Well, there’s a cover. New Superman Jon Kent protesting against climate change with a bunch of equally earnest kids, including boyfriend Jay. Actually, forget the ‘earnest’ bit, after his improved performance last time I’m back to trusting Jay not one bit.
Oh, and there’s Aqualad… and is that a sea monster?
Anyway, the cover reminds me of those Golden Age issues in which heroes would urge readers to buy War Bonds, and of a Silver Age Justice League of America in which team members were parading with placards in a bid to unionise. Fun times.
While the cover scene doesn’t take place inside the issue, we do have Aqualad – or, as DC are now calling him, Aquaman, despite there being a perfectly good Aquaman around. And we do have Jay, who has a proposition for Jon.
The idea is that when he’s not being Superman, Jon dons a mask and anorak and helps Jay and his ragtag band of amateur hacks break the stories the people in power don’t want put out there.
You know, like an actual news outlet, but with untrained people who don’t have to adhere to professional standards.
Before Jon can get his feet under the table, his super-hearing alerts him to an emergency.
As it turns out, the creature isn’t rampaging, or in thrall to a super villain… it’s a refugee.
Climate change is creating undersea deserts, displacing indigenous species, reports Aquaman.
Meanwhile, Superman’s enemy, Gamorra president Henry Bendix – the man who disappeared Jay’s politician mother – takes advantage of the incident in Metropolis Harbour. Using Luthor teleportation tech, Bendix brings in a quartet of his homemade metahumans. Unlike Superman and Aquaman, though, they’re not out to understand the leviathan.
They’re out to kill the creature.
Predictably, tragedy follows, as presaged by the opening of this issue – the story is told in flashback via a Truth report narrated by Jay.
So, while there’s no school protest, this is another issue in the Bronze Age Relevance tradition. While it’s good that Jon doesn’t immediately assume the giant crab-thing is malevolent, I wish he’d show as much emotional intelligence when it comes to Jay, who seems to want to use Jon for his own ends, under the guise of giving the young Superman a safe space.
If The Truth’s stories are so powerful, why does Jay need a charismatic spokesperson? And yes, he wants anonymity, but why the heck does Jay wear such a sinister mask to appear on camera, he looks like a demented Kobra cultist.
Jon actually has more chemistry with young Aqualad Jackson Hyde, a hero who’s been looking for a nice steady guy for some time. Maybe when Jay is revealed as, I dunno, the Ultra-Humanite, Superman and Aqualad could have a very special team-up.
Talking of charisma, Taylor would be wise to keep appearances by Luthor to a minimum, as most other villains pale by comparison; Bendix certainly hasn’t made enough of an impression to dominate a page when Lex is around.
I hope the Gamorra/Bendix/Jay business is tied up soon, and this series tries a few new directions, ones in which Jon can fly free as his own character, rather than be a pawn in others’ agendas. His interest in social justice doesn’t have to go away, but neither should it be his entire vibe.
Irish artist Cian Tormey provides this issue’s pencils and does a fine job, keeping to Timms’ character designs while making his own mark with the mega-beast… that is one scary-looking behemoth, with the colours and textures of the talented Hi-Fi guys adding a rip-roaring realism.
Raül Fernández inks some of the pages, and as I couldn’t say which he did and which Tormey handled, I’d say he’s done pretty great work.
And while it’s an unusual thing to point out, how great is the Lexcorp lift? That’s elevated art right there.
Letterer Dave Sharp also contributes to the visual success of the issue with his fonts, including an appropriately cold Truth typeface.
While a quicker read than I’d like, this is a pretty good issue, with Aquaman adding extra interest as a likeable, useful co-star. And for once his having a supervillain dad isn’t mentioned at all – giant crabs are so much more fun.