Oh, boy. To understand Superman’s first volume under the Rebirth movement, you need to understand that the Superman in this book is the Superman we knew in the 80s, 90s, and early-2000s. This is the Superman who married Lois Lane, the Superman who fought against Doomsday and died, the Superman who returned from the dead.
Why is this confusing, you ask? Well, this Superman is now living in an alternate reality, one that arrived around 2010. DC calls it The New 52 universe. In this softly rebooted universe, everything and everyone got a facelift, modernized, updated. The Superman in this new universe wore a suit more like armor than tights, had a romance with Wonder Woman, and wasn’t much of a talker. He died in battle, though, and so the pre-New 52 Superman, who had been hiding out on this alternate Earth with his wife Lois and their son Jon, decides to don the red and blue again because, yeah, Earth needs a Superman.
Batman and Wonder Woman don’t know this new Superman. No one does. They don’t know if they can trust him. They honestly don’t know what to think of him. This is a really interesting dynamic because this classic version of Superman was the beacon of hope in his old universe—he was the gold standard. To suddenly be an alien twice over adds an interesting dimension to the character, one that the creators were sure to touch upon. I can only hope they continue to use it to drive stories.
But the real heart and soul of this book is the arrival of Superman as a family man. Let’s face it—our classic Superman has always been a dad. He may not previously have actually had a child, but he basically epitomized the traits we hope for in every great father—brave, selfless, compassionate, assertive, reliable, strong, and even a little boring.
Now Superman acts like a dad for good reason—he is one! Their son, Jon, is just beginning to develop powers, and watching Superman guide his son through these changes is charming in and of itself.
Jon, who I believe is around ten or so, is an incredibly likable character. He’s not too naïve, not too sassy, not too polished, but not too rough, either. They’ve hit a nice tone with him, one that I hope they can continue.
I do believe Lois is getting a bit lost in the mix in this first volume, though. In my opinion, her inclusion in the action feels a bit forced, and, honestly, there’s a moment at the end of this book where I really questioned Superman’s judgment in allowing a very human Lois to be anywhere near the cataclysmic battle taking place.
As much as the creators have hit the right note with Jon, they are missing the mark just a bit with Lois. They’ve all been hiding out on this new Earth in order to protect Jon, and so Lois must be content as an anonymous novelist, doing house chores, and sort of playing the role of house wife. It never felt quite true to the character, but neither did the big action scene in which she participates. Granted, like Superman himself, getting Lois just right can be tricky. I trust Tomasi and Gleason will eventually find the right chord for her.
So, yes, much of Son of Superman worked very well. Seeing Superman as a father is something I very much enjoy, especially because I am a father myself. It’s fun to be able to relate to him even now as a forty year old man. Seeing Superman through Jon’s eyes breathes fresh life into the hero, and watching Jon struggle to become a hero in his own right is going to prove fertile ground for future stories.
But speaking of story, Son of Superman faltered with its main conflict. The Eradicator is back, but I think this is the New 52 version of the character—I was never clear on that, to be honest. Anyway, as an ancient piece of Kryptonian technology, he’s taken it upon himself to destroy Jonathan Kent, whom he views to be an impure blight against Kryptonian genes due to his human heritage. Plus, as it happens, he’s got a bunch of Kryptonian souls living inside of him.
Frankly, I found the whole Eradicator plot a bit of a stretch, even by comic book standards. There are dozens of directions they could have taken in this first volume, why they chose yet another character with an “S” on his chest and very convoluted motive is something of a mystery. And the dozens of Kryptonian souls trapped inside of the Eradicator really took me out of the story. It seemed like such a significant event just to kind of throw in there as an aside … it felt forced and unnatural to the general cadence of the book. In fact, everything with the Eradicator felt a little clunky to me.
Furthermore, along those same lines, the art in Son of Superman is flat-out superb. Patrick Gleason draws a heroic Superman, a charismatic Jonathan, and a self-reliant Lois. But his style tends to be a little cartoony—a bit exaggerated. There are a few installments in the book, however, where both Jorge Jimenez and Dough Mahnke fill in on the pencils. Both are superb—I’ve been a Mahnke fan for a long while now. But, their style tends to be a little darker, a little more realistic, a little more chiseled. Like the storyline itself, the shift in art could be abrupt and jarring. All of the art is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but the flow is disruptive from installment to installment due to contrasting styles.
Son of Superman is not perfect, but it’s a bold, uplifting direction for Superman and I commend the creators for embarking upon such risk. Taking one of your flagship characters and making him both a husband and a dad is unconventional to be sure, but I have no doubt this creative team in particular will provide captivating stories to come. I think we’re all ready for Superman Dad … I know I am.