By Jarrod Jones. I still have the DC Universe Rebirth invitation card on my desk. “Save the Date! 5/25/16.” Jim Lee art, Scott Williams inks, Alex Sinclair colors. A presentation for comic book fans, vaguely corporate in nature. An exciting showcase of new character designs, over a void of white — bright, optimistic. Among the likes of Wonder Woman, Kid Flash, Harley Quinn, and Jessica Cruz, if you squint just a bit, you’ll find a pair of dudes hanging back. Damian Wayne, decked out in upgraded Robin armor. And Jonathan Kent, Rebirth’s all-new Superboy.
If there’s a book in DC’s current line that exemplifies the “Strength, power, redemption, destiny” credo of Rebirth more ably than Super Sons, well, it’s probably Batwoman. And yet, for a colorful book about two super-kids bopping around the word (and beyond), Super Sons has a surprising amount of gravity to it. That has a lot to do with its writer, Peter J. Tomasi, who has spent years creating arcs around Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent in other books, spanning company initiatives and reboots to tell one huge story.
Batman and Robin was Tomasi exploring limits and then decimating them. Superman, which Tomasi co-plots with former B&R artist Patrick Gleason, has been one of the strongest family titles from any publisher in recent memory. Both books made Robin and Superboy stronger characters, but how are they faring today? The core Batman title has largely ignored Bruce Wayne’s #1 son, while Superman has placed Jonathan atop its broad shoulders. But for both boys, Super Sons has been there to pick up the narrative slack.
Let’s dive into the latest issue of Super Sons. Spoilers ahead.
Written by Peter J. Tomasi.
Art by José Luís.
Inks by Scott Hanna.
Colors by Hi-Fi.
Letters by Rob Leigh.
Strength. Power. The series’ artist has been Jorge Jimenez, whose anime-infused sequentials have been Super Sons‘ crucial and not-so-secret weapon. Joy and wonder, the two primary tones of the book, are exemplified in Jimenez’s wide-eyed characterization of Jonathan Kent. Flip through a past issue of the book with Jimenez’s credits on the cover and try not to grin like a complete buffoon. That’s the effect he has as an artist. Jimenez’s work is the perfect fit for this book.
Issue #10 features a guest-spot by upcoming artist José Luís, a Brazilian artist who’s already cut his teeth on other Super-Family books (the recent Supergirl #14 and Superwoman #11). Notice the name bears a resemblance to another DC artist, the legendary Spanish artist José Luis García-López. That’s where another resemblance comes into play; Luís’s artwork resembles that of García-López’s, in all the right ways. Luís glides into Super Sons with a solid grasp on how to depict these characters: Superman’s Superman. Superboy has a gleeful charm. Batman is a grump (and shorter than Superman, a quirk I’ve only begun to truly appreciate with Patrick Gleason’s run). Damian’s rough around the edges, a moody, aristocratic punk. Luís cinches all of it.
Paired with inker Scott Hanna, the artist’s pencils are lent a light touch. Particularly around the details, which evoke fond memories of Tom Grummett and Todd Nauck’s work. Super Sons is an iconic book. With Luís, Hanna, and Super-letterer Rob Leigh making magic from Tomasi’s words, everything falls into place. Jimenez will keep for now.
Redemption. There’s something really special happening in Super Sons. Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent, they’re Peter Tomasi’s kids, for all intents and purposes: Jon has been under Tomasi’s care ever since Dan Jurgens passed him the baton for Superman Rebirth #1, and as for Damian… well. Read Batman and Robin, the entire arc from the New 52 to its end, and get back to me. I’ll have a box of tissues and a shoulder to cry on.
Super Sons is a book that chronicles the growth of two crucial DCU characters, during a time when growth can be a painful thing for kids, written by a person who understands their qualities and limitations almost better than anyone else. Robin and Superboy, best friends in the making. The beginning to World’s Finest: The Next Generation. Maybe.
Damian Wayne’s journey from heir apparent to Boy Wonder has been fraught with peril and destruction. Most of the rougher stuff is in Grant Morrison’s storied Batman run, though Tomasi certainly hasn’t forgotten where Damian has come from. He peppers the issue with callbacks to both the Morrison years and his own Robin Rises saga, something meant to foreshadow dire things down the road. What lies ahead is going to challenge both Damian and Jonathan in a way that might surprise readers. What’s coming is likely going to hurt. In effect, Super Sons #10 becomes Tomasi’s eye of the hurricane: Calm, almost peaceful, with terror and carnage whipping around in the periphery, doom almost a certainty.
Destiny. The issue’s narrative jumps into the future during an intermission placed at the near-center of “One Fine Day”. There we find fire, brimstone, Gotham City as hellscape. From the flames rises a familiar figure — Damian Wayne, Batman. “The apocalypse is back on,” Dami-Bats informs the reader, inferno raging at his feet. “Because I say so.” A reckoning is coming that promises to put the recently-forged friendship between Robin and Superboy to the test.
What’s next for Super Sons? An event that promises dire things for Superboy. Rebirth has kept a lot of spinning plates in the air over the past year and a half, particularly the bright-blue ones meant for the Doomsday Clock smorgasbord coming next week. But for those paying rapt attention to all things Rebirth, the upcoming “Super Sons of Tomorrow” should offer payoff to lingering questions. What’s the deal with Tim Drake, the dangerous Future-Batman, you’ve probably been asking? Ask Jonathan Kent in a couple of months. Ask Damian Wayne. If Super Sons has prospered as one of DC’s most optimistic books, we’re about to see what happens when things finally take a turn for the worse.
8 out of 10