Last month, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month two of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Penciller: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Alex Lu: A few weeks ago, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason astounded me when they released Superman #1. I did not enjoy their work on Superman: Rebirth #1 so I was surprised at how deftly the series changed course in its second issue. The creators made this dramatic turn by refocusing the Superman on Jon Kent, the Man of Steel’s son with Lois Lane. Tomasi puts an incalculable amount of emotional weight into the relationship between Clark and his son and gives readers a revealing window into his paternal side. By and large, Superman #2 continues to do this.
The story opens by resolving the major cliffhanger that closed the previous issue. Following a clandestine meeting with Batman and Wonder Woman, Superman has taken Jon from his room– not to chain him in a prison for the world’s protection, but rather to assist him on a lifesaving mission. It’s a clever bait and switch on Tomasi’s and Gleason’s part, though frankly, I can’t imagine a universe where Superman would actually agree to imprison his own ten year old child.
Reading the issue, I can’t help but feel like Tomasi’s and Gleason’s Superman story is basically a metaphor for a father’s role in a son’s life as the latter goes through puberty. In the first issue, Jon’s inability to control his newfound strength led to the death of the family cat Goldie. His struggle to tell his father about the tragedy reflects many of the internal conflicts a teenager undergoes as their relationship to their parents and the rest of the world dramatically changes. It is at this stage in a child’s development that the strengths and weaknesses of one’s parenting methods shine through. In a testament to the midwestern sense of honesty Clark constantly exudes, Jon ultimately does tell his father the truth– only to find out Superman already knew what had happened. This internal conflict is juxtaposed with Clark teaching Jon how to focus his energy beam powers. Jon burns his father’s back severely, but ultimately succeeds despite the doubts placed in his mind by Goldie’s death thanks to his father’s gentle, unwavering faith in him. Watching Superman guide his burgeoning son towards greater internal and external strength is a huge joy that is unique to this book.
The splash page in the middle of this chapter where Lois, Clark, and Jon are huddled together beneath a tree, honoring Goldie’s memory as a happy family is now one of my favorite pages in comics. Gleason knocks it out of the park here, creating a warm moment that epitomizes the themes this book sets out to express.
Did you enjoy all of this as much as I did, Kyle?
Kyle Pinion: Sure, I had a pretty good time with this second installment of Superman proper. I think the comics fills a significant niche in the current Superman status quo, and allows us a better opportunity to understand the family dynamics of the Smith family (I may have missed something, but when did they stop being the White family? Perhaps that was something during the Tomasi “Last Days of Superman” issues that I only picked up the first half of.). It’s funny to note what was easily the worst Rebirth comic of the lot has been followed up by two of the most enjoyable ongoing issues that DC has published in these past two months. Gleason’s lovely and emotive art has a lot to do with it, but the storytelling from all facets is crisp and purposeful, with the best definition of this new Superman’s personality that we’ve seen anywhere.
I was also a big fan of the action sequences on hand, from the awfully impressive sea creature – vividly colored by John Kalisz – to the moment where Jon learns how to use his heat vision, which elevates this title, not only to being the best character-driven Superman book, but also the most exhilarating one visually in the superhero slugfest mold. And given how much I’ve enjoyed Patrick Zircher’s efforts on Action Comics, that’s no small amount of praise.
While I think you basically covered it all here, Alex, in terms of what worked best for me (particularly the turnabout on a child’s expectations of his father punishing him vs. reality). I did want to state that the arrival of the Eradicator was likely my favorite bit. He’s always a bit of a confusing character, and his history is a fairly convoluted one, but I’ve loved his design as far back as his initial appearance. I thought utilizing the Clark Kent glasses from the Fortress of Solitude to establish why he has that visor look was a clever touch, and I’m excited to see the character return. I also noticed that, one panel aside, there were a number of places where the art was obscuring the fact that Superman doesn’t have the red strongman tights. This is especially apparent in the one pager of Clark discussing with Jon why he’s wearing the “S-shield”. It’s basically black where the underwear goes. It was an odd choice that probably signifies how difficult it is to actually render Superman in certain shots so he doesn’t have a bulge or a Ken doll crotch, at least in the current all blue pants design.
Any additional thoughts on your end, Alex? I’m 100% team Tomasi/Gleason at this rate.
Alex: As you were writing your thoughts, I was flipping through the book again and noticed the same thing about Superman’s tights. This struggle to come up with a coherent and modern Superman design has gone on for quite some time now, and I doubt this will be the last design we see over the next few years, even though it has been my favorite thus far.
The Eradicator reveal was a little strange to me, but after doing some research I think he’s a solid character that could pose an interesting foil to Superman in the weeks to come. Most importantly, Kathy’s crush on Jon is adorable. Maybe next time he won’t fall out of a tree when she touches him. Girls don’t have cooties! Promise.
Buy. this. Book.
Final Verdict: Buy
Stay tuned throughout the day as we post reviews for Aquaman #2, Green Arrow #2, Green Lanterns #2!