Review: SUPERMAN: SON OF KAL-EL #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: John Timms
Colours: Gabe Eltaeb
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Superman: Son of Kal-El #1: Jonathan Kent has experienced a lot in his young life. He’s traveled the galaxies with his Kryptonian grandfather and lived in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes, who were intent on training him for the day his father, Clark Kent, could no longer be Superman. There is a hole in the Legion’s history that prevents Jon from knowing exactly when that will happen, but all signs point to it being very soon. It’s time for the son to wear the cape of his father and bear the symbol of hope that has told the world who Superman really is. Join writer Tom Taylor (Nightwing, DCeased) and artist John Timms (Infinite Frontier) as they usher in a whole new era for the House of El!
For this review, I will break from our standard format and address the negatives first. Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 has a single negative aspect, which I need to deal with before getting into the positives. This sole negative is that I dislike the central premise of the series.
The premise of the book is Jon Kent following in the footsteps of his father and becoming Superman in his own right. That in itself is fine, but it shouldn’t be a story that is set in the present, but a few years in the future. I feel that DC made an abysmal mistake in letting Brian Michael Bendis instantly age Jon up from 10 to 17.
However, I won’t be holding that against Tom Taylor’s story. He inherited Bendis’ mess, and apparently DC wants to go forward with an older Jon. Taylor is in an unenviable position, but I have faith that he can produce a great story. And I won’t let the fact that I would rather have Peter J. Tomasi’s 10-year-old Jon instead of Bendis’ 17-year old Jon influence my assessment of Taylor’s story.
With that out of the way, I have to say that I absolutely loved everything else about the book. I especially loved that Taylor begins with a retelling of the day Jon was born. This is an important story which has only been hinted at before. The original version of Jon’s birth told in Convergence was retconned away by Superman Reborn, so this is our first proper look at his canon origin story.
We learn a lot about from this flashback. First, we see Superman’s reluctance to attend to major events in his personal life when lives are in peril. But we also see that Superman has friends that he can rely on to protect the world and allow him to take time for his family.
I also love the exchange between Superman and Batman. It’s refreshing to see the idea of Superman and Batman as friends is alive and well in the Infinite Frontier era. I also like that Taylor has picked up on the thread that Tomasi created by having Batman discovering that Jon’s combined Kryptonian and Human physiology might make him more powerful than his father.
It’s notable that the very first threat that Jon handles in Taylor’s title involves Jon solving the situation with compassion instead of his fists. This echoes some of his father’s finest moments. Clearly, Jon has inherited his father’s heart.
However, Jon is offended and horrified when the military present don’t extend the same compassion to the unnamed metahuman. Their rough treatment turns Jon against them, having to rescue him a second time. This seems to be setting Jon up for a conflict with the military, and perhaps by extension, the United States government.
Taylor then treats us to a conversation between Jon and Damian Wayne (a.k.a. Robin). This section is a particular treat. DCeased proved that Taylor understands the dynamic of the Super Sons. The dynamic has changed somewhat given that Jon is now older than Damian. But this change is more deftly handled by Taylor than it was by Bendis.
Damian mentions setting up a new secret identity for Jon, which is an intriguing idea. With Clark going public with his own secret identity, Jon never really had any choice about keeping his own identity secret. But if Jon follows Damian up on this offer, this opens some interesting potential stories. I wonder what career Jon would follow in this identity. Being a journalist like his parents seems an obvious choice. But perhaps he would follow his own path instead.
In Superman: Son of Kal-El #1, the story is titled “Truth, Justice, and A Better World”, dropping “the American way” from the traditional Superman catchphrase. Not being an American, I always felt a bit unsure about that particular bit of the Superman mythos. It seems to me to be somewhat nationalistic and isolationist. It seems limiting to tie Superman to a single country when he belongs to the world – or to the entire DC Universe.
“A better world” seems a much more appropriate ideal for the Man of Steel. He doesn’t just act to protect the interests of one nation, but seeks to make life better for everybody. And what better way to launch the career of a new Superman, than to give him an updated, more relevant credo.
I have to commend John Timms on the fabulous artwork, which was beautifully complemented by the colours of Gabe Eltaeb. There are a number of heroes in this issue, and they all look their iconic best. I noticed that Jon’s new costume has some resemblance to Clark’s New 52 armoured costume. I felt that design looked out of place on Clark. The classic Superman should have the classic uniform. But Timms’ similar design looks quite fetching on Jon. Putting Jon in his own costume marks him as his own Superman. Putting him in the classic costume would make him appear to be merely Superman redux.
I also love Timms’ cover. The idea to pattern Jon’s #1 issue after the original Superman #1 was an inspired choice.
Despite my misgivings about Jon’s age, Taylor has proven that Bendis didn’t ruin Jon Kent as a character. Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 is a fantastic start to both the series and to Jon’s career as the Superman of the 21st Century.