This issue starts soon after the close of last month’s instalment, with Jon in a Justice League safe house, reeling from Batman’s insistence that his boyfriend Jay isn’t to be trusted because he runs with a bad crowd, The Revolutionaries.
Jon zooms out of the mountain chalet, leaving Batman alone. But not for long. Jon’s namesake wouldst have words with Batman.
That’s just part of a brilliant conversation from the two most important men in Clark Kent’s life. I can’t think of another time they’ve shared a one-on-one scene, and writer Tom Taylor gives them some fascinating exchanges, which begin with Jonathan springing a surprise on Batman that makes total sense.
It’s not all about Jonathan chiding Batman. The elder Kent explains why Batman should have faith in Jon. This involves a callback to one of the saddest moments of Jon’s tween days, from the DC Rebirth Superman series. Taylor is excellent at connecting the dots of a hero’s history and showing us how they became they person they are today.
As for Jon, he’s visiting the kinder, gentler half of the Dynamic Duo in Blüdhaven
And Jon and Jay do have a talk, with the latter explaining how the Revolutionaries, a one-time Suicide Squad, saved him after he escaped Gamorran’s mad scientist leader Henry Bendix.
Making a connection between Gamorran super-powered pawn Sparks and the out-of-control Burning Man he met days previously, Jon heads for the Hall of Justice. That where Flash Wally West has been watching over the Burning Man since Jon saved him from self-immolation. What if he has something in his head that allows Bendix to spy on the League?
That’s something Taylor addresses in intelligent, entertaining fashion, with another longtime Leaguer brought in to help. A piece of advice from veteran super-speedster Wally puts Jon in prime position to help the Burning Man, but it’s Jon’s emotional intelligence and knowledge of his powers that makes things right.
Taylor finds organic ways of not just telling us, but showing us who the young Superman is. He has the respect of Jonathan Kent. Nightwing and Wally West treat him as a peer. He knows how to combine his abilities for the greatest good in smart, subtle ways. Most of all, he truly cares, he puts himself in the other person’s shoes.
This is a good issue for Jay, who comes across as a lot more plausible than previously; it helps that new series artist Cian Tormey does such a fine job with the body language. We meet Jay alone in his apartment, hunched in a window seat, apparently genuinely worried for Jon. Later, when he’s with Superman, his reactions ring true. Perhaps I’ve been mistaking self-assurance for villainous potential. If Jay truly is a good kid, that’s nice for Jon; if he’s a bad guy, that’s fun for the readers. We shall see.
There’s one angle on Wally’s head that doesn’t quite come off, but overall Tormey does terrific work on ‘The Right Path’. Highlights include his excellent Pa Kent, a nice demonstration of x-ray vision and the way he has our second Justice Leaguer go into action, no guns blazing. Sadly, we don’t see Luthor’s lift this time, but the safe house does give Tormey a chance to show his facility for interiors. The colours applied by Matt Herms and Federico Blee look pretty fine, too, while Dave Sharpe’s letters underline the drama.
I liked this issue more than any so far, Jon is more the star of the book, in terms of his action and the way people treat him, than previously. He stands up to Batman. He smiles in the face of evil. The creative team is working together to splendid effect, making this a compelling chapter of the ongoing story.
The cover by artist Travis Moore and colourist Tamra Bonvillain is a sharp invitation to buy the book… it’s a shame it’s not reflecting anything inside.
So yes, Superman: Son of Kal-El #11 is the best issue yet of a series which deserves plaudits for its consistency of vision. The final pages up the ante in terms of Bendix’s machinations, so I’m expecting great things as Jon approaches his one-year anniversary.