Review: Superman #21

[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]

Writers: Peter J. Tomasi  & Patrick Gleason
Artists
: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Joe Prado, Ray McCarthy

Summary
Last issue, Batman set out to investigate the dairy farm of Branden Cobb, which neighbours the Kent’s farm in Hamilton County. Now it’s the next morning and Batman hasn’t returned. Concerned, Superman, Superboy, and Robin set out to search for him.

Instead, they find that the giant squid Superman and son faced in issue #2 has come to Hamilton County. After subduing the squid, Clark attempts to humanely contain it, but this leads to injury of a Hamiltonian citizen. This leads Superboy to question whether Batman and Robin’s methods for handling threats in today’s world is more relevant that his father’s.

Also, Damian lets the cat out of the bag about Jon and Kathy’s adventure in Deadman’s Swamp (in Superman #17). While Superman heads to investigate the mysterious house in the swamp, Jon and Damian have a surprising encounter with Kathy on the way back to the Kent farm.

Positives
The highlight of the issue is the interplay between Jon and Damian. Their relationship appears to be mostly mutual antagonism at this point, but there is the sense that there is a developing friendship below this. It’s not to the point where either will acknowledge that they like working together, but they are starting to function together as a team.

There are also a few comedic moments, such as Jon’s christening of Damian with the code name “Garth,” when Damian is quite happy using his real name. Also, there is Damian’s insistence that he doesn’t need any milk from Cobb’s prize-winning cow Bessie. “–TT– I have my own cow” – which is true (Batcow).

Negatives
I was disappointed to learn in last week’s Action Comics #977 that the Kents will be moving back to Metropolis. How could DC do this, considering how enjoyable it has been to read about their lives in Hamilton County? And what about Jon’s friendship with Kathy Cobb, who promises to be to Jon what Lana was to Clark?

Well, it appears that this story is going to tell us how their time in Hamilton County finally turn to crap. Kathy and her grandfather are obviously not what they appear to be. We don’t know what – aliens? Supernatural beings? Supervillains? But they obviously aren’t normal country neighbours.

The sinister goings-on in Hamilton County seem to be laying the groundwork for the Kents’ exodus to Metropolis. I understand that DC wants Superman based in Metropolis so that the status quo is more in line with the most classic and recognizable version of the Man of Steel, but I wish that they could have extended their stay for a while before making the change.

Also, I don’t mind that they are trying to establish Jon as having to struggle with how his father deals with threats as opposed to how Damian and Batman do. However, it seems that the growing divide between father and son is a bit rushed. This is the kind of split that develops over a time, not over the course of one issue.

That aside, it is an interesting development, and it is logical, especially with Damian’s influence here and in Super Sons, that Jon might start to wonder if Batman’s way of viewing the world might be more effective than Superman’s.

Plus it gives us what may be the most profound piece of advice Clark has given his son so far, “Listen, son. One day you’re going to have to choose what to do with your own fear… Whatever you choose, right or wrong, it’s going to change people’s lives. It’s going to change the world. And it’s going to change you.” I can picture Pa Kent saying the same to a young Clark. Clark wants to guide Jon to make the same decision he did, but Clark sagely realizes that this is a decision that Jon needs to make for himself.

Verdict
Despite my reservations about the Kents’ encroaching departure from Hamilton County, I still have faith in the creative team to keep this book as one of the best in DC’s line. Superman is always the first book I read on the weeks when there is a new issue.

 

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Derek McNeil

I have been an avid reader of DC Comics since the early 70s. My earliest exposure was to Batman and Superman comics, Batman (Adam West) reruns, and watching the Super-Friends every Saturday morning.