[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Penciller: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray, Mark Morales, and Christian Alamy
Continuing the story from last issue, Superman and Batman have put Superboy and Robin into “boot camp,” having taken away their equipment, uniforms, and insignia. Jon and Damian are required to work together to overcome a series of challenges to earn them back.
They break out of the boot camp bunker as planned, but not by working together as their fathers had hoped. They find some of their equipment, waiting outside for them.
Their first challenge is to defeat Nobody. However, Nobody’s powers cause an avalanche, which she then has to save both boys from. This leaves her incapacitated, which allows Robin to take his insignia from her along with the map and plane tickets to get to the next challenge.
Nobody declares Robin a cheater, but it’s too late, as he has already hopped on a passing train, attempting to leave Jon behind. Jon tells Nobody that he understands what it is Superman and Batman are trying to teach them and that he doesn’t intend to give up on Damian. Maya gives him the zipper tab to his jacket back, which allows him to symbolically restore the Superman symbol that is broken by the open zipper. Jon then runs to catch the train as well.
However, the next challenge is to face Damian’s pet bat-creature, Goliath, who attacks Robin on the train, just as Jon catches up. Damian manages to distract Goliath with food inside one of the train cars. However, they notice that a railway bridge is missing, and the train is headed straight for the gap left behind. Robin tries to get Goliath out of the train to safety, but Goliath ignores his orders. At the last moment, Jon lures him out by getting him to play fetch.
Clark and Bruce are impressed by Jon’s resourcefulness, but less impressed by the fact that they still aren’t working together. Superman states that they have one more chance to work together, but that if that doesn’t work, he doesn’t know what else to try.
As they ride Goliath on to the next challenge, the boys talk. Jon tells Damian that he believes their fathers want them become comrades-in-arms, but Robin says that it’s even worse – they want their sons to become friends, which Damian says will never happen. However, Jon doesn’t seem so sure about that.
Hours later, as Goliath approaches Gotham, they run into a hurricane, created by Superman. Robin unsuccessfully attempts to steer Goliath safely into the eye of the storm, and Superman is forced to abort the challenge.
Telling them that they failed to beat even a single challenge together, they will need to discuss whether they will get their capes back when the boys return to the Batcave, leaving them to find their own way back.
However, when they return to the Batcave, they find that a monster composed of mixed DNA from several of Batman’s rogues gallery has captured their fathers and Alfred. Finally, the two boys work together to defeat the creature, who Superman calls “Mr. Squish.” The adults don’t let on that this was their plan all along and that they weren’t really in danger.
Alfred states that the boys came through and made their fathers proud after all, and officially dubs them the “Super Sons.”
Later, the two fathers and sons are in their civilian identities in Hamilton County to cut down a large Christmas tree for a charity ball that Bruce Wayne is throwing and a much more modest tree for the Smith home. The two fathers discuss how proud their own fathers would be and how good a job they are doing as fathers themselves. However, the parental pride is cut short as another fight erupts between their sons.
Although Damian insists it could never happen, we can see the earliest signs of friendship between the two boys. They have found that they can work together, but they still have a lot of antipathy to work through before they can truly be a team, let alone friends. In seeing them take “Mr. Squish” down together, we get a taste of the team that they can be eventually.
Both boys seem to be troubled by their emotions. Jon’s powers are linked to his emotional state, and he is still easily scared or distracted, which can prove disastrous. He also feels the pressure of living up to the standards and ideals that his father exemplifies as Superman.
Damian, on the other hand is troubled by a need to prove he is self-sufficient and doesn’t need help from anyone, which hampers his ability to work as a team with anyone. Also, Damian has a bad temper and tends to lash out in anger, which causes Jon to react in anger as well.
It’s also interesting how their issues reflect their relationship between their fathers. However, Superman has learned to deal with his emotions and control his powers, and Batman has learned to overcome his need to prove his self sufficiency over the years and to work well with others. Both fathers have learned the lessons that their sons need to learn.
Also, it’s somewhat interesting how the problems between Superboy and Robin seem to be bringing Superman and Batman closer together as friends, allowing them to bond over the shared experience of fatherhood.
The only drawback is that this story is that it makes me eager to read the upcoming Super Sons title, which won’t be released for at least a few more months, considering its launch date has yet to be announced. This is something I want to read now, but I’ll just have to try to be patient. Hopefully that title will continue the same level of quality that we have been lucky to see in this series.
This title is easily my favourite title of the Rebirth relaunch. It has returned Superman to his pre-New 52 level of greatness, but has also shown us a whole new side to Superman – Superman the husband and father. DC has taken a big chance in carrying Superman’s story forward in such a manner, but thanks to Tomasi and Gleason’s adept storytelling, this direction has paid off in spades.