REBIRTH REPORT INSTALLMENT 2: SUPERMAN #1

Superman #1 (2016)Superman #1

“Son of Superman Part 1” (20 pages)

  • Storytellers: Peter J Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
  • Inker: Mick Gray
  • Colorist: John Kalisz
  • Letterer: Rob Leigh
  • Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
  • Editor: Eddie Berganza

Non-Spoiler Review

A great read with only one questionable moment.  After one last moment of reflection Tomasi races headlong into the future and begins to explore the family dynamic between Clark, Lois and Jonathan.

Spoiler Filled Review

Superman #1A (2016)I want to get that questionable moment I mentioned above out of the way because it’s always best to get the bad stuff off the table before getting into what I liked about this issue.  There is a scene early in the issue where Jonathan is playing with his pet cat and the cat get snapped up by a chicken hawk.  Jonathan loses his @#$% and blasts the hawk with heat vision which does a great job of stopping the bird but also, sadly, kills the cat in the process.

This scene REALLY upset me.

I can see why Tomasi went down this road.  Just before this incident Clark is giving Jonathan a fatherly lecture about the use of his powers and creating an incident where the use of his powers has real world consequences is dramatic.  After the cat’s death Jonathan isn’t as gung ho about using his abilities so mission accomplished on teaching the kid a lesson.  On a dramatic level I get it.  

On a very personal level I hate seeing pets killed on screen.  I realize some may view this as irrational and if they do so be it.  I am one of those people that can watch a movie where people are slaughtered wholesale and not have too many objections but you kill a dog or a cat on screen and I am a wreck.  I have a diatribe about this that I won’t bore you with at the moment ( if someone asks in the comment section I’ll elaborate there) but the short version is I own three small dogs and one of the nightmare scenarios that I have is taking them for a walk and having one of them get nabbed by a chicken hawk.  This area of the country is lousy with them and so my fears are justified.  This made the scene a bone of contention for me.

I also felt like I had seen this before and after some memory wracking I remembered a similar scene in the first issue of Marvel’s Supreme Power from 2003.  For those of you unfamiilar with that series Supreme Power was the updating/revamp of Marvel’s Squadron Supreme concept that answered the question, “What would it be like if we made the members of the Justice League ultra realistic?”  Their Superman analog was called Hyperion and the first issue focuses on him landing on Earth as a baby and being adopted not by a kindly farm couple but by the United States government.  They set him up with a fake family composed of a mother and a father (who are really undercover CIA agents) and at one point during his upbringing he kills the family dog with his heat vision because its barking scared him.  To be fair both scenes occur for very different reasons.  In Supreme Power the scenario plays out to show how alien Mark is and how people might react to his abilities.  In Superman #1 Tomasi uses the idea to show that Jonathan doesn’t have control of his abilities and to set up a sub-plot of the neighbor girl seeing him use said abilities.  Again, I totally see where Tomasi was coming from.  It just bugged me.  

Superman #1G (2016)

Having written all of that I thought this was a strong opening issue.  The opening scene with Clark speaking to the other Clark’s grave was not only dramatic but gave us an organic transition from the Rebirth issue to this one.  It was your typical, “You’re gone and I’m going to carry on your mission,” scene with the added bonus that the character is resuming his former mission and the shirt rip.  I am a fan of the shirt rip.  Big, ol’ fan of the shirt rip.  I think it’s iconic and it was sadly lacking in the last three Superman films.

Yes, I know there were technically two shirt rips in Superman Returns.  They were terrible.  So I don’t count them.

Superman #1CThe best part of the issue was the interaction between Clark, Lois and Jonathan that happened around the dinner table.  I never thought we would ever see am in-continuity story where Lois and Clark would have a child.  There have been plenty of imaginary or Elseworlds stories where that idea played out but DC never pulled the trigger on Superman having a kid for reals.  Tomasi is taking that ball and running with it by showing us a very real family dynamic.  It’s not an idealic, Leave It To Beaver, Aw Shucks scenario.  The fact that Lois and Clark had to hide so much from Jonathan makes that impossible.  Not only have Jonathan’s parents been lying to him all of these years but now he was to deal with the fact that he has these powers that he can’t quite control yet.  Instead of being honest and open about this Jonathan keeps it to himself which leads to some conflict.  It’s great on a dramatic front but it also feels authentic.  

The brief scene where Batman and Wonder Woman arrive was another highlight.  Not that it was particularly long and we only heard snippets of their conversation but this is one of the elements of Rebirth that interests me the most.  How will Batman and Wonder Woman react to this new Superman?  I know we’ll be seeing more of this in the new Justice League title but I liked getting a bit of it here.  My initial take on the bits of conversation we heard was that Batman and Wonder Woman were there to talk about Jonathan and their concern for the potential danger of  his power level and inexperience.  I had visions of them wanting to take Jonathan away from Clark, which irked me.  Then I realized that I was jumping to conclusions based on past events.  When Jeph Loeb and the late Michael Turner introduced the new Kara Zor-El back in 2004 both Wonder Woman and Batman seemed hell bent on either not trusting her or wanting to take her to Paradise Island.  That made me angry at the time and it still makes me angry for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here because it would eat up too many inches.  

I mean seriously!  I realize that they had the best of intentions and weren’t trying to be jerks but what Bruce and Diana told Clark by trying to take his cousin away was that they didn’t trust him.  While Bruce was an orphan he was still one of six billion other humans on the planet.  Diana had an entire island of sisters.  Clark had Lois and his parents but here was an actual member of his supposedly dead race and everyone’s first reaction is to think that Clark wasn’t capable of dealing with the situation.  It made me so mad.

Okay.  I feel better now.  Moving on.

Superman #1DAfter another read through of the issue the scene plays differently.  It now feels like Batman and Wonder Woman were reaching out (as the dialog hints) to this new Superman and Jonathan came up in conversation. Maybe Batman or Wonder Woman pointed out how Jonathan could potentially be a danger to others but that wasn’t the point of the conversation.  The snippet about something being off limits was probably Clark telling them that the farm and his family are off limits to them.  I fully expect that the next issue will open with Clark’s viewpoint of the conversation or at the very least we will be seeing that at some point down the road.

Overall this was a strong and surprising opening issue.  Tomasi took some turns that I wasn’t expecting but they weren’t completely unwelcome just unexpected.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this book goes.  Tomasi and Gleason did some amazing work in developing Damien as a character and have a real handle on father/son relationships.  The dynamic is different here because Jonathan was not raised by ninja assassins but I think that they will bring the same heart and honesty that made Batman and Robin one of the better books of the early days of the New 52.

Month End Report

There were four Superman books on the stands this month between Superman and Action Comics and all of them were top notch.  They each have their own identity but I don’t feel like I am reading about two different characters, just two different aspects of the same character.  After five years of floundering and one year of truly off-putting stories the ship seems back on course and not just because they brought back “my” Superman.  That’s nice but simply setting the clock back never works.  Peter Tomasi and Dan Jurgens are exploring the idea of a Superman that is a bit older, more experienced, a father and not on his own world.  There are challenges that each of those ideas present and it seems that both men are capable of meeting each and every one of them.

There’s a lot to look forward to as well.  This coming month we will be getting the new Justice League title and New Super-Man, both of which pique my interest.  I’m not sure how New Super-Man is going to play out but I like the concept and I’m willing to give the writer a chance despite the fact that I disliked much of his previous Superman work.  Since it is a different character I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  As I mentioned above Justice League has a lot of possibilities but mostly I am looking forward to seeing how the team dynamic plays out.  You have a new (to this universe) Superman and two new (to the Corps) Green Lanterns on the same team with people that have worked together for five years.  

I’m also looking forward to seeing how Superman fits into this overall mystery of Rebirth.  We’re getting hints of that larger story in Flash and Titans.  My gut tells me that Superman won’t play a huge role initially and that DC is playing the long game with the ultimate goal of merging the New 52 and the Pre-Flashpoint universes together.  I’m not 100% sure this is where we are headed but if it is I will be very happy.  Despite my displeasure at how Superman was handled over the past five years the New 52 had some great concepts and stories so mixing everything together and going forward with a DCU that has a past but is trying to move forward is the best of both worlds.  

In case you were interested in my thoughts on Action Comics issues 957 and 958 click on this link and this link to read my reviews of those books over at the Superman Homepage.  

More to follow…

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2 Responses to REBIRTH REPORT INSTALLMENT 2: SUPERMAN #1

  1. Devin Clancy says:

    That scene also bothered me a lot. I can’t deny that it’s a valid attempt at shock value, but the question is, where does the kid’s arc have to go from here. I’m assuming we’re looking at a multiple issue character arc of him dealing with his powers and they don’t have much room left to up the stakes. Basically, he’s already at a 10, so the next thing to go wrong would have to be him hurting a person.

    The funny thing is, if he’d just killed the bird and saved his cat I wouldn’t really be bothered.

  2. The Rebirth-era Superman books so far have been uniformly impressive. I think – correction, I *hope* – that DC have learnt their lesson with the New52 and instead of rushing out “big bang” continuity changes that the Rebirth changes roll out over a period of time with a defined direction. The concept of ending up with a merged pre-Flashpoint/52-era continuity is a good destination; let’s hope the build-up is steady and well thought out. Editorial planning here needs to be as good as it was pre-Infinite Crisis with the lead-in mini-series. Post-Crisis books were successful because DC allowed trusted creators to take time to re-develop cherished creations; they kept the ideas which worked and jettisoned the things they felt hindered. This didn’t happen over night. With Superman it was described as akin to scraping the Silver-age barnacles off the bottom of the boat. Eventually the older continuity came back, often updated by creators who obviously cared about the characters and simply wanted these ideas to work again somehow. Ok, there were a few inconsistencies (Hawkman’s the poster child for this, obviously) and things which never sat correctly (Power Girl’s Atlantean origin) but even these were ultimately smoothed out by experienced hands like Ostrander and Johns. Rebirth needs to do a similar job. Yes, it’s a difficult balancing act – pleasing the older fans whilst keeping the new ones picked up by the New52 initiative. But it’s not impossible and, overall, I like what I’ve seen so far. Good review, Michael. I hope this new Superman run is lifting your DC spirits!?

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