T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Superman #11 brought readers the second installment of the In the Name of the Father story arc introduced in the previous issue. Co-creators Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason continued setting up the Super Sons series scheduled for release in 2017 by sending Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne to superhero boot camp. ComiConverse contributor T. Kyle King, who covers titles starring the Man of Steel, is here to review World’s Smallest — Part 2.
(Some Spoilers Follow!)
Superman #11 Review:
Although their fathers may be friends, Robin and Superboy don’t like each other very much. Will Batman’s and Superman’s elaborate efforts to teach their sons teamwork help the lads learn a valuable lesson, or will they keep exhibiting the animosity that previously existed between their dads?
Superman #11 Synopsis:
Stripped of their superhero costumes and confined to a mountaintop training camp, Robin and Superboy attempt separately to escape. They briefly are stopped by Nobody before Damian abandons Jon and endeavors to make his getaway alone. Maya allows Superboy to pursue Robin, whom he joins in trying to tame Goliath.
In spite of their occasional communication with each other, the youngsters fail to cooperate during the stage-managed trials their fathers have placed in their way. Damian and Jon return to the Batcave genetics laboratory after their unsuccessful adventure, arriving to discover a monstrous amalgamation of Clayface, Killer Croc, the Joker, and Mister Freeze has ensnared Alfred, Batman, and Superman. Robin and Superboy finally learn to work together — maybe.
Superman #11 Analysis:
Gleason produced the pencils for In the Name of the Father — Part 2, as well as sharing the story credit with Tomasi, so the appearance of the graphics and the tone of the writing dovetail nicely. The presence of a trio of inkers (Christian Alamy, Mick Gray, and Mark Morales) affects the issue’s consistency somewhat, as there is some variance in the line work that periodically impacts the imagery, but the occasional differences do not detract substantially from the overall look of Superman #11.
John Kalisz’s colors pop, giving a vibrant look to the entire book even as he works his way across every hue in the spectrum. The pigments place a high shine on the artwork, giving the pictures a glossy sheen that helps call attention to such tiny details as Robin’s breast badge and Superboy’s jacket zipper. These small yet significant items have been removed from the youths’ confiscated costumes — along with their capes — as part of the punishment, and they must earn back the accoutrements to their fighting togs. Kalisz emphasizes these importance absences without overdoing it, impressively interjecting chromatic nuances in the interstices of bold primary colors.
Superman #11 is a story constantly in motion, and the kinetic energy of World’s Smallest — Part 2 permeates every aspect of the graphics. This physicality and flow are enhanced by Rob Leigh’s lettering, which punctuates the action with an “AARRGH!”, a “FWAK”, a “FWAM”, a “THUNK”, an “UFF”, a “VREEEEE”, and a “VRRNN” in the space of a single four-panel page. This week’s installment of In the Name of the Father creates a sense of scale using layouts and perspective rather than relying on size alone; this adventure features only two full-page splashes, yet the depictions seem much bigger than that.
Damian’s grim gamesmanship and Jon’s optimistic openness are played for laughs in a sequence of manufactured crises posing probably less actual peril than a typical Tuesday in Charles Xavier’s Danger Room. Nevertheless, the co-starring sidekicks are no mere comic relief. Tomasi and Gleason render the boys as genuine mirrors of their famous fathers: Robin and Superboy reflect Batman and Superman, allowing the Justice League teammates to see themselves more fully.
The reactions of the Caped Crusader and the Metropolis Marvel are as telling as their sons’ emotional outbursts. Batman waves off Superman when the latter moves to make an early extraction, then, when the Action Ace seeks the affirmation of the Darknight Detective, the Big Blue Boy Scout is met with a stony silence that leads him to remark, “Hmm. Comms must be out.” The concluding conversation between the dissimilar dads in Superman #11 begins with them calling one another “Wayne” and “Kent” before warming up enough to address each other as “Bruce” and “Clark.” Just as they begin to bond over their effectiveness as fathers, though, their sons resume their childish bickering in a closing moment that resonates with everyone who has ever had the hubris to be a proud parent.
As always, the undeniable ties between the multiple Rebirth series starring Superman raise questions concerning chronology. Since Superman #11 is set during Jonathan’s Christmas break from school, the aforementioned relative warmth between the fathers and the comparative coldness of the weather suggest strongly that In the Name of the Father — Part 2 takes place some months after Francis Manapul’s Family Dinner. No mention is made, however, of the initial meal eaten by the Gotham City billionaire at the Hamilton County farm in Trinity #1. This absence of even an asterisk alluding to the earlier issue through an editorial aside is odd, given the sharp contrast distinguishing those prior events from Superman’s invitation (“Would you and Damian like to stay for dinner… Bruce?”) and Batman’s answer (“It would be our pleasure… Clark”) in World’s Smallest — Part 2.
Naturally, no review of Superman #11 could be complete without taking note of the small yet vital role played by Alfred Pennyworth. The beloved butler mainly aids in monitoring the boys’ misadventures, but, when their fathers offer only faint praise for their sons’ collaborative and successful rescue efforts, it is Alfred who pronounces the young heroes’ worthiness. Interrupting and contradicting his humorless boss, the butler insists upon returning the children’s capes and proclaims to them that “you proved here that you aren’t just their sons… you are our Super Sons” (complete with logo).
The best Superman stories to emerge from Rebirth have claimed among their common connecting threads an essential simplicity concerning the iconic core of the Man of Tomorrow. Throughout DC Comics’ line of titles starring the Action Ace, a straightforward focus on the defining attributes of Clark Kent and his supporting cast has been a welcome and consistent theme to re-emerge in the wake of the New 52. Superman #11 is no exception, and it creatively uses the lens of the Boy of Steel to magnify and illuminate what makes the Last Son of Krypton who he is. World’s Smallest — Part 2 empowers the Metropolis Marvel through the radiance of a blue, red, and yellow son.
Did Tomasi and Gleason bring us a tale worthy of being brought In the Name of the Father?
Soar up, up, and away into the comments, where you can ComiConverse with your fellow fans about Superman #11!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
Like the yellow sun from which Kal-El derives his powers, this issue was energetic and illuminating.