by Spencer Irwin and Mark Mitchell
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Spencer: Despite not making a single appearance, the Teen Titans loomed large over the first five issues of Super Sons. The Titans were Damian’s trump card, the cool older friends he could taunt Jon with whenever Jon gained the upper-hand against him. Amazingly, Jon never seemed all that affected by Damian’s bluster, at one point even telling Damian off for bringing the Titans up so much. This all changes as Peter Tomasi and Jorge Jimenez bring the Titans into the fold in Super Sons 6, adding some interesting new wrinkles to these two boys’ relationship.
Superboy and Robin spend the first third or so of this issue patrolling Metropolis together (at least until Jon’s 10PM bedtime) and stopping jaywalkers, changing flat tires, and rescuing cats from trees. Damian, of course, acts above it all, but Jon relishes every moment. Sure, some of that is no doubt due to his newfound freedom, but he’s also obviously taken his father’s words to heart.
Like his father, Jon is just out to help people, no matter how humble the task, because it’s the right thing to do. His mission for the night is “having fun and helping people.” Damian, though, has a larger agenda. His claims of being there to train Jon are likely just talk — he does, after all, let Jon take the lead for the evening — but he has a Titans mission planned once its time for Jon to say goodnight, and Damian isn’t at all polite as he blows off Jon for the Titans.
It’s fascinating how quickly the tone changes once the Titans arrive, and even Jon notices it. Jon and Damian had been stopping jaywalkers and rescuing cats — the Titans have an actual mission, and Jon can only watch them glumly as they talk about metamorphic energy, thermal sensors, empathic disruptions and chemoreceptors. Jimenez first frames Jon alone in the foreground of the panel as the Titans congregate on the far side of the rooftop, and then places him outside the borders of the panel altogether, clearly emphasizing how alone and excluded he feels at the moment. Jon may have complained in the past about some of the things Damian can do that he can’t, but I think this is the first time he’s ever truly been jealous of Damian, the first time Jon’s ever actually felt like a child next to him.
We can see Jon’s frustration as he returns home for the night. He’s no longer excited about the work he did that evening, and when Lois mentions their costumes, Jon corrects her, calling them “uniforms” as Damian did earlier in the evening. He’s taking Damian’s words to heart, which is probably not a good thing.
Damian, of course, has his own insecurities he’s dealing with. It’s notable that the Titans invite Jon to come with them, and would have been perfectly fine with his presence — it’s Damian who turns him away. If Jon becomes a Titan, or even works with them, Damian can no longer hold the Titans over Jon’s head. If it’s the Titans that make Damian feel superior to Jon, he can’t risk losing that. Damian also can’t risk giving away how much he’s exaggerated his necessity to the Titans. He’s played himself up as an essential and revered leader, but the Titans’ behavior shows that they think of him very differently.
The Titans seem to at least have respect for Damian’s knowledge and tactics — if they didn’t, why would they stick with him? — but they’re incredibly dismissive of Damian himself. Jon knows Damian is full of crap, but he still allows Damian to get a rise out of him. The Titans, though, are mature enough to deflect Damian’s bluster with sarcasm and insults. They don’t take him seriously, and it would kill Damian if Jon ever realized this.
Damian’s always wanted to be treated as more of an adult than he actually is, but now he may be influencing Jon to feel the same way. It seems notable, then, that Super Sons 6 ends with Damian having been aged into an old man by the Time Commander. I can only speculate, but this may be Tomasi and Jimenez’s way of allowing the boys to see what it actually means to be an adult and to grow up quickly, and how it may not be everything they’ve built it up to be. It’s certainly an apt lesson for a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old alike.
(I have even less to base my reading of the opening page on, but I can’t help but to see the parallels between the sculptor who just wants to see his work live on — and who I have to assume created the Time Commander and his cronies — and a parent who just wants to see their child live on and thrive long after they’re gone. It’s not a stretch given Tomasi’s history with father/son stories with both his leads, although Batman and Superman are even less present in this storyline so far than they were in the last.)
Super Sons continues to be a delight, but as fun as the stories and bickering can be, I’m always most impressed by the subtle ways in which Tomasi develops both characters. How about you, Mark? Do you find the changes the Teen Titans have created in the Super Sons’ lives interesting? Do you think Damian would be even more insufferable as an old man than he is as a teenager?
Mark: What impresses me most about Super Sons 6 is how Tomasi continues to take relatable moments that everyone has experienced from childhood and successfully reflect them in the superhero antics of his book’s young heroes. I have real distinct memories of times where I felt left out of or too young for the things my friends were doing. It’s rare that there’s a comic book that works so well for readers both young and old.
Super Sons 6 also marks a necessary evolution in the relationship between Damian and Jon. After five issues, Damian constantly protesting their friendship was beginning to feel repetitive, so it’s nice to see that fall away as they meet up on a Friday night to take on “crime” in the streets of Metropolis. Their new dynamic is also paralleled neatly in how Tomasi shows Damian fitting in (or not really fitting in, as the case may be) with the Teen Titans. The Titans are a little older, a little cooler, a little more sophisticated than Damian. He feels it, either consciously or subconsciously, and so that’s the air with which he treats Jon — because that’s how you treat a friend younger than you, right?
I also like that Jon is a genuinely good kid who listens to his parents (most of the time) which seems true to his character. He’s home before curfew, but as soon as Lois leaves to chase a story I expected him to hop out and try to chase down Damian and the Titans — hang with the cool kids. But he doesn’t, and he shouldn’t. Jon recognizes how lucky he is that his parents allow him to go out and use his powers, and how quickly they could take it away. It’s another neat way that Tomasi highlights the differences between the Clarks and Waynes.
In our discussion of last month’s issue I brought up a personal anecdote from my childhood, and I feel like I could do the same this time (but don’t worry, I won’t). Every issue I am surprised with how deeply I connect with Super Sons. There are many great comic books out there using the trappings of superhero stories to comment on the real world, but there are few that do so in a way as consistently and charmingly relatable as this. Reading as an adult, I see my childhood in Tomasi’s stories, but also a little bit of myself now.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?