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 #17 offered readers a change of pace. Accompanied by artist Sebastian Fiumara, storytellers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason told the tale of Jonathan Kent’s scary excursion into Deadman’s Swamp. Contributor T. Kyle King, who covers all things Kryptonian for ComiConverse, brings you this review of Dark Harvest.
Superman #17 Review:
Left alone for the evening by Clark Kent and Lois Lane, Jonathan accompanies Hamilton County neighbor Kathy Branden on a spooky search for her missing grandfather. What mysterious menace is hiding out in the foggy bog?
(Warning: Spoilers follow!)
Superman #17 Synopsis:
Lois is working late at the Daily Planet and Superman is off saving the world, so Jon is left at home by himself to watch horror movies and eat ice cream. Worried classmate Kathy arrives to seek his aid: Cobb Branden went off in search of his missing cow, Bessie, and has not returned. Jon and Kathy follow the hoof- and footprints into Deadman’s Swamp. A shadowy observer tracks their movements through the foreboding marshland.
The youngsters are attacked by a series of oversized animals before stumbling across a dilapidated mansion in the morass. Jon and Kathy enter the house, only to have it come to life and strike back at them. Finding Bessie inside, the children are assaulted by the cow, as well, when she disgorges a flood of milk at them. The unseen interloper also comes after them, so the two youths take refuge in a well. It is there that Cobb and Bessie find them. All appears to have returned to normal, and Kathy’s grandfather explains their experience as the product of the hallucinatory gases emitted by Deadman’s Swamp.
Superman #17 Analysis:
Dark Harvest ostensibly exists as filler to bridge the gap before next month’s coordinated Reborn crossover. If so, the story was not designed to do much as such, and the result may be dismissed as a largely ordinary interlude. Nevertheless, Superman #17 had moments that hold promise, offering both callbacks to previous episodes in Tomasi’s and Gleason’s stellar run on this book and hints of something more to come. After all, this installment expressly references Jonathan’s earlier excursion into Deadman’s Swamp, complete with surreptitious surveillance and trippy fauna. The writers likewise have subtly shown us before that Cobb Branden is a prize-winning dairy farmer who has had a mysterious moment or two. Finally, did anyone else think the hidden figure in the last panel looked suspiciously like the Eradicator — or note that this issue, like Trinity #6, ended with an ominous observer peeking out at the Kents from a Hamilton County cornfield? There is, in short, more to Dark Harvest than meets the eye.
What meets the eye in Superman #17, though, looks good. Letterer Rob Leigh does subtle work during the expository sequences, yet he lends appropriately outsized emphasis to the sound effects in the action scenes. (Even Jon’s Ferris Bueller-esque hurrying home to bed is given a pertinent sense of urgency.) Colorist Dave Stewart establishes a suitably spooky mood, and Fiumara’s imagery, although intended to evoke Stranger Things, also recalls the artwork of an earlier era that matches the spine-chillingly creepy yet slyly caricatural tenor of Dark Harvest.
It is inconceivable that Tomasi and Gleason did not mean for Superman #17 — which features a cow named Bessie and a prominent “BONG” in the story’s first sound effect on the issue’s opening page — to remind us of Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck tales from the 1970s. It should not surprise us, therefore, that Fiumara’s artwork in Dark Harvest appears deliberately to pay tribute to Gerber’s collaborators from that period. Howard debuted in a horror anthology comic, and Fiumara’s mossy mansion could have been constructed by Val Mayerik for the Man-Thing to encounter. When the satirical waterfowl was awarded his own title, Gene Colan brought a moody surrealism to Howard the Duck, which is replicated in Superman #17’s purposely absurd action set pieces.
Accordingly — although some understandably see Dark Harvest as a mere palate cleanser or place holder of questionable importance (or worse) — I believe Superman #17 introduced or revived elements that later will pay handsome dividends to loyal readers. Tomasi and Gleason have done too much too well since Rebirth began not to be given the benefit of the doubt. (Who knows? Maybe the namesake of Deadman’s Swamp is Deadman, who had a substantial cameo in another Howard the Duck-inspired comic!) For the moment, though, this issue was worth the cover price for one exchange alone: “I got you, Kath.” “I know, Jon.” Yeah, these guys get it.
Was Dark Harvest a worthwhile one-and-done, or was it simply skippable filler?
Take a nighttime bike ride into the comments and ComiConverse with us about Superman #17!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics