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 #3 carried Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and their son, Jonathan Smith, to the Fortress of Solitude for the third installment of Peter J. Tomasi’s and Patrick Gleason’s Son of Superman storyline. ComiConverse’s Man of Steel reviewer, T. Kyle King, is here with his thoughts on the latest issue.
(Major spoilers follow!)
While Tomasi and Gleason continued to share the plotting responsibilities, they were joined by artist Jorge Jimenez and colorist Alejandro Sanchez for Son of Superman — Part Three. In an issue set entirely at the Fortress, Superman #3 brings the Action Ace into contact with the Eradicator.
Lois and Clark arrive in the Arctic Circle with Jon, whom they plan to examine using the Fortress’s Kryptonian technology in the wake of the boy’s fall at the farm. In addition to finding the loyal Krypto, they encounter the Eradicator, prompting Superman to launch an attack in defense of his family. He halts the assault only after the Kryptonian construct saves Lois and Jonathan from a falling piece of the Fortress.
While Lois and Superman scan Jon in search of an explanation for his inconsistent invulnerability, the Eradicator explains that a protocol installed by General Zod caused his mission to shift from absorbing the lives of lawbreakers for imprisonment in the Phantom Zone to tracking down the sole survivor of the cataclysm that destroyed Krypton. In order to restore Kryptonian civilization, the Eradicator attempts to absorb Jon and remove the “corrupted” human half of his genome. Krypto sacrifices himself by leaping into harm’s way, Superman batters the Eradicator into submission, and an emotionally overwrought Superboy moves to join the fray.
I don’t want to gush too much about the artwork, because I have been a big fan of Gleason’s graphics in the series’ first two issues, but Jimenez and Sanchez together did a fabulous job of making Superman #3 a great-looking book. Confined to a single setting and featuring just five characters, they nevertheless managed to avoid even a hint of monotony. Sanchez’s vibrant hues highlight all the right details, emphasizing the alien nature of the Fortress’s technology, the sinister history of the Eradicator’s flashback, and the heroic boldness of the champions.
Sanchez adds depth without darkness to Jimenez’s drawings, which are detailed but not busy and straightforward yet nuanced. The artist has only five characters with whom to work, but they are vastly different individuals, and Jimenez gives each his, her, or its due. The singleminded coldness of the methodical and amoral Eradicator — augmented by Rob Leigh’s mechanical lettering — is shown in sharp contrast to the emotional engagement of Lois, Clark, Jonathan, and Krypto, all of whose body language and facial features effectively convey the caring, conflict, and pathos of the situation.
Jimenez’s Superman is shown to be both a fallible yet focused hero and a dedicated and protective family man. Jonathan is seen walking the tightrope of the transition between fearful child and maturing adolescent, and his understandably inconstant reactions — which mirror the unexplained inconsistency of his imperviousness to injury — are expertly portrayed. The artist’s Lois, while too often hovering in the background of Superman #3, displays a wonderful balance between truth-seeking adventurer and nurturing mother. Even Krypto’s heartfelt feelings are conveyed with poignance and subtlety.
This isn’t the Silver Age, though; Jimenez’s imagery is not confined merely to Superman, Lois, and Krypto emoting alongside thought balloons filled with “SOB!” and “CHOKE!” The fight scenes and the flashback sequence are dynamic, fluid, and forcefully framed for maximum impact. The combination of sweeping action with evocative reaction makes for especially efficacious visual storytelling, so it is tough to heap too much praise upon Jimenez’s and Sanchez’s superb work on Superman #3.
Tomasi’s and Gleason’s writing is very nearly on a par with their collaborators’ graphics. Son of Superman — Part Three advances the plotlines from the previous installment, following logically from Jonathan’s injury in the prior issue and further fleshing out the Eradicator’s arrival on the scene. Though thematically distinct and with a different emphasis, Superman #3 parallels recent issues of Dan Jurgens’s Action Comics, as both bring back bad guys from major Metropolis Marvel story arcs from the 1990s with novel 21st century twists.
Although Tomasi’s and Gleason’s Man of Tomorrow unapologetically is the classic incarnation of Superman, he still sometimes needs to adjust his pre-Flashpoint presumptions in light of post-New 52 realities. The Action Ace responds to the sight of the Eradicator wearing the crest of the House of El in Superman #3 just as he did to Lex Luthor donning that same iconic shield in Action Comics #957, reacting immediately, viscerally, forcefully, and paternalistically (in the best and most literal sense).
Thematically, the Man of Steel’s recurring need to break free from past attitudes of questionable relevance in a changing world works beautifully in this issue, at both the micro and macro levels. Within the particular context of Son of Superman — Part Three, Clark’s realization that the Eradicator is not exactly as he seems introduces the issue’s leitmotif of adaptation — its necessity and inevitability, its challenges and consequences — which is made explicit in the discussion during the diagnostic scan of Jonathan. In the big picture, Superman #3’s focus on flexibility without throwing the baby out with the bathwater skillfully signifies the overall objective of DC Comics’ Rebirth initiative.
Admittedly, I am conflicted over this issue’s dramatic ending. Tomasi and Gleason have been tough on the family pets of the House of El in Son of Superman, and, assuming the Eradicator actually killed Krypto, I am more disturbed by the death of the Dog of Steel than I was by the passing of the New 52 Superman. I am hopeful, though, that the cliffhanger conclusion was a callback to Grant Morrison’s Halloween tale of Krypto and the Phantom Zone, and I liked the way Superman #3 meaningfully reinforced the significance of the fact that Krypto is a dog in a cape.
Were you as pleased by Son of Superman — Part Three as I was?
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
The artwork was gorgeous and the story combined stirring action, plot progression, and emotional weight while conveying its themes effectively.