Review: Super Sons Vol. 1: When I Grow Up (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

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I enjoyed Peter Tomasi's Rebirth Super Sons Vol. 1: When I Grow Up ... more than I thought I would. I found the backdoor pilot in Tomasi's Superman slow, favoring banter between Superboy Jon Kent and Robin Damian Wayne over the plot. Thankfully Super Sons moves more briskly (Tomasi shows restraint uncommon among today's writers in limiting the first arc to four issues in this five-chapter book), and an element of horror in the second issue demonstrates Tomasi and artist Jorge Jimenez as not just kidding around. The overall nature of the threat here is confusing, mired in Rebirth continuity that's unfortunately already mangled, but assuredly Tomasi gets the characters right, and I'm more curious about the next volume than I expected to be.

[Review contains spoilers]

Tomasi's Superman Vol. 2: Trials of the Super Son outing bored me because there was such an obvious and common arc; Superboy and Robin fought, Superboy and Robin became fast friends, and there was little suspense in the gauntlet that Superman and Batman put their sons through that we knew posed no danger to either child. Super Sons gains a step in that the threat Superboy and Robin face is actually real, underscored by a particularly bloody scene in which the villainous Kid Amazo murders his whole family (later revealed to be androids, but the Jimenez-drawn page is shocking in the moment). We don't know what could happen, Kid Amazo does seem dangerous, and the book has more to focus on than just the boys (though there's plenty of that, too); all of this makes Super Sons feel the stronger story.

And again, in that earlier story Tomasi most likely felt some mandate to both set and resolve the boys' antagonism toward one another. Fortunately, here, they're not fast friends, though situationally -- Superboy gets mad because Robin gets him in trouble -- and not just by stereotypical kid angst. I thought Tomasi brought a lot of smart nuance to their relationship; the boys do bicker, but then at one point what appears to be fighting turns out to be a ruse to surprise some rogue androids. There's a recurring discussion of the Teen Titans and how Superboy feels that Robin didn't include him, something that -- rather than a throwaway item -- will continue to play out in this and other titles. And it seemed hilariously real that the boys have a tendency to shout at one another out of nowhere and then go back to what they were doing.

I especially liked that Tomasi made Lex Luthor the unwitting third wheel in this comedy drama. I've opined elsewhere about how I'm growing to like "Super-Lex," the seemingly well-meaning if misguided billionaire-turned-hero. Obviously there's a lot of danger in Lex encountering the meant-to-be-hidden Superboy, but it's refreshing that the conflict is simply interpersonal and not that Lex has some wild nefarious scheme. I like Lex as an underdog here, and this plays out well for instance when Damian knows that despite Lex's hard edges, they can still trust him to ensure the safety of Kid Amazo's family.

"Kid Amazo" was at one point the subject of a noted JLA Classified story by Peter Milligan and Carlos D'Anda, having been originally intended as a graphic novel. This is no relation to that, as it turns out; instead, Tomasi tries to square Amazo's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths history with his New 52 iteration, making Geoff Johns's Amazo virus now a byproduct of the Amazo android himself (and not, as in the New 52, the first time the Justice League encountered an "Amazo"); Kid Amazo is now apparently a survivor of the virus who retained Amazo-like powers. All of that's perfectly workable, except Tomasi goes one further to introduce an Amazo armor in Lex's possession without ever explaining what an Amazo armor is or why Kid Amazo needs it, nor why Kid Amazo -- who can duplicate himself -- then seems to need to create additional robot duplicates of himself when the armor apparently lets him form physical doppelgangers as well. It makes for a lot of minions for Superboy and Robin to fight, but it's never quite clear what bad guy can do what or even if the boys are lopping the heads off robots or organic constructs.

My recall of Jorge Jimenez's art is often more distorted and manga-inspired than it is, picturing something like Pop Mhan, but I'm reminded how much I liked Jimenez on the "Our Town" Superman issue, finding it satisfactorily animated without being too silly or absurd. I had similar concerns for Super Sons, but again Jimenez impressed with his realism in the midst of the shenanigans, like the rain dripping down a nervous Superboy's face when he encounters Lex in the second chapter. Equally a couple of times Jimenez's (android) Batman put me in mind of Greg Capullo's depictions, another artist who can toe the line between whimsy and seriousness.

I have been slow to embrace Jon Kent as Superboy, even now, since it would seem DC won't let us have both Jon Kent and Kon-El; neither have I quite ever been convinced of a Superboy's place in the Teen Titans, though Kon-El earned his spot through many years of attrition. But the way in which Damian dangles the Titans over Jon's head in Super Sons Vol. 1: When I Grow Up is interesting, and also how Damian seems to like to remind himself of the Titans as a confidence-builder -- another realistic depiction of kids this age. I'm eager therefore to see the encroachment of the Titans on this title both as guest stars and in crossover, and that has me unexpectedly eager for this book to return.

[Includes original, variant (by Dustin Nguyen), and unused covers; Jorge Jimenez designs and sketchbook]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Super Sons Vol. 1: When I Grow Up
Author Rating
3.5 (out of 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Damien and Jon are just incredibly adorable together. Like their fathers, best friends but know one can understand exactly *why* they are best friends, least of all themselves. Tomasi just seems to really 'get' the way kids interact with each other when (they think) adults aren't around. That strange little way that kids jump to solutions without any kind of planning that, sometimes, just works. I really enjoy Supersons. It's not quite in the "Absolute favourites" list, but I really love seeing it appear in my pull-list.


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