Well, that’s a pretty cover, a great homage to Superman #1 from waaaaaay back in 1939. Sharp logo, too.
It’s a shame the effect of inflation is so upfront – fewer pages for a lot more money, yay! Still, artist John Timms does a lovely job of updating the original picture to represent this book’s star, Jon Kent… but who the heck wrote that copy? ‘The beginning story…’? That is so awkward, and meaningless.
Inside, we do get the beginning of Jon’s story, as Superman is excused participation in an attempted invasion of Earth so he can attend an important event at his Fortress of Solitude.
The baby arrives, and Batman starts looking to the future.
And in that future, which is our present, all-grown-up superhero Jon finds a forest fire was accidentally sparked by a new metahuman. Having calmed him down, Jon hands him over to the authorities to be looked after. Said authorities and Jon have a different idea as to what this means.
Disturbed by the soldier’s actions, the new Superman seeks out his best pal, Damian Wayne. Of late, the youngest Robin has been occupied with a contest of martial artists, but he’s good for a talk.
It’s a eureka moment for Jon. He’s going to fight the good fight, but his way.
And that’s pretty much the first issue – origin recap, action, reaction, mission. I must admit, despite some nice lines, and Jon’s shining compassion, this was a tad disappointing. Tom Taylor is the writer of Injustice, Suicide Squad, Nightwing and more really great comics, but this first issue felt a little flat. All the way through I was expecting a big moment, a surprise that would knock my socks off, but it never came.
Did we need the latest retelling/rewriting of Jon’s birth (this is number three, but basically, it’s ‘he’s born’)? Sure, it sets up the theme of expectation, which will likely be important as Jon tries to continue the good work of his parents while forging his own path, but it just reminds us that a pure character concept has become a continuity nightmare as creative teams mess with him (see Wiki if you don’t know of Jon’s convoluted history).
Jon seeking advice from Damian doesn’t exactly convince me he’s as sharp as his parents – sure, Damian has battle instincts, street smarts and knowledge to spare, but emotional intelligence? Robin is not someone from whom to take life advice.
Is anyone out there a geneticist? We’re told again that Jon Kent, half-Kryptonian, half-Earthguy, will be stronger than his dad… would he not be diluted? Does DC fear no one will buy Jon as new Superman unless he’s in some way better than his dad? What’s wrong with him being as good as, but different to?
I admit, I’m a little resistant to this comic, even though I realise it’s likely a year-long deal, no way is the Superman title going to feature someone other than actual Superman longterm. The Death and Return of Superman, which saw all four then Superman series star pretenders for several months, engaged my interest with the mysteries surrounding the new guys, as well as by using regular Superman supporting cast members. This issue doesn’t feature present-day Lois, never mind Clark (presumably he’s off on Warworld, as set up by current Action Comics). And that’s a shame, because if I can’t have my hero, I at least want to remain in his world. I’d happily spend many months watching Jon show us how he’s different to his parents as he fights his father’s foes, but climate change? Inequality? I’ve lived through a Relevance period in comics, and by golly, it was dull.
But, once more, Tom Taylor is a hugely talented writer. I’ll give him a few issues to show us the world he’s building for Jon, to see how that modified motto of ‘Truth, Justice and a better world’ works out for him.
And John Timm’s art doesn’t hurt. It’s easy on the eye, the storytelling clear, the heroes popping off the pages. Facial features get a tad sketchy at times, I hope he keeps an eye on that. Oh, and Damian Wayne looks much older than he does elsewhere. The best sequence is the opening alien invasion, as Superman offers aid to his Justice League comrades – sorry Jon, but Timms draws a better Superdad than he does Superson.
I’m looking forward to seeing the promised new costume – it has to be better than Jon’s current look, a spin on the classic costume with panels of cliche.
Colourist Gabe Eltaeb is a good partner for Timms, setting the mood and giving Jon’s vision powers impact. And Dave Sharpe’s letters are clear as day.
I wonder if this comic will turn out to be not for me. I’m interested in the problems of the world, but do I want to see magical people engaging with them? Again, I lived through the Relevance period of the Seventies, when Green Lantern would save the entire world, then be berated for not doing enough for a particular community. Superman would stop the universe dying but fret about his helplessness in the face of pollution. It was wearying. In the Eighties Marvel’s Squadron Supreme had an epic take on the ‘solve everything’ schtick, but there we had a whole team of characters to bounce off one another. What can one man do?
But lovely sincere young people may well lap this up; if it’s not for me, fair enough, other comics are – some of them by Tom Taylor. But I wouldn’t put it past Taylor, Timms and co to hook me next time. Let’s hope so.