DC’s possible future event opens, for me anyway, with a look at the world of Jonathan Kent. He’s taken over as Superman and is fighting to keep the peace in a Metropolis that’s very different to today’s City of Tomorrow.
The young hero feels drastic action is needed.
Soon, second cousin Kara comes calling.
Would DC please stop ageing up Jon Kent? As a tween, with or without fellow Super Son Damian Wayne, he’s a great character – smart, spunky, sparky. As a teenager with the Legion, he’s a little less fun, but still a decent character.
This guy, though, is an arrogant fool. Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The problem is that an engorged bit of Brainaic dandruff known as Brain Cells is controlling the citizenry. This has brought the US army to town. So he flies Brain Cells away from the city, to his fortress, to lessen its hold on them. And then, to further ‘protect’ them, shrinks them down into a bottle! Which he then carries to the Fortress and plonks right by Brain Cells!
There’s nothing in writer Sean Lewis’s script that explains why Jonathan can’t somehow switch off Brain Cells, or send him to the Phantom Zone, or blinking well turn him over to the government like any other criminal. Nope, instead he’s manipulated into doing exactly what Brain Cells want, making him seem less smart than his ten-year-old self.
Jon argues that the citizenry ‘don’t know they’ve been shrunk’… as if they won’t feel anything, or see things in the distance get larger or, I dunno, notice they’re being flown thousands of miles by an apparently giant Kryptonian fortress robot!
The story presents him as half as powerful as his dad – whose absence is unexplained here – which doesn’t jibe at all with what we’ve been told previously. Sure, Jon is only half-Kryptonian in terms of DNA, but Batman tested him and reckoned he’d possibly outdo his father in terms of power.
I’m also unconvinced by Jon’s confidence problem, as pointed out by Brain Cells and his own inner thoughts. He has/had (no info about the fate of Lois here either, though solicitations put her in a very strange place) parents who adored him, a great pal in Damian and is remembered a millennia in the future. Why does he believe people are expecting him to fail?
The portrayal of Supergirl is equally disappointing – her belligerence is explained as being down to Brain Cells’ influence, but presumably she’s not making up that stuff about badmouthing him to Clark? I don’t believe in this future Supergirl – in Brian Michael Bendis’ Action Comics, Kara loves Jon to bits.
Lewis’ writing is pretty decent; I suspect this story is almost entirely editorially driven, meaning he has to sell the more noxious character beats. A dated gag about dance cards apart, the dialogue is good. The cliffhanger might just bring me back. And it does sound as if Jon has had some pretty interesting adventures.
But who is this young man who acts so impulsively, so stupidly? Is he Superman full time? Does he have pals? Why does he not at least consult with Supergirl?
The art by John Timms is as nice as I’ve come to expect from his Young Justice work, with only the cover image of Jon striking me as off – there’s something weird about the torso, its length, I think. I’m not usually one for spreads without much going on, but the double-page look at the spot where Metropolis was is rather great, with the sea just dropping into the canyon, instead of forming a river – that’s a nice piece of thinking.
The colours by Gabe Eltaeb and letters of Dave Sharpe stand up nicely too.
One question begged by the lead story in this extra-sized issue is, where the heck are the other costumed heroes? It turns out that two are in Metropolis as the bottle is shrunk. Sadly, both are D-listers – the Manhattan Guardian created by Grant Morrison and Shiloh Norman, The Other Mr Miracle.
The Mr Miracle story starts with the people of Metropolis looking up at the shiny glass bottle surface as a TV news team reports on the ‘mysterious barrier’ that’s constraining them. See, Jon, they’re not stupid! Shiloh analyses the barrier, some mechanical droids attack, he shows off his skills. Our young Mr Miracle – sporting a terrible new costume – understandably assumes the bad guys are created by whoever erected the barrier, but readers know different. This isn’t a badly crafted piece from writer Brandon Easton, illustrator Valentine de Landro and colourist Marissa Louise, but if I’m paying for a back-up in a Superman Family book, I want a Superman Family character.
The Guardian – another Seven Soldiers revamp character – is tangentially a Superman character, Jack Kirby’s clone version having been a supporting player in Seventies Jimmy Olsen. This is the most recent version, who moved from New York for a quiet life and soon found himself trapped in a bottle. This story is set six months on from the bottling of the city, everyone knows Superman is behind it, and Guardian is trying to keep the peace. It’s a tough job as a rabble rouser named Honest Mary is causing heaps of trouble, with her antics including the kidnapping of Jimmy Olsen.
Quibbles aside – needless out-of-sequence narrative, the hero’s real name goes unmentioned – this is a good read from Sean Lewis, better than his lead strip. I suspect he had more freedom here. And the art by first Cully Hamner, then Michael Avon Oeming, is terrific, especially with Laura Martin colouring.
So, one lead story that had good moments but didn’t ring true for the characters, one decent but forgettable back-up, and one Rather Good Indeed co-feature. Had the Mr Miracle slot been given to Metropolis stalwart Steel, I might have liked this issue more – I’ve never been a big fan of Fourth World types. As it is, $5.99 is a lot to pay for just 12 pages I really like, so whether I visit Superman in Metropolis next month is up in the air.