This is the big one! Well, at least it’s the one that’s going to have the biggest sale of any issue of Superman: Son of Kal-El yet. Because this is the issue with The Kiss. As artists go, John Timms isn’t as famous as Rodin and Klimt, but he does get to draw the most heralded panel of the year.
DC are milking this for all it’s worth, even sticking their special ‘Pride’ Bullet on the cover. It screams stunt over story.
So how is the story?
Continuing from last issue, it begins with Jon Kent suffering the effects of a solar flare ignited by new enemy Henry Bendix.
And so it is that Jon sets off on a mini-world tour, saving everyone he can, starting with the young metahuman Bendix used as bait.
On home ground, he helps a hospital in Hub City cope with a lack of beds in super fashion.
The doctor is right. Jon is knackered, but he won’t stop trying to help people. Lack of focus leads him to hurt someone, prompting him to visit new pal Jay. The ‘citizen journalist’ points out video of Jon throughout the day, showing he risks burnout, and doing serious damage to his reputation. He needs some sleep.
And when he wakes up.
Oh, if only I could believe that. Jay is so sketchy. Every word he says seems carefully considered to manipulate, and look at his expression in that final panel. The blue/green swirls behind his head could represent mental powers. Plus, he has noise-cancelling headphones that can block super-jacked super-hearing.
Jon doesn’t question this bit of Jay genius, he’s just happy to have had nine hours of oblivion.
Nine hours! Think what a bad guy could do while the local superhero is asleep. Of course, we don’t know that Jay is bad, Jay with his pink hair…
You know who else has pink hair?
Circe, noted DC Universe witch who, in Future State, is said to have given birth to a son with Superman Sr. Maybe Jay is another kid? Heck, it could be Circe herself, she’s a shapeshifter.
OK, it’s a reach, but Jon should be thinking this way. His grandparents’ home has just been bombed. His parents have a zillion enemies. He’s been entrusted with a world to protect. And yet he’s ready to trust a kid who goes on social media with a creepy mask to denounce the work of actual trained journalists, and hangs with a gang of metahumans known as The Revolutionaries.
Don’t get me wrong, I adored Superman writer Tom Taylor’s Suicide Squad series starring The Revolutionaries, but should Jon really be in that circle? Not without knowing what he’s getting into.
As I always say, Taylor is a very clever man and a fine writer. He’s likely 15 steps ahead of me, and Jon’s naivety will come into play. Off panel, DC’s version of Fox News is likely already editorialising against his helping migrants and activists. There’ll be a good story in there.
I just hope it isn’t the only story. This issue, for example, has a cover which makes it seem the Parasite is working for Henry Bendix, but he’s nowhere to be seen. I guess that’s Bendix. I really want to see Jon take on some classic villains. Sure, he’s a new Superman for a new era, but another way we can appreciate that is by seeing how he faces up to the big threats. As Anj has pointed out over at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary, ‘superhero vs the modern world’ won’t make for a satisfying DCU book.
Right now, Jon is picking up the problems and dumping them on others – migrants go to the US authorities, confused metahumans are handed over to the Flash, sick people will likely make Metropolis General as packed as its Hub City sister. Rather than offer solutions, he’s just shuffling the pieces around, making things someone else’s problem. The kid needs a mentor.
His grandpa, Jonathan Kent, might step up – how does he feel about his name being associated with Jon’s deeds? Surely he has some advice, in the absence of Jon’s dad, who long ago learnt that a Superman can’t do everything.
It is impressive that Jon manages to control the extra sensory input long enough to help people, but as things calm down, he should look towards finding real solutions rather than temporary patches. The way Jon is acting, as Little Mr Righteous, and with Jay pulling the strings, I could easily see him become the tyrant Spectre showed Wonder Woman in Infinite Frontier #0.
So, the kiss. It’s rather out of nowhere. I see that Jay is acting the pal – maybe he’s actually genuine – but for Jon to plant a kiss on him? The moment is unearned. Nowhere in Jon’s narration, or in the art, in the few issues since Jon met Jay, have we seen any indication of attraction. How can any reader who knows how comics work not suspect mind control or some other manipulation?
This is nothing to do with Jay being a guy. Jon is bi, that’s fine by me. It’s just that having Jon get a boyfriend is so out of the blue – DC press releases apart – that it feels like a cheap stunt, or tacked-on inclusion. Let’s get Jon dating Tim Drake instead, he’s such a lovely boy.
Artist Jon Timms does some really nice work, with highlights including that Metropolis cityscape, a page-big pic of Jon rescuing the good people of Luxembourg and that terrific shot of Jon and Jay on the settee – it’s a tough angle to nail and is very well done. The actual kiss looks a bit weird, due to the guys’ lips having vanished. And there are a couple of panels in which Wally, then Jon, look to have nicked some of Ralph Dibny’s gingold. Overall, though, Timms is on form.
New colourist Hi-Fi does excellent work, especially for Jon’s sunset arrival at Jay’s lair… sorry, apartment. And Dave Sharpe shows off splendidly with the sound effects.
The cover by Timms is a cracker, even if that isn’t Parasite – but what’s with the circuit board background? Maybe someone more familiar with Bendix than me could clarify.
So, I had a few quibbles, but all in all, Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 is a good-looking, engrossing read. I hope the speculators loved it too.