Review: SUPERMAN & ROBIN SPECIAL #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Superman & Robin Special #1: As the Super Sons, Jon Kent and Damian Wayne put evil to bed…past its bedtime. But a new day has dawned, and Jon Kent is now the Superman of Metropolis—all grown up and fighting for truth, justice, and the kinds of grown-up things that Superboy was only beginning to understand as a child. Now a ghost from Jon’s past has reared its head, and to battle this evil, he’ll need to reunite with Robin for one last mission into the heart of darkness. This time they’ll be battling not as Super Sons, but as Superman and Robin! This thrilling adventure is written by acclaimed Super Sons scribe Peter J. Tomasi!
Peter J. Tomasi ushered Superman into the Rebirth era in his eponymous title (along with Dan Jurgens in Action Comics). It was primarily in the pages of Superman that Jon Kent was established as Superboy. And it was there that Jon first met Damian Wayne and began their friendship. Tomasi further carried on their partnership through 3 Super Sons series. Now Tomasi returns to the Super Sons, but this time, but this is the first time Tomasi’s written them since the major changes in their status quos.
Tomasi touches on the changes to Jon’s life early in the story in an exchange between Jon and his mother Lois. Jon is shown enjoying watching one of his favourite childhood cartoons, and reminiscing about his lost childhood. He tells his mother, “Sometimes I like to zone out on stuff I enjoyed whan things were…simpler…back when I was a kid…which really wasn’t that long ago”.
Tomasi thus gives a gentle rebuke to DC for the incredibly bad decision to allow Bendis to instantly age Jon up from a ten-year-old to near adulthood overnight. Tomasi was pushed off Superman and Jon’s instant aging made the continuation of the Super Sons titles problematic. So, Tomasi would be justified in being a bit salty. But he chooses a more subtle way of expressing his displeasure. Merely reminding readers of how unfairly the characters have been treated, and the great stories that might have arisen from letting Jon age organically over a number of years.
However, this special allows Tomasi to discover if he can recapture any of the old Super Sons dynamic given the changes both characters have undergone. And while it isn’t quite the same, a lot of that same magic is still there. Despite the fact that Damian is now the younger partner, this doesn’t change his interactions with Jon in the slightest.
Jon, on the other hand is a bit more sure of himself, but his interactions with Damian help him recapture much of his younger self. It is clear that their respective changes have not diminished their friendship in the slightest.
I also like that there are some call backs to both Tomasi’s Superman and Super Sons series. The time device that took Clark and Jon to Dinosaur Island and later gained sentience in The Adventures of the Super Sons is central to the plot of the story.
And I love that the humour in the Super Sons stories is still in abundance. The sequence with Damian peering into the bottle city of Kandor and saying, “I must really be scaring the hell out of them right now… Damian the sun god rises!” was hilarious. As is Damian’s delight upon learning that the time device has brought Nazis into the Fortress of Solitude. At this point, he happily declares, “Nazis. Kicking their asses is going to be fun”.
And the story ends on a happy note, with Damian stating that he misses his friend. To this, Jon declares, “I miss you too, buddy. but remember I’m just a call away and we’ll still always be…the Super Sons. This happily leaves the door open for further adventures together. I’d love to see Tomasi continue writing the pair – preferably set before Jon’s rapid age change. But continuing in the present would be great too.
Unfortunately, Marvel has Patrick Gleason under an exclusive contract, as it would have been great to Tomasi and Gleason reunited for this. However, Viktor Bogdanovic, Daniel Henriques, Scott Hanna, and Matt Santorelli have done a great job with this story. Jon and Damian look exactly as they do in their own titles. And the action sequences are impressively illustrated.
As great as this story was, I’d still rather see the classic version of the Super Sons. However, that’s not Tomasi’s fault. The blame for that lies with DC and Bendis, so I won’t count that against this title.
Superman & Robin Special #1 was a great chance to see one of my favourite writers revisit an all-time classic title. But it also serves as a sad reminder of what could have been if Tomasi had continued on Superman and the Super Sons. I hope that this is not Tomasi’s farewell to Jon and Damian, and that we will see more Super Sons from him in the future.