Superman: Son of Kal-El #18 review

It’s the final issue of Jon Kent’s series, but if you’re expecting loose ends to be wrapped up, forget it, with story threads continuing into the upcoming Action Comics #1050. Chief among them, the threat of new villain Red Sin, who last issue blasted Jon and took away his powers. It’s not stated how until later in this issue, but as the name implies, young Luis Rojas is channeling red sun radiation.

As this issue opens, though, Jon’s powers are back and he’s helping out down on the Kent farm. To be more precise, he’s helping his dad rebuild the Kent farm after it was destroyed by an otherwise underwhelming bad guy. And Superman and Superman II have help.

Batman has a plan to – hopefully – ensure that this home will protect Martha and Jonathan Kent more effectively than the previous one. With Ma and Pa secure in their new gaff, the heroes turn to in-house investigators Lois and Nightwing for information on Red Sin.

Meanwhile, Luis is calling on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen.

Luis doesn’t want Jimmy so much as his signal watch, which he triggers after Jon evacuates the Daily Planet following a bomb threat which proves to be empty. Jon follows the signal to a forest, where he flies into trouble.

Powerless, Jon must face Luis – and his gun.

Our young hero, though, is prepared.

It turns out that flamboyant belt he’s been sporting isn’t just for show, it’s full of yellow sun energy, giving Jon his powers back. And the instant boost from Brainiac 5’s future tech changes him

With the help of his Dad – Superman was already on the scene – Jon takes down Red Sin from a distance. A couple of days later, Superman II visits Luis in prison.

Jon isn’t the only caller Luis gets that day.

We’ll follow Lex and Luis into the aforementioned Action Comics #1050. Before that, I have a few questions.

Is Luis’s power connected to the cross design on the tee shirt he wears this issue and power chest plate he wore briefly last time, in which case, why is he allowed to wear it in jail?

What was the point of the Daily Planet bomb scare?

Why didn’t Clark and Jon follow the signal watch alert together, what’s Superman doing there before Superman II?

Why didn’t Brainiac 5 make groovy yellow sun energy belts for all the Super Family members?

Is an idiot ball suddenly part of Jimmy Olsen’s trophy collection? This is not a chap who would open a box containing unordered ‘pizza’.

Since when did Jimmy’s watch emit the same sound as Batman’s force field bubble control… it’s ZEE ZEE ZEE, not DEET DEET DEET!

And speaking of force field bubbles, could Ma and Kent look any less thrilled at the idea of living under a super-cloche?

Tom Taylor is a very good writer but with this series he seems to be playing a game of, not so much Show, Don’t Tell as Readers, You’re On Your Own. Or perhaps I’m just stupider than the average buyer.

Things I enjoyed this issue included Wally West’s ‘Justice League, Assemble!’ line, a sweet rooftop scene between father and son, and a lovely moment for Martha and Wonder Woman.

On the art side, the whole issue looks great, with pages shared once more between Cian Tormey and Ruairí Coleman, with some inks by Scott Hanna. Highlights include a shot of Jon against the moon, and a witty look at morning at the Kent farm.

Romulo Fajardo Jr does a terrific job with the colours, especially in that tree plunge scene, above. And letterer Dave Sharpe’s dialogue and sound effects add to the good-looking nature of this book.

The cover by artist Travis Moore and colourist Tamra Bonvillain is excellent, though no regular reader is going to believe by now that Tom Taylor’s Jon Kent would ever do something so uncouth as throw a punch. I’m all for an open hand – good on Jon for his determination to prove to the disturbed Luis that he’s no threat – but sometimes it should be used to slap an irredeemable bad guy.

There’s no Jay Nakimara in this final issue, which is odd given his relationship with Jon has been sold by DC as A Huge Deal. Maybe he’ll show up in Jon’s upcoming mini, but I can’t say I care if we never see him again. He’s a secret villain, you know.

This wasn’t a bad issue, there was stuff to enjoy, but as with most of this run, I was left feeling a tad underwhelmed. For some reason, Superman: Son of Kal-El has felt flat. Perhaps it’s the relative passivity of the lead, Jon rarely felt like the star of this series. How was it for you?

19 thoughts on “Superman: Son of Kal-El #18 review

  1. Tom Taylor’s “Nightwing” run is great, which makes Son of Kal-El all the more glaring. He wants Jon to be distinct from Kal, but we had that when Jon was a kid and Bendis decided to age him. Jon hasn’t matured as an idea or a character to carry his own series as an adult. “Nightwing” is a 3-Dimensional character and Jon just isn’t there as yet. The irony is that he was well on is way as a boy-hero, but aging him took all that was developed away and thrust him into a pseudo-adult role he still isn’t ready to manage.

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    1. It’s all so crappy. Superman by Peter J Tomasi and Patrick Gleason was so great, but they lost the book because of Brian Bendis, and this is what we’re left with. I say DC should just wipe out all the teenage Jon stuff and the heck with the likely two minutes of bad publicity at the loss of a randomly bisexual hero… I mean, if all these supposed new readers were buying the book, this wouldn’t be the last issue.

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      1. Agreed. I know that the biggest back-step would be criticism over losing a bisexual character, but I just don’t think it works for Jon . Kudos for Tom Taylor trying, and even to Bends for risking goodwill to try out an idea, however the changes made were in stark contrast, and healthy competition, with building of Jon Kent that was still ongoing. . .and well-liked.

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  2. The art styles do mesh pretty seamlessly, which doesn’t happen often.

    Jon’s belt reminds me of Kara’s long-lost and very much missed (by me) solar-storing shirt that was part of her excellent Jimenez-designed suit. She sure could have used that battery when she headed to the bar on her 21st birthday in Tom King’s mini-series. No one on DC staff seems to remember it. (Jessica Chen edited the book during that Andreyko/Maguire space odyssey story from a few years ago, but Brittany Holzherr took over right after the beginning of The Infected arc, when the two editors switched roles between the Superman Office and the Bat Office. Institutional knowledge was apparently lost.) (Also, give her back those hooded alt suits – I thought they were excellent!)

    It’s not just that I’m reminded of the belt, but the wheel didn’t need to be re-invented. The proper technology had already been introduced. Bringing it back would have been a surprise callback and very fair storytelling – but instead we got the deus ex machina of Brainy’s belt.

    I haven’t decided if I’ll pick up the next mini-series – but if it involves Earth-3 and Ultraman, in theory it *could* be interesting. It even *should* be, especially if the whole Crime Syndicate is featured. For some reason, I find those thugs so over-the-top that they can be funny.

    I hope Amanda Waller isn’t over there – but she’s apparently everywhere she’s needed.

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    1. The extra Supergirl designs were pretty interesting, and certainly better than the Super-Frump stuff, I’d be happy to see them back.

      Amanda Waller fears aside, I have hopes the mini will be a lot better than this series, I’m certainly looking forward to seeing Val-Zod again. The fact it’s only six issues might concentrate Tom Taylor’s mind.

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  3. Oddly enough, I enjoyed the Red Sin two parter much, much more than the rest of KLR. I just don’t connect with Johnson’s writing. It happens. I’m also meh about Kirkman and Saladin Ahmed despitethe accolades they get. If Jon weren’t going by Superman I might enjoy a series with him if it were like the Red Sin story. I just don’t consider him Superman material.

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      1. No, just two other writers other people like that just leave me cold. The latter is why I’ve lost most of my enthusiasm for Spider-Miles and Ms Marvel.

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  4. Jeepers, I reaaaalllllly hate villains like this and I don’t mean “love to hate”. They are just so malevolent and bigoted they are no fun (isn’t that a Stooges song or was it the Sex Pistols?!). I suppose they are true to life, akin to the people who grovel before narcissistic malevolent billionaires (the Lex Luthors of this Earth) while despising and denying the humanity of any one even a little liberal or different but it doesn’t make reading the hate these characters vomit out any pleasant to read.
    I love that you are still pushing “Jay as supervillain”. Hilarious!
    Apparently Justice Society of America #2 has been delayed to next year, even though your review (and others) has convinced I would hate it, I still wish my local comics shoppe had had #1 just for Janine’s great art. Isn’t it bizarre that even with a great lead time for the JSA maxi-series it is STILL delayed? The world has fallen apart in the 21st Century, here’s another symptom. If Crisis on Infinite Earths had been published the way things are now it would probably have ended in 1988! I suppose Woodman, Perez, and the Jenette Kahn DC of 1985-86 was just more…professional?

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    1. Thanks for the JSA news, I hadn’t heard that. I just don’t get why this keeps happening with Geoff Johns, why can’t they sort out the lead time problem? I’ve seen speculation that it could be because Dark Crisis changes necessitate story changes to JSA… DC making sure a Geoff Johns comic connects up, that would be a first.

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      1. The Johns apologists are like a nice version of the Snyder Bros. They’ll blame everything except him.

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  5. I know! It wasn’t like this with Johns see in the 2000s (well, Infinite Crisis was delayed but was due to the art). Everything since around Rebirth has been a shambles. Quite why a company would publish a comic book – DC Universe Rebirth – intended to establish a new direction and lead to a super-duper maxi-series, only for said super-duper maxi-series Doomsday Clock to be FINALLY emerge as kinda sorta out-of-continuity but not is baffling. Hypertime is a fun idea but chucking continuity away as a result and saying “it doesn’t matter” has the effect of saying NONE of it matters.
    Like Joshua Williamson being booted off Batman after a single storyline (or arc if people want to be archoles about it) in favour of Chip Zdarsky’s Morrison tribute act it seems to demonstrate either a contempt for the audience or a ship with neither captain nor rudder.
    I’m currently reading Superman/Batman World’s Finest (published as Public Enemies) by Jeph (I’ve been cancelled now) Loeb, it isn’t great but it *is* good and I love how the it ties into the President Luthor plotline. That’s the way to do it! (screeched the Parrot.) Also, I recently read Justice League Europe Annual #2 an amusing time-twisting penultimate chapter in Armageddon 2001. A pity about the writer (not the plotter) but it was fantastically gangbanged by a variety of artists – notably Keith Giffen (said plotter) and Ty Templeton. Funtime.

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      1. Dat’s de word on the street, bawss…
        Okay, I had read that somewhere but that might have been distorted conjectural assumptions from the commentator. It does seem odd that Williamson, one of the newly announced, would have SUCH a short run particularly after making a big deal about this being a new era. The other possibility is that DC are what is known as lying liars and always intended Williamson’s “run” to be a fill-in after Tynion abruptly buggered off to the independents (his Bat-run was ghastly so good riddance!). Who knows what idiocy lurks in the hearts of DC…?!

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      2. Has DC Comics Done Something Stupid Today? is an actual website. I haven’t been there in ages but just drop the spaces between words and add .com.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s more a Dc “hate” page akin to Superdickery.com. No DC error, mistake, bad idea. . .or good idea, will be left untouched by the snark of the Internet. There’s one on FB, Reddit, etc.

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