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 #5 reached the comic book racks on Wednesday, reuniting former Superman/Wonder Woman collaborators Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke for the fifth chapter of Son of Superman. The latest adventure starring the pre-Flashpoint Clark Kent and Lois Lane carried the couple and their son, Jonathan, out of this world. ComiConverse’s Man of Steel reviewer, T. Kyle King, takes a look at the new issue.
Together with co-author Patrick Gleason, Tomasi scripted the story, while Mahnke contributed the pencils that were augmented by Jaime Mendoza’s inks, Wil Quintana’s colors, and Rob Leigh’s letters. The result was one of the strongest issues yet in the Big Blue Boy Scout’s Rebirth run.
(TOTAL SPOILERS FOLLOW!)
Superman #5 Synopsis:
Carrying his wife and son inside a submersible, Superman arrives on the dark side of the moon, where he enters a secret base Batman has built for experiments and equipment too dangerous to store in Gotham City. When the Man of Tomorrow declines Superboy’s offer of assistance, Lois urges her husband to be more of a mentor to their son.
The Eradicator arrives and attacks, absorbing Superman into himself. Jon angrily lashes out at the Kryptonian construct, and, when the amoral automaton strikes back, Lois dons the Dark Knight’s armored Hellbat suit and comes to the boy’s defense. While his wife and child fight the Eradicator from without, Superman enlists the aid of the Kryptonian souls within: Kal-El absorbs the spirits of his people and emerges from the singleminded simulacrum empowered to face the Eradicator.
Superman #5 Analysis:
Straight out of the gate, Superman #5 starts off strong with an attention-grabbing cover by penciller Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz. If the sight of an agonized Man of Steel being attacked by a raging Eradicator over whom an armored Caped Crusader loomed, all arranged in a totem pole of bright primary colors and shiny deep blacks arrayed against the spangled backdrop of space, wasn’t enough to pull you in, I don’t know what would have been.
The stellar artwork continued on the issue’s interior, where Mahnke’s talent for portraying physicality visually built suspense, brought the action to life, and conveyed a broad range of feelings through the main characters’ facial features. The gloomy and grumpy story requirements of Truth tainted Tomasi’s and Mahnke’s previous team-up, wasting the penciller’s abilities on endless images of a snarling Man of Steel with his teeth gritted, but Son of Superman — Part Five permitted the artist to use the whole canvas, with wonderful results.
Mendoza and Quintana were equally free to operate within a wide expanse of options, and they also maximized their opportunities. The purpling darkness and the deepening shadows of the far side of the moon gave the opening pages of Superman #5 a look as tenebrous as a Cormac McCarthy novel feels, yet the characters’ emergence into the bright white light of the shiny extraterrestrial Batcave bathed the book with a glare as glowing as a washed-out MTV music video from the early ‘80s — and that was before the Eradicator showed up, loaded with Kryptonian ghosts. This is as visually impressive an issue as Rebirth has yet produced.
Tomasi’s and Gleason’s story had to display at least as much versatility as the graphics in order to work. When the starting point of the adventure is that Superman has put Lois Lane and Superboy in a submarine so he can fly them to Batman’s secret military-grade Batcave on the dark side of the moon, there is good cause to believe that Son of Superman — Part Five is diving head-first into the excesses of the Silver Age. From there, the plot involves a Kryptonian robot swallowing Superman, Lois Lane fighting bad guys while wearing Batman’s armor, and Superman asking a whole host of ghosts to possess him, so going over the top would appear pretty much inevitable.
Superman #5 wisely plays it straight, however, treating the situation seriously without lapsing into silliness or vaulting into melodrama. The issue’s opening dateline is delivered deadpan, blandly setting the scene: “Two hundred thirty-eight thousand nine hundred miles from Earth.” Jon’s excited reaction to seeing the detritus of the Apollo program — even if it is debatable how many of the American flags planted on the moon are still standing and some artistic license was involved in depicting one of them with the stars and stripes still visible — is genuine and heartfelt, setting a sincere tone to the interactions among the family members.
True to the best elements of the Silver Age, the extravagance of the outer space setting of Superman #5 was leavened by well-paced plotting, boundless creativity, a richness of range, and a sense of humor, and nowhere more so than with the issue’s leading lady. Lois Lane reacted to Bruce Wayne’s electronic Chiroptera by remarking, “I hate bats on the moon — just as much as I do on the farm.” She intercedes with her husband to encourage him to be more encouraging to their son where warranted (“The more we overprotect him, the bigger our disservice”), yet she also steps forward in defense of her offspring when Jonathan is threatened, warning the villain never to “mess with the baby bear when the mama bear’s nearby!” That’s a tough line to sell when you’re wearing an armored Bat-suit, but Lois pulls it off with aplomb.
Add to that a genuinely creepy Eradicator whose robotic rigidity is made scarier still by Leigh’s coldly computerized lettering, and Superman #5 gives vibrant life and real heart to a story whose outlandishness comes across as credible and cool instead of absurd. I have questions and concerns — I wonder how the timing of Son of Superman lines up with the events in Action Comics; I’m curious whether Krypto is among the spirits absorbed by Kal-El; I wish Lois hadn’t said that Jon needed Clark “to be his Obi-Wan” since Obi-Wan is the wise old man who ushers the young apprentice into manhood by dying at the start of the third act — but these minor details do not detract from the bigger picture.
Tomasi, Gleason, Mahnke, and their colleagues have crafted an outsized epic as fantastic as the superhero comic book format allows, but their straightforward approach to the grandiose material imbues Son of Superman — Part Five with an improbable verisimilitude and an emotional resonance that keep the story on an even keel. Perhaps no DC Comics superhero has benefited more from Rebirth than the Action Ace, and perhaps no single issue has exemplified that salutary trend better than Superman #5.
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
In artwork, characterization, and story, this was one of the best comic books to feature the Man of Steel since Rebirth began.