Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Super Sons 1, originally released February 15th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Michael: “What a delight!” I found myself saying after reading Pete Tomasi and Jorge Jimenez’s Super Sons 1. Super Sons has arguably been one of the most anticipated Rebirth books ever since Jim Lee threw in Damian Wayne and Jon Kent on that teaser poster that your comic book shop gave you back in June. Tomasi and Superman co-writer Patrick Gleason gave us a taste of what to expect from this series a few months ago, and Super Sons 1 carries on that joyful vibe without stumbling.
The narrative of Super Sons 1 is a by-the-numbers introductory issue. Tomasi and Jimenez give us some context for the respective lives of Damian Wayne and Jon Kent. On the very off-chance that you weren’t well-acquainted with them: Damian is Robin, son of Batman, the stern father/Dark Knight Detective. Superboy is Jon Kent, son of Superman and Lois Lane, the loving parents/embodiment of wholesome Americana. Through a series of typical schoolyard bullying, childhood double dog dares, and establishing home environments, Tomasi clearly presents who Jon and Damian are.
That might sound like rudimentary storytelling – which it may be – but it’s executed masterfully. What makes it work so well is the very reason that Super Sons was such a no-brainer of a series: Jon and Damian work amazingly when paired together. Pairing Superboy with Robin works the on the same level as pairing Superman with Batman – obviously. The contrast of viewpoints, the cynicism vs optimism, the super-powered vs the non-powered, etc. However, if we as readers don’t buy one of those two characters, that dynamic is thrown off and made completely useless. Damian and Jon work because they are two fully-formed, interesting, and captivating characters.
Jon Kent is the big-hearted do-gooder you’d want Superman’s son to be, but it should come as no surprise that Damian steals the show in Super Sons 1. Damian is the driving force of the issue; he forces himself into Jon’s life and makes them team-up. Besides dealing with his emerging superpowers, Jon is a normal boy living a normal life. Damian – human he may be – has never lived a normal life, and continues that trend by being homeschooled in the Batcave and gearing up to fight crime at night. Damian jokes about how he “wanted to see how the other half lives.” On some level that’s probably exactly what he wants: to see what a normal childhood is like. He would probably also be hard-pressed to admit that he has fun when he teams up with Jon.
I, however, have no difficulty in admitting how thrilled I was to see Damian posing as Jon’s bus driver – what a classic Batman disguise moment! You could argue that Batman is what happens when someone has a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of imagination. Here Damian is the teenage version of that. I love that Damian is so bored, so curious, and so devoted that he spies on Jon in such a way. The best part is that Damian plays it all off like these are the completely rational actions of a completely normal teenager. Look how Jorge Jimenez has Damian casually reveal his hiked-up pants and elevator shoes:
Better still, Damian puts back on the disguise and returns to his role as bus driver as Jon begrudgingly agrees.
Damian tries to get a rise out of Jon at every turn. Twice in one day Damian bursts into Jon’s life unannounced and proceeds to criticize Jon as if he’s the strange one. I wouldn’t call their dynamic “brotherly,” but there’s something to be said about their age discrepancy and the way they interact with one another. I can’t say how old Jon is – Dan Jurgens’ Superman: Lois and Clark marked him at 15, but that’s probably changed. Either way, Jon wants to prove to the older Damian that he’s just as good. Damian, on the other hand, wants a friend, but masks it as a competition with the younger Jon.
This is a joyful book and Jorge Jimenez taps into that joy with his characterizations of its stars. I love the long, lanky limbs he gives to the duo and their big faces full of anime-like expression. There was one page that was a little peculiar to me: when Jon is playing cards with his parents. It’s a loving scene that shows how damn nice it is to be Lois and Clark’s son but the perspective is warped a little bit. We’ve got two panels: Lois reaching out to Jon in one, Clark in another and Jon’s silhouette bridging the gap in the gutter between them. It’s an odd, surreal moment that sticks out for me – can’t quite put my finger on what it is.
Taylor did this issue fill you with the same glee as it did me? Any thoughts on how our heroes end In the jungle surrounded by robo-replicas? Or that odd prologue with the boy holding his family hostage? Is there any down side to being Jon Kent? Seems like a pretty great life.
Taylor: That prologue really threw me off and I honestly have no idea what to make of it. Maybe it’s a reference to some deep DC cut, but even then it’s a bizarre scene to start this series given that it doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the issue. Similarly, I have no idea how Jon and Damian end up in the jungle being chased by robot versions of themselves, but I’m so excited to see how the series gets there.
And that’s the key word here. Like you, Michael, I’m super jazzed by this issue. There’s a ton to like here but I think it all really boils down to the characters of Damian and Jon and how they play off of one another. In particular, what I like about their relationship is that it feels so very much like a real boyhood friendship. Jon is the sweet kid who always wants to do right by everyone while Damian is more of the bad boy. It’s an unlikely relationship but one that has played itself out billions of times before in the history of our planet. Just check out the way Damian pushes Jon to sneak out at night to fight crime.
Damian is that kid who gets his friends to go throw rocks at cars or poke a dead body he found by the tracks. He’s basically the Bart Simpson to Jon’s Milhouse. This doesn’t mean Damian’s a bad kid, it’s more that he’s the kid with less reserve who always pushes the envelope. This type of relationship has been explored countless times in other stories but I think it works especially well here because of who these boys are and the burden each carries being the son of their particular father.
Of fathers, this issue offers up great reasons for why Jon and Damian act the way they do. Mid-issue there are a pair of scenes that mirror each other in their content. In one, Damian talks to Bruce as the latter prepares for a night of cape-crusading. In the other, Jon enjoys a night with his parents before Clark gets a call from the League requesting his assistance. The unfolding of the scenes are exactly the same, but the way resolve are completely different.
In Jon’s home scene, he enjoys a night of cards and good clean family fun with his mom and dad. As Clark as called into the superheroing office he takes the time to express his love both to his wife and his son in a wonderful panel.
Smiles and kisses abound and the bright colors imbued by Alejandro Sanchez show that the Kent home is one love and caring. Seeing this, it’s no wonder Jon is caring kid who always tries to do the right thing. He has a family who cares about him and he doesn’t need to seek affection and thrills outside of this context.
Damian’s home life is another story. As Batman rushes off, presumably on the same “league thing” as Super Man, his interaction with his son is way different from his super counterpart.
Instead of love, Damian is basically told he is inadequate. This isn’t at all surprising for anyone who knows a modicum about Bruce Wayne, but the way this scene is positioned next to Jon’s illustrates just how different each boy’s upbringing is. Damian, is told he isn’t worth a damn yet so it’s no wonder he acts out in dangerous ways. He wants to prove to Bruce that he’s worthy of his admiration and love. Jon, on the other hand, is assured of his love and therefore doesn’t feel the need to act out. He gets all the attention he needs at home.
There’s nothing revelatory about these or how they show what motivates each boy. However, their mirror positioning in the issue so aptly demonstrates the difference between Jon and Damian’s world. Not being a regular reader of Superman or Batman, I instantly know everything I need to know about who these characters are for this series. More, because of these scenes I empathize with the characters all the more and I buy into their dynamic as a pint-sized dynamic duo. Given that this is the heart of the series, I hope it’s just a teaser of all the good things to come in later issues.
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