The Superman of the New 52 has passed, and the original Superman takes his place in the first issue ongoing issue of the Rebirth relaunch.
During a visit to his alternate-timeline-self’s grave, Clark Kent bids farewell and takes up the mantle of the world’s greatest superhero.
The family has moved from Salinas, California, to a farm in Hamilton County, 300 miles north of Metropolis. Taking a new surname — the Smiths — the former-Kents try to live a life as normal as possible.
Things take a turn after a thunderstorm sends a bolt of lightning which lights the barn on fire.
Jon Kent becomes the lens through which we see the story for issue #1. Before they rebuild the barn, Clark sends his son to fill the corn harvester with gas, but Jon returns from his chores without his cat Goldie. Out in the fields, a hawk captured Goldie in its talons, causing Jon to shoot it down with eyebeams.
Previously, Clark had made it clear that Jon should ease into his powerset at a slow pace, and we see why his words are true — the blast not only kills the hawk, it pretty much creates a firestorm that disintegrates Goldie as well.
To make matters worse, the new neighbor’s daughter witnesses the event and disappears from sight in a hurry.
During dinner, Jon begins to buckle from the stress of living with a secret identity, and a night visit by Wonder Woman and Batman puts the spotlight on Jon as they discuss what to do with him.
Superman #1 has a lot going for it, and Peter J. Tomasi weaves a complex framework that brings things full circle. With a child of his own exhibiting superheroic powers, Clark must teach Jon what he learned from his own father Jonathan. The father and son dynamic gives us insight into how Clark was raised and shows us how a new generation of superheroes comes into their own while the long shadows of the Trinity reach far and wide.
It’s multiple perspectives are great, and they address some of the critiques regarding Superman — that he’s not relatable or that he’s too boring and simple, I think the character answers those issues by casting him in a very multi-dimensional form — he’s a father, husband, and superhero who has to step in as a ringer and deal with his own mortality, having seen a version of himself pass.
And let’s not forget, he’s a stranger from another world now twice removed. I think of Superman’s story as an immigrant’s tale that I can very much relate to, and with the increased secrecy and identity issues along with the family construct, the Superman title has plenty to mine for new stories.
One of those stories worth fleshing out is Jon’s after seeing Batman and Wonder Woman standing outside his house. We perceive superheroes as good, approachable, and willing to help. But after using his burgeoning hearing powers to eavesdrop on the conversation, Jon’s world is flipped upside down.
We’ve all been there before — walking by a group of colleagues or friends, you pick up a few suspicious words. The gears in our minds start to grind, and you wonder if someone’s throwing shade. You start to lose confidence as you pick yourself apart — a downward spiral kicked off by paranoia that leads to self-doubt and resentment.
In Jon’s case, Wonder Woman and Batman aren’t just superheroes — they’re larger than life titans capable of great harm. Children not only need protection, they need comfort, a safe environment, and family. Seeing things from his eyes, we see the world from the ground up, and it can be terrifying because a child with his powers could be sent away for training or imprisonment.
The issue ends with Superman entering Jon’s room and telling the boy, “Quickly and quietly. You’re coming with me.” The page is rendered by Patrick Gleason with a classic look — large and looming, Superman looks like a statue made of hard rock. The artwork here contrasts with the rest of the issue, which is a bit consistent. On the best pages, Gleason’s artwork is detailed and fleshed out. On other pages, it starts to get cartoony with facial details looking like sketch work. I wonder if Mick Gray’s inks could have pulled a bit more detail out of the pencil work, especially in the faces which rely on John Kalisz’s colors to provide extra detail. While clothing and landscape are given shading work and extra lines, the faces seem barebones at times.
So with a mix of great writing incorporating solid thematic concepts and artwork that’s sometimes beautiful and sometimes not so much, readers should still check out the issue. Those who’ve dismissed Superman might find what they’re missing here in the relaunch, and new fans who know just a smidge about the superhero won’t feel like they’ve been dropped in the middle of a huge event or crossover.
DC has given us a Superman we can all relate to because he’s multi-faceted. And if you can’t put your shoes in a family man who sometimes beats up intergalactic threats, there’s little Jon Kent, coming into his own. Parents often say that having a child gives them a chance to see the world through newer eyes.
This is a great opportunity to see DC through newer eyes, and the amazing thing is that this story arc begins with a blend of wonder and fear, and those are two welcome emotions you don’t always expect from a comic book — though you should.
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