Super Sons #13
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Carlo Barberi
Inker: Art Thibert
Colourist: Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
A review by Sean Frankling
If you don’t find Super Sons adorable, you need to see your doctor immediately; there’s a genuine chance your heart’s not working right. The series follows Batman and Superman’s sons as they fight crime and figure out how to be heroes in their own right. It combines a sparkle of childhood magic with snappy dialogue, lovable bickering and vibrant action.
Issue #13 begins an arc where Jon (Superboy) gets his first glimpse at the pain in Damian’s past. This time, they set out to foil a deadly new plot by the League of Assassins at the command of Damian’s abusive mother, Talia Al Ghul.
Before it gets into the dark and daring action of the story, though, the issue takes a moment to do something we don’t see nearly enough of in superhero comics. It spends time with Damian and Jon out of costume and in school. The boys make friends, argue about whether to cut classes and play sports with their non-super classmates.
This character work is where the comic really shines. By taking the time to slow down and show the characters living their everyday life, Tomasi expands them into three dimensional characters. Jon’s puppy dog sweetness belies an underlying wisdom learned from his parents. Damian’s abrasive arrogance is a cover for his genuine affection for Jon. As a result of taking the time to show that, Tomasi creates a friendship we can see and care about. So when the action scenes do come, there’s a reason to get invested in them.
Barberi’s line art does a great job of staging all these character scenes, too. His facial expressions convey as much as Tomasi’s dialogue, visibly bringing the characters to life. Also, he’s willing to make them exaggerated and goofy when the situation calls for it. Altogether, it’s a great balance between telling the story and letting the kids be kids.
Usually, I roll my eyes when Talia Al Ghul and the League of Assassins show up in a story. Their presence is too often an omen of orientalist tokenism and boring, grimdark character arcs. But the beauty of Super Sons as a series is balance. When Talia starts in about family duty and assassination as a tool to control the inferior masses, Jon Kent is there to tell her that’s a load of horse-puckies. As a result, this arc has an opportunity to delve into the contrast between Jon’s and Damian’s family lives. In the process, it could offer us some real commentary on how unhealthy Talia’s treatment of her son is — and hopefully some heartwarming moments as Jon reaches out to help Damian handle that pain.
Buy it! The superhero genre often treats its characters like crash test dummies — inert bodies to throw around when things blow up. Super Sons is one series that knows how to create an emotional connection without sacrificing the action.