Superman: Son of Kal-El #15 review

It’s the finale to the story that’s been the backbone of this book since it began last year, as Superman 2, Robin, Jay Nakamura, Dreamer and the Revolutionaries take the fight to Bendix. The ruler of Gamorra has been kidnapping young people and turning them into post-human super-weapons for sale to the highest bidder. He’s also taken his presidential predecessor’s parent, Sara, and made her a monster.

Jon’s reaction to seeing his boyfriend’s mother contorted and controlled by Bendix doesn’t ring true. He was a tween who spent years away from his family, imprisoned in a volcano and abused by Ultraman – I see how awful this is for Ms Nakamura and Jay, but how can Jon feel so much for her? Heck, how can he be so soppy over Jay, they’ve not even been on an actual date! But look at how the incident develops.

Honestly, if it had been revealed that Jay had lain some king of mojo over Jon to make him a simpering puppy, I’d believe it. At this stage Jon’s feelings for Jay can’t be more than infatuation, love doesn’t happen in a fortnight.

Anyway, Jon rescues the scientists and enlists Wink of the Revolutionaries to teleport him into Bendix’s underground bunker. He can’t burrow down as it’s boobytrapped to explode, killing Bendix’s lackeys and the mentalists controlling the post-humans… or something – writer Tom Taylor maybe explained all this months ago and doesn’t bother reminding us here. Likewise, if you don’t know the Revolutionaries from Suicide Squad, the members here will be a mystery to you – this isn’t even Taylor writing for the trade, because the Revolutionaries certainly haven’t been individually introduced in earlier instalments. I enjoy a lot of Taylor’s work but writing this careless seems to be making the case for every comic book being someone’s last.

Down in the bunker, Jon disconnects the mentalists from the post-humans being fought by the Revolutionaries, closing that field of battle, and the heroes are of one mind.

That’s okay, then.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, who had been working with Bendix behind the scenes, decides to cut his losses.

But Bendix won’t go quietly, unleashing a death ray from space on Gamorra. Jon hopes his invulnerable body will prove tough enough to shield the island. And it is, but there’s a shock in store.

Now, we don’t see what happens but it looks like he’s building up to the solar flare moment, first manifested by Supergirl, copied by Superman and forgotten about for the last few years. The flare business sees a Kryptonian expend all their energy in one burst, then be powerless for a day as they recharge. Taylor leaves it a mystery, hopefully to be solved next time when we get…

Honestly, who calls Superman that? It’s Superman, or Clark, only Supergirl – very occasionally – uses his birth name. I wonder, though, if Jon’s half-human physiology will see him without powers for a longer period, allowing Superman Sr to grab his name back.

The issue ends with Bendix gone, his victims ‘okay’ in a body horror way, Lex off the hook and Jon snogging Jay, just in case anyone has forgotten that this is Bisexual Superman. Jon and pals invading a sovereign nation will likely be waved away given they were mounting a rescue.

The best moment of the book sees the Damian Wayne Robin recreate a famous internet meme before Bendix flees for space.

It’s a shame Jon doesn’t get the best moment, but Jon doesn’t get to do fun, or even be especially active. He’s so ruddy earnest, all the time. He doesn’t even get to end the threat of Bendix, with that honour going to Luthor. This series has been hurt continually by the lack of charisma ascribed to Jon, and this issue is no exception. There’s no moment that has you hearing the John Williams Superman fanfare, it’s just Jon looking pained.

He never feels like the lead character. Jay tells Jon to leave him and rescue others. A boffin informs Jon as to where to find Bendix. Wink takes Jon to him. The Revolutionaries fight the post-humans. Damian thumps Bendix. Luthor ends Bendix. Dreamer tells Jon about the death ray.

You may as well call this book Jon Kent and His Amazing Friends. As a Super Son Jon was bright and funny and scrappy, propelling his team-ups with Damian along at the gallop; as a Superman he’s relentlessly dull, a follower. His personality has been reduced to earnest, with a side of bisexual (and a very one-sided side it is, he’s not so much looked at a female in this series – whatever happened to Saturn Girl?). Given Jon was, to all intents and purposes, aged overnight, is it asking too much to wish to see the boy in the man?

This isn’t an awful comic, just an average one that has made a mark more via DC’s marketing – ‘It’s Superman but younger and bisexual!’ – than by way of a compelling storyline. The art by illustrator Cian Tormey with inker Scott Hanna and colourists Federico Blee and Matt Herms is decent. There’s a cute panel with Wink rightly cowering behind Jon’s cape. Every scene with Robin is a delight. Sadly, Jon is his usual grim self, with the ‘it’s okay’ moment and final page snog being the only exceptions. Maybe when Jon gets proper bad guys, rather than brainwashed souls, to punch he’ll find some fun in his mission.

Dave Sharpe’s letters are exemplary as every, and the cover by artist Travis Moore and colourist Tamra Bonvillain looks great, it’s a well-staged fight, nicely coloured.

I’ve no idea what the new direction for Superman: Son of Kal-El will be. With luck Tom Taylor will let Jon find his joy – he’s meant to be in the first flush of young love but always looks like someone has just kicked his super-dog. The real Superman – that’s Clark Kent, DC, you know it and we know it – coming back can only improve matters.

10 thoughts on “Superman: Son of Kal-El #15 review

  1. “Honestly, who calls Superman that? It’s Superman, or Clark, only Supergirl – very occasionally – uses his birth name.“

    Correct and that should be rectified. The Kryptonian aspects of Superman, i. e. More story opportunities, have been neglected to the point of malpractice. The last we saw of anything close was madman Jor-El. Just terrible. Clark is how we connect to Superman, but he really is Kal, and some synergy between his Kryptonian heritage and his earthly upbringing would be very much welcome.


    1. That would be great, but in-story terrible as Jon would have his 16(?)-year old mind in a younger body. I’d be happy for Final Dark Crisis of Infinite Recycled Ideas to wipe away the whole Ultraman and ageing business.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As usual we are of like minds. The bit where Jon says Jay;s mom being mutated is worse than 7 years of torture at the hands of his father’s doppelganger definitely doesn’t ring true.

    And yes, Superman overthrowing a government with a group of (previously) murderous metas surely would rattle every world leader. That is a story worth exploring but my guess is it won’t be touched on at all. Taylor does a great job of simplifying social issues to his views and solutions without showing any of the natural fallout.

    The siege also felt too easy? Not that I need this story to go on longer. But one teleport and one arc of heat vision and the battle is over.

    As you say, this seemed to be a story that is written to fawn over Jon’s sexuality but without a plot strong enough around it.

    Finally, I will say that Lex got the best moment in the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lex brings out the best in so many writers, it’s weird he’s never had an ongoing; I know there was that Action Comics run, but I’m thinking a named Lex Luthor ongoing… I’d rather read that than a Joker book! But we can have both, something for everyone, eh?


  3. I don’t know if I can completely endorse your feelings about Jon’s feelings for Jay. I agree that they’re infatuation, sure — and the scant time they’ve known each other is certainly enough time for infatuation to manifest. But at that age, with such little romantic experience, it’s gonna feel like love.

    But I agree — where’s Saturn Girl? Let’s see a little scene with the three of them — a formal recognition of a breakup, at least.

    Liked by 1 person

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