.

After not hearing his dad's heartbeat in space, we see a typical day in Jon's life.

It's all the things you would expect this Superman to do. He visits children's hospitals. He plants trees. He checks in on loved ones. He rescues boats and people from natural disasters.

Jon is a nice guy and I like that.

And all this stuff is noble. It is what you want Superman to be doing I suppose. But I don't read Superman books to only see this. How about a left hook in Parasite's jaw? How about heat vision to Terra Man?

And then, given the evidence theft, he checks in on Lex, up close and personal.

The line about Superman just hovering outside of Lex's window brings up so many memories, from Byrne's early issues to the opening credits of Superman The Animated Series. 

I like Lex pointing out the contrast.

A bomb explosion at Stryker's Island sends Jon running.

We learn the evidence was part of the Red Sin project. Hmmm ...

I think this is Coleman on art here. Love the ever-furrowed Lex throughout this whole scene.

The bomb seems to have been planted to help free Metallo, tying into the Action Comics arc.

It instead released the Ultra-Humanite.

The villain floods Jon's mind with all the negative things that people are saying about him. But most of the negativity seems to be centered on Jon's kiss with Jay rather than than his insurrection. I'm not surprised that Taylor would concentrate on that low-hanging hate. That is easy to classify and appropriately demonize. 

But Taylor has always taken a sort of easy path when it comes to writing about these social issues.

Also, the solution of getting the Ultra-Humanite back under control is to fix the wiring controlling the inhibitor. Once again we get a potential action scene that is devoid of action.

But the 'comments' still ring in his ears until a new sound overwhelms them. 

Superman's heartbeat. Jon is safe.

Nice moment. But boy, those are some McFarlane-esque capes!!

But we get a cliffhanger.

We get to see the comments that Jon's actions have spawned. At least in this chat room, it is all negative. As for Jon, given the current world, I am sure there are plenty of chat rooms singing his praises.

And someone near the Red Sin who is joining in. Is this finally the turning point where Jay Nakamura is shown to be a bad guy? I green hoodie and headphones seems like a Jay sort of outfit.

I don't think this run has been a great run by any means. The first arc was drawn out. The social stories are a bit too simplistic. We have got very little super-action out of Jon who at times feels like a guest star in his own book.

This issue at least had some solid scenes I enjoyed. The opening flashback, the Lex scene, and the reunion with Clark all had a nice punch. And the book looks really nice.

Only two more issues though.

Overall grade: B-

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Top review, Anj. And yes, wasn’t it a relief to be over the Bendix nonsense. And so little Jay, just one panel… or maybe two.

It really is ridiculous that 16 regular issues and one annual in, Jon still hasn’t got to punch anybody, as if heroes who happen to be bisexual are just so much darn gentler than anyone else. Superman was unashamedly a power fantasy for Siegel and Shuster, why not give today’s kids the same release valve?