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 #4, by co-creators Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, was released this week. Featuring the emergence of Superboy, revelations regarding the Eradicator, and the return of some familiar faces, the fourth installment of Son of Superman takes the story in a dramatically different direction.
ComiConverseâs Superman reviewer, T. Kyle King, is here to offer his thoughts.
After killing Krypto in one of the most traumatic dog deaths since Old Yeller, Tomasi and Gleason delivered a full-on Kryptonian-on-Kryptonian battle than then veered into unexpected territory. Buckle up for a wild ride as we dive into Son of Superman â Part Four!
Superman #4 Synopsis:
In the Fortress of Solitude, Superman counters the Eradicatorâs attempted attack on Lois Laneâs and his son, Jonathan Smith. Jon wrestles with what to do until his mother gives him guidance, then Superboy joins forces with his father to deliver a devastating blow to the Kryptonian construct.
Trapped Kryptonian souls pour forth from the broken Eradicator, drawn to a piece of kryptonite contained in a moon rock at Bibbo Bibbowskiâs Ace oâ Clubs bar. The freed spirits communicate with Superman before being reassimilated by the relentless machine, and, when the Man of Steel tries to carry Lois and Jon to safety, the Kryptonian ghosts assail their jailer to protect them. Securing his family inside a nearby submersible after formulating a plan, the Last Son of Krypton sets out for the moon.
Superman #4 Analysis:
In addition to sharing the plotting duties with Tomasi, Gleason produced the pencils for Superman #4, which then were augmented by the efforts of inker Mick Gray, colorist John Kalisz, and letterer Rob Leigh. The graphic arts team for this series is a winning combination whose work unites intense action with bright hues, thereby managing to portray serious circumstances without lapsing into the darkness that has dragged down the DC cinematic universe: Gleason and his colleagues deliver drama yet avoid dreariness.
The artwork in Superman #4 makes good use of tight closeups on telling details when building up to big images. The harrowing escape of the Kryptonian revenant from the fractured Eradicator is brought to fearsome and flowing life with angled panels, saturating yellows, and elongated wraith faces. The Eradicator appears genuinely menacing, the apparitions sympathetically convey a range of reactions, and the presence of Bibbo (along with an unexpected contemporary from Hitman) helpfully grounds the otherwise otherworldly imagery with the defined lines of craggy reality.
Gleason and his coevals generally succeed in meshing effectively a variety of styles in a single scene, combining a classically muscled Superman and a more modern Superboy â purposely portrayed with an awkward adolescent exaggeration reminiscent of Gleasonâs Damian Wayne â in a double-page spread in which both heroes slug an Eradicator visually defined by Iron Age edginess, with the whole thing highlighted by Grayâs emphatic shadows, Kaliszâs brilliant tints, and Leighâs reverberating âFRAKOOOOOMâ.
The only major flaw to be found in the appearance of Superman #4 is its portrayal of the seriesâ leading lady. The look of Lois Lane owes too much to manga in the characterâs doe-eyed facial features and relies too greatly on the male gaze in such full-length shots as the heroine running toward the reader in a tight-fitting and figure-revealing track suit. This is the mature and maternal post-Crisis Lois Lane, who inspires both her husband and her son, and whose realization about the moon rock saves the day. The wise and compassionate character of Son of Superman â Part Four is like Eleanor of Aquitaine at the Duchessâs best moments in The Lion in Winter, but the wide-eyed ingenue she appears to be in this issue hews to Alais instead.
Fortunately, this lone problem with the artwork appeared nowhere in the script. From the outset, the central characters were true to themselves, with Superman imploring his wife to âkeep Jon safeâ in the issueâs opening line and Lois refocusing her sonâs confused emotions into deliberate actions. The family comprised by Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and their son forms the core of Tomasiâs and Gleasonâs series, and Superman #4 gave each of the three a significant role that demonstrated the bonds they share.
When the Eradicator denounces Jon for not being a âpureâ Kryptonian, Lois tells the youngster he has âthe best of both worldsâ within him. Thus empowered, Superboy aids his father in taking down the sentient alien instrument. Once the incorporeal Kryptonians are unleashed, Lois thinks quickly and acts fast, removing the kryptonite that is crippling her husband and son. Superman then is able to commune with the phantoms while removing Lois and Jon from danger.
At the heart of Superman #4 lies the triumph of teamwork. Tellingly, although he contains multitudes and therefore refers to himself in the plural, the Eradicator insists in the throes of being breached: âWe are one!â He views Krypton as an undifferentiated monolith from which no deviation is permitted, either genetically or intellectually. In opposition to him stand heroes who value individuality: Lois knows Jonathanâs human half is a source of strength instead of shame; Kal-El can take in the specters of his home planet yet still see Pa Kent in his mindâs eye; the spirits of Krypton place their faith not in the past of their dead world but in the future made available on Earth by their civilizationâs last son â and his son.
All three of the costumed Kryptonians in Superman #4 wear the crest of the House of El, and each of them embodies a form of the hope for which that symbol stands. By his lights, the Eradicator preserves the possibility that Krypton will be restored by containing the souls of the dead until, fittingly, they escape through the opened S-shield on his chest. Superman, though, protects the present so the honored dead may ârest easyâ and the rising generation may be taught, while Jon â the titular Son of Superman â represents the hope that the Man of Tomorrow will be succeeded in the future by the adolescent Superboy who is being prepared for the day after tomorrow. That admirable theme was well conveyed by this fine issue.
Be sure to let us know what you thought of Superman #4!
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
The story moves forward in surprising directions while the central characters interact in compelling ways in this effective issue.