Review: Super Sons Vol. 3: Parent Trap trade paperback (DC Comics)

Super Sons Vol. 3: Parent Trap is the best this series has been so far, landing with its humor and drama from start to finish. That's even despite writer Peter Tomasi using well-established plot devices throughout; even with some tired tropes, Tomasi makes the Super Sons wholly likable, something that hasn't always come so easily, and there's even a sense of real danger for a change. Unfortunately, as is always the case, this improvement comes at this series' end; though the follow-up series is teased, I'm still not sure I'll be picking it up so quickly.

[Review contains spoilers]

Of Parent Trap's two main stories here, one involves Robin Damian Wayne's conflict with his mother, Talia al Ghul, and the other involves Superboy Jon Kent and Robin battling Super Sons Vol. 1: When I Grow Up's inaugural foe Kid Amazo. In this way, Parent Trap is effectively a book of sequels, breaking no great new ground necessarily aside from the Super-Pets team up in the included annual.

We've never seen Damian go up against Talia alongside Jon Kent before, but conflicts with Talia have come as recently as Patrick Gleason's Robin, Son of Batman Vol. 1: Year of Blood and also with Ra's al Ghul in Teen Titans Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best and Batman: Preludes to the Wedding. Tomasi adds nothing new or different to Damian's maternal troubles, and even as of Dark Days: The Road to Metal I thought Talia was on the side of the angels, so I'm not even sure Tomasi's got the motivations quite right. I did appreciate the shout-out to Silencer -- integrating the "New Age of Heroes" titles into the fabric of the DC Universe is about the best thing DC can do for them -- but in all the conflict of "Parent Trap" felt like worn ground.

But Tomasi still wins the day in a variety of ways. First, I could read an entire book about about civilian Jon and Damian's shenanigans at their school. Tomasi's Jon is especially fun, trash-talking a teammate on the field and then being immediately friends off the field, plus Jon's penchant to talk directly to the reader. The scene where Jon-as-Superboy has to backpedal a public appearance when confronted by his mother Lois Lane was also enjoyable. I appreciated the less angsty road that Tomasi takes in that Jon immediately forgives and dismisses the revelation that Damian committed murder in his childhood rather than melodramatically breaking up the band over it.

"End of Innocence" involves Kid Amazo arriving to take revenge on Jon and Damian. It's not very complicated or nuanced, and Tomasi just so happens to have Cyborg be the only Justice Leaguer not taken prisoner by Amazo just so Damian can then use Cyborg to save the day. But for fans of these characters, you've got to smile that Jon and Damian end up saving the Justice League on their own. There's also a particularly harrowing five-page sequence, in which Damian and Jon try to save one another from drowning leagues below the surface, that I thought was particularly well-done and unusual for this series in its drama. All of that helped to carry the end of the book.

Carlo Barberi drew all of these issues particularly well. Barberi has his own history with DC Comics's young heroes, having done a run on Impulse among others. Here, I felt I saw a lot of relevant influences from DC history in Barberi's depictions; himself, but also Todd Nauck, Freddie Williams, and Ed McGuinness. All of that made this final volume of Super Sons feel cut from the same fabric as some of its direct predecessors like Young Justice, Robin, and Superman/Batman.

The book kicks off with the series' first annual, a delightfully wacky Super-Pets story by Tomasi and Paul Pelletier. Everything is here: Detective Chimp, Krypto teaming up with Damian's Titus while Ace the Bat-Hound snores away, a supposed dark chapter in which the death of Super-Pet "Clay Critter" drove a rift between more-than-friends Krypto and Streaky, and a timed-just-right save by Bat-Cow. Kudos to Tomasi for a mostly silent issue (or at least mostly filled with barks and yips) that fully delivers; the antagonistic alien that's been kidnapping pets isn't totally wrong in his want to "liberate" them, and the story begs for a sequel where Tomasi delves into it all more doggy deeply.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Super Sons Vol. 3: Parent Trap

Cancellation is not always the sign of flaws, though I do suspect Super Sons wasn't delivering exactly what the market wanted (or at least, I acknowledge, what I wanted). The twelve-issue miniseries to follow seems surely a better fit, though gee golly gosh I wish it wasn't set in the minuscule space between the end of this book and Action Comics #1000. Sure, I understand Brian Michael Bendis' Man of Steel does things to make the continuation of Super Sons problematic, but for all the lack of consequence that Super Sons generally had, my interest in the miniseries is even less piqued knowing assuredly that all the pieces must be back where they started before the series ends. I'd read it, sure, but not immediately and even less so if DC's going to collect the book six and six instead of all twelve issues together.

To that end, Super Sons Vol. 3: Parent Trap is for me a good end to this series and a fine note for me on which to let the Super-Sons partnership go for a while.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Super Sons Vol. 3: Parent Trap
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)


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