A highly ambitious issue fails to live up to what its trying to do. The case isn’t put into making sure that the issues and problems brought up here have the proper care and thought are given to truly serious social ills. There’s promise here but with another issue like this, it would be very easily get squandered.
After a first issue full of promise, all Superman: Son of Kal-El #2 needed was some thoughtfulness and solid adventure to stick the landing. Instead, we get a story that doesn’t even put any effort in.
This issue is a prime example of why a story can’t just hit talking points and move forward. It has ambition, but it needs care. It was brought to us by Tom Taylor, John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb, and Dave Sharpe.
After averting a near-tragedy, Jon Kent finds himself questioning Superman’s role in the world. After a chat with his father, he finds a renewed sense of purpose. It’s just what he needs to embrace his role and call himself Superman.
I will say, the points that this issue does get are for the art. Timms and Eltaeb are a one-two punch together. Timms has an energetic style that propels the story forward. He uses his figures to guide the readers through the page, and his action shots are great, whether it’s Jon stopping an assault, or rescuing a hundred people. Eltaeb’s colors are bright, and adapt to Timms’ lines, rather than trying to force his coloring style onto the line art. Both artists deserve a lot of credit for Jon’s new costume that makes its debut here- a creation that blends all the styles he’s worn so far.
Where the art is strong though, the plot here is weak. Now, there are some positives to be found- such as the character interactions. Really though, they’re such a minor part of the issue that it doesn’t make up for where the plot fails.
And that plot? Taylor seems to have made a checklist of “social issues that are troubling Americans” and checked them off as he went. School shootings, gun control, impotent politicians, immigration, the rise of fascism all factor into this issue. The issue isn’t that they’re brought up. Comics can be a great place for social allegory, and real world issues should show up in fiction, even superhero fantasies.
The issue is that none of these issues are given time to breathe and get addressed. Jon stops the school shooting and moves on in a page. The immigration issues are solved with a blast of heat vision. None of these plot points are more than a moment in Jon’s life, rather than taking the time to address them. It creates an image that Taylor (an Australia native) just read an article about school shootings in the US, then based the first act of the story on that, rather than doing the work that writing this type of story needs.
Better care needs to be put into future stories in this series. Superman is a great character to address these issues, especially with Kal-El’s son who is struggling to find his place in the world. But taking it by half measures is not the way to do it. Until that can be done right, I hope this series sticks to “Man of Steel fly fast, punch hard.”
Superman: Son of Kal-El #2 is available now from DC Comics.