Review: Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason clearly have an imperative in their Rebirth Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman. There is little else here except the White family, nee Kent; to the extent that this book begins with the expansive Superman: Rebirth special, the rest of the book feels too insular, as if perhaps that ought have been the Action Comics: Rebirth special instead. Tomasi and Gleason do perfectly well by Clark, Lois, and son Jon, having inherited this work precisely because of their success doing the same on Batman and Robin. In that respect, even, the goings-on are tame; despite some rough patches, Jon Kent-White is unlikely to ever give his father the kind of time Damian Wayne did.

I'd pick a Tomasi-Gleason book off the stands over most all else any day of the week -- and with Doug Mahnke, to boot -- but as the very first volume of the return of the post-Crisis Superman, Son lacked some of the scope I might have expected. For those very invested in the Clark/Jon relationship, no doubt this book delivers, but I wonder if I'll be happier over with Action Comics or at least once I've read these both.

[Review contains spoilers]

As I've mentioned before, it's easy I think for DC Comics to declare the return of the post-Crisis Superman, to set him alongside Lois and designate him as such. But the post-Crisis Superman was a specific character with specific experiences and mannerisms, and the fact that, for instance, both Tomasi and Dan Jurgens have him call Lois Lane "Lo," something Jurgens never did before, belie the claim that the character has returned. Similarly, the writers' heavy leaning on "Death and Return of Superman" also feels rather superficial to me.

Therefore, I was excited by a line on the back of the book, which I don't often read but happened to this time, that Superman was "not the only survivor of Krypton to make the journey to" the post-Flashpoint reality, but also the "machine mind" Eradicator. Still again the Eradicator is best known for his role in Death of Superman, but his presence -- especially as the post-Crisis version -- would offer plenty of opportunities for references to "Day of the Krypton Man," Professor Hamilton, "Weren't you off with Geo-Force and the Outsiders," and etc.

It was a let-down then to find that this Eradicator, though visually similar to the Eradicator of old, is an entirely new creation of Tomasi's, not even related to the New 52 Eradicator that's also been bopping about. Clearly Superman and Lois have met an Eradicator before, and at the outset Superman wonders why this new Eradicator looks like the old one (sheer coincidence), but that's the extent of the detail we get on Superman's history with him. I recognize Tomasi walks a fine line placating long-time fans while not confusing new ones, but for all that could come with using the Eradicator in the very first Rebirth Superman story, the result was very surface-level.

Another part of it is that Son of Superman is largely an action-driven tale. Tomasi and Gleason can do nuance, as they've shown time and again, and at the point in which the Eradicator ceased to attack the Kent family and seemed to have some kind of greater agenda, I felt more enthused about the story. But that gives way to more fisticuffs, and at the cost of needed detail. The story entirely glosses over this Superman's encounter with this world's Krypto, whom he really should not know (and let's not harp, but who used to be a wolf). Also apparently the Eradicator carries within him all the souls of Krypton, whom Superman encounters; inexplicably Clark sees Pa Kent (a cool moment, I grant) but not for some reason Jor-El or Lara, who should ostensibly be there. Nor does Superman ever consider the role the Eradicator played in resurrecting him once upon a time, given that the book starts with Superman decrying his lack of the needed tools to resurrect the New 52 Superman.

I did think it was an interesting moment early in the book when Jon falls ill and Clark rather strong-arms a worried neighbor out the door, something Lois comments on. Similar in a way to the Man of Steel movie, the arc of Son of Superman is to an extent a fully-realized Superman (and child) coming to recognize the importance of Clark Kent. We see in much of the book a Superman who has not needed to use his super-mild Clark persona in essentially a decade, who is something of the epitome of a Clark Kent without secrets (even despite Jon's complaint that they keep too many). If one might posit with a book like this how having a child has changed Superman, it actually seems to have made him tougher, less likely to bend than when he was a mild-mannered reporter, and I'll be curious to see how Tomasi develops that as he goes.

Part of the charm of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman -- and it is charming, don't get me wrong -- is the aw shucks Father Knows Best aesthetic. At the same time, insofar as we always know at the end of a Superman story that Superman will find a magnanimous way to save the day, we know it to a super degree when it comes to Superman and his son Jon. This robs the book of a bit of suspense, I think, versus Batman and Robin, where there was always the outside chance that Damian Wayne could kill someone -- that's not what I'm looking for from my superheroes or their children, but point being that the stakes here aren't as high nor the likelihood of the unexpected (solely that the writers have to bring in Bat-gadgets for the book's finale is telling).

I know the creators will make up for it in other ways - trips to Dinosaur Island and journeys through the Multiverse -- but this volume leaned a tad too sweet for my tastes, along with its other troubles. I'm hoping what the team delivers next time is sharper and better defined.

[Includes original and variant covers, Tomasi/Gleason script and sketchbook]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman
Author Rating
3 (out of 5)
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4 comments:

  1. Hm, I'm thinking what you're looking for would be in issue 7. I'm actually surprised that they didn't put that issue in this trade since it would have been a nice palette cleanser to end the volume on instead of starting a new one on.

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    1. Issue #7 ("Our Town") is not an issue that should have worked for me, but I admit it warmed the cockles of my cold, hard heart. More on that collection soon.

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  2. Guys, perhaps you can help me with this. In Superman #1, page 2, Clark thinks about Mr. Oz: "I'm still trying to figure out what that character calling himself Mr. Oz meant when he said that me and the family are not what we think we are..."
    Can you tell me when this encounter took place?
    It's hard to google Mr Oz without spoiling his identity. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. This was in the DC Universe: Rebirth #1 special. Cheers!

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