Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 review

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.

6 thoughts on “Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 review

  1. Seems like the solar weapon made Jon have the equivalent of a manic episode.

    I just watched Taylor on a good, brief interview on Anderson Cooper Full Circle, a streaming features he has on cnn.com. (Cooper is the regular nightly prime-time anchor on CNN.) I wonder if it’s geolocked, or available worldwide.

    https :// www . cnn . com/videos/us/2021/11/16/superman-tom-taylor-dc-comics-acfc-full-episode-vpx.cnn

    Taylor says there that Jay is sticking around for the indefinite future.

    I can understand your suspicions about Jay, it seemed too fast, but I think to make him “evil” would be turning the clock back to 1940 or 50s storytelling, where the gay character was often portrayed, though sometimes subtly, as deviant and guilty of something. Not to be trusted, etc. If Jay is somehow hypnotizing or mind-controlling Jon, that plays into old ideas that gay people are trying to convert or pollute young innocent minds. I just don’t see Taylor taking the story in that direction. All the good will he’s generated in LBGTQ communities would be replaced by dismay and anger.

    That’s not to say Jay and Jon will remain a couple – or even necessarily become one. This is Jon’s first romance, and therefore how likely is it to be his last? But if Jay will be around for the long haul, they’re probably going to stay friends or colleagues.

    As awkward or unearned as this relationship feels so far, I would feel much worse if Jay turns out to be manipulating Jon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh gosh no, I never meant that Jay might be mindfuggling Jon to actually make him have gay feelings, I don’t doubt he’s bisexual. I was thinking more that he might be nudging him towards expressing said sexuality in Jay’s direction, to get him to let his guard down.

      I really don’t get the problem the ‘LBGT+’ community supposedly has with non-straight characters being bad guys, this idea that if you don’t present a gay/bi/trans etc person as a living saint, then you’re an oppressor, a non-ally. True representation means allowing characters of all sexualities to be bad as well as good. Heck, most supervillains are presented as straight, they outnumber heroes by 20 to 1 (made-up statistic, obviously, but you get it), meaning more straight super-people are bad rather than good, but we don’t constantly hear complaints about that.

      I’m as much a part of the gay community as anyone, and I’m good with bad… if Batman can like Catwoman, I can enjoy Catman.

      Like

  2. Tom Taylor’s probably been my favorite writer for a few years now: Anything he’s writing, I’ll definitely give a look at. (Though I’m waiting for the trade for Marvel’s Dark Age.) But this book… I just don’t have a handle on it yet. I think I’m going to reread 1-5 and see if I can come to grips with it better.

    We’ve got some themes running through it: Jon’s activism, as he searches for the best way to achieve meaningful change. Jon’s relationship with Jay, which takes a significant turn this issue. Jon’s relationship with his family, as his dad steps out of the picture for a while — and what Jon feels like will be forever.

    And so far… I just don’t see any dramatic momentum on any of those lines. I think things are building, but Taylor and Timms really haven’t put the pedal to the floor. It doesn’t help that the ostensible villain, Henry Bendix, is both a complete cypher and seemingly a Luthor clone. There’s really nothing to sink our teeth into there.

    So all we’ve got is Jay. He’s the most compelling character in the story so far, because we really don’t know where he’s coming from. He’s aligned with the Revolutionaries — definite good guys — so that’s a point in his favor. But he seems almost supernaturally accommodating for Jon, able to give him whatever he needs. Maybe he’s trying to be a good boyfriend. Or maybe he’s luring him into a trap.

    If it’s the former, Taylor needs to build more trust in the character so we’re willing to invest ourselves in the relationship. If it’s the latter, they’ll need to avoid the definite pitfalls T.N. writes about. And Taylor & Timms are skilled enough that I think they can; but they should definitely keep mind control out of the mix — nothing good will come of it.

    As for Jay’s purple hair, I wouldn’t read Circe into it — that’s just part of being young and bi. Wish I had the hair (& the youth) to pull off a nice blue shade myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You remind me, I’ve still never read his Wolverine, and Anj loves that run. But it’s a Wolverine… several, in fact. But I do have Marvel Unlimited…

      I did like the first issue of Dark Age, and the second was OK. I think I’m falling behind!

      I agree with your point that there doesn’t seem much weight to Jon’s book, so far. Lois should certainly be a presence, and I was hoping the college thing would happen so he could have some regular folk as friends.

      Do you think we’ll ever see Jay with his glasses off? At the moment he’s kinda reminding me of an evil Velma

      Jinkies!

      I’d rather like it were he related to Circe. Or Zazzalla! That pink hair down to his eyebrows makes him look just dopey.

      Like

      1. He *does* look a bit like Evil Velma!

        And I wouldn’t mind if he were related to either of those villains. But I think that hair color comes in a box, not from ancient magic or space bees.

        Liked by 1 person

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