Review: DC’s new Superman series has Clark Kent’s son fighting modern issues

Lois Lane brought to life Jonathan Samuel Kent in the 2015 Merging crossover occasion, however Superman’s kid matured quickly, thanks to being cooped on an alternate Earth and taking a trip to the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes. Now he’s finding out to be his own male and comics lead character.

Like the title indicates, this is not a Superboy story, however the brand-new mainline Superman title. It’s likewise a possibility to reimagine what the function of an exceptionally effective superhero ought to be.

Who is making Superman: Child of Kal-El?

The series is composed by Tom Taylor, who formerly worked for DC on the zombie armageddon restricted series DCeased and the comic prequel to the combating video game Oppression: Gods Amongst United States. Both greatly include a corrupt Superman, with Jonathan Kent combating his daddy in DCeased. They show that Taylor comprehends simply just how much of a fulcrum Superman remains in the DC Comics universe. John Timms supplied the art for a couple of concerns of Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman run and Future State: Superman of Metropolitan Area, which fixates Jonathan Kent, so he’s currently got a lot of experience drawing the character with a square jaw and piercing look, however with a slighter frame and cockier smile than his super-dad.

Colorist Gabe Eltaeb supplies some stunning strong shades to scenes like Green Lantern safeguarding the Justice League from guns-ablaze alien warships shooting on a stellar background, or the sun increasing over the Fortress of Privacy. Dave Sharpe supplies lettering, utilizing a variety of various designs to show Martian Manhunter’s telepathy, stressed firemens, and an out-of-control pyrokineticist, assisting to include additional feeling and context without using up excessive area on the panels.

What is Superman: Child of Kal-El #1 about?

The comic opens with some retconning, smoothing the unusual multiversal shenanigans in Merging that caused Jonathan being born in the Batcave and offering him a comparable however tweaked “origin” story. However the bulk of the problem is strongly in today, with Jon intervening in a California wildfire, growing disappointed with dealing with the signs of issues like environment modification and military cruelty instead of the causes.

Taylor and Timms are setting up a story about Jon learning to be Superman his own way. As a special guest character notes, “It’s easy to punch a ninja. A little harder to punch the climate crisis, inequality, the erosion of a free press, and the rise of demagogues.”

Why is Superman: Son of Kal-El happening now?

“it’s going to be okay,” Jon Kent/Superman says as he swoops down to a family huddling away from a huge forest fire, “We can fight this together,” in Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 (2021).

Image: Tom Taylor, John Timms/DC Comics

Generational stories are hugely popular in superhero media right now, a reflection of the real world conflicts between Millennial and Gen Z activists furious with Boomers for not doing more to protect the world for the future. DC Comics is leaning into the trend by focusing on a younger class of heroes, like Jonathan Kent, Yara Flor, and Crush. Superman: Son of Kal-El also nicely ties into the CW’s Superman & Lois, which is a loose adaptation of the Jonathan Kent plot. In that version, Jonathan is a jock with no powers, and his emo brother Jordan, who doesn’t appear in the comics, is the one developing abilities he can barely control.

Is there any required reading?

Superman: Son of Kal-El is very accessible if you know the broad strokes of Superman and the Justice League. Having read some of the comics leading up to this might actually be confusing, given the retcon. But if you want to see more of Jonathan Kent’s childhood and relationship with his parents, you could read Bendis’ recently wrapped Superman run. To explore his friendship with Damian Wayne and some of their adventures, read Super Sons by Peter J. Tomasi and Jorge Jimenez. Future State: Superman of Metropolis also provides a look at the character and the heavy burden placed on him as Superman’s successor.

Is Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 good?

Taylor is plotting a bold new course for Superman to keep the character relevant in a way reminiscent of Action Comics #900. The title of the problem is “Truth, justice, and a better world” rather than “the American way,” acknowledging that sometimes doing what’s right for humanity or the planet means defying the U.S. government. Superman has often been painted as a patriotic patsy, but Jonathan is showing he’s more willing to question authority and try to cause systemic change rather than just literally putting out fires.

Jon Kent/Superman talks with Damian Wayne/Robin as ninja weapons bounce harmlessly off of him in Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 (2021).

Image: Tom Taylor, John Timms/DC Comics

The intro feels very much like a transition from Bendis’ run, right down to the banter between the members of the Justice League as they keep telling Superman not to worry about the attempted alien invasion. There’s some good humor, like Wonder Woman informing Batman that conducting tests on Jonathan right after his birth really isn’t helping his reputation as a paranoid weirdo, and Damian apparently being a shōnen manga character fighting off ninja trying to interfere with some mysterious tournament he’s competing in. [Ed. note: He’s running away from his feelings in the Robin series by joining a Mortal Kombat-style assassin tournament on an island where no one can die.]

Bendis turned Jonathan into a galactic peacemaker by having him suggest creating a space United Nations, which time travelers then showed up to endorse. The whole thing felt far too easy and hollow at a time of rising global tensions. Taylor is acknowledging the serious issues facing the world with lines like “Firefighters said this is a once-in-a-hundred-year fire. Seems like we have those every year now.” The comic likewise acknowledges the influence of Lois Lane and her journalistic mission to expose corruption and injustice on Jonathan, setting him on the path to embodying the best parts of both his parents, alien and human.

The question facing both Jonathan and Taylor is how a superhero can really deal with systemic issues without overstepping to the point that he takes over the world, an issue that was dealt with extremely poorly in Netflix’s adjustment of Jupiter’s Legacy. This run shows a lot of promise, but it will be a real challenge to live up to the lofty goal of reinventing the world’s most iconic superhero for a brand-new generation.

One panel that popped

“I’ve got you,” Jon Kent/Superman says, hugging a flaming and naked male figure at the center of a forest fire in Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 (2021).

Image: Tom Taylor, John Timms/DC Comics

This panel and the scene that leads up to it is similar to the sector in Grant Morrison’s All-Star: Superman, where Superman talks a self-destructive teenager out of leaping off a structure and provides her a soothing hug. In both cases, the authors make a strong case that empathy is Superman’s biggest power.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.