Joe Meola ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The history of DC Comics’ Superman—as well as his vast extended family of characters—is a long and complicated one. This is due in no small part to the fact that the history of DC Comics itself and of its fictional universe being long and complicated. That’s one of the downsides to eighty-plus years of publication history and a rotating cast of creative teams. Due to DC’s long history, there are multiple “main” versions of the universe and characters we all know and love, and Superman is certainly no exception. In this iteration, Jon Kent, Superman’s son, now 17, must step into the role of Earth’s Superman as his father becomes increasingly-occupied facing otherworldly threats. Released in 2021, Tom Taylor’s new Superman: Son of Kal-El series showcases the new journey Jon must embark on as the new Superman.
This next section contains spoilers. Issue one of the series opens with a retelling of the story of Jon Kent’s birth; the previous version of his birth is very complicated. The main goal of this flashback is to establish the vast potential Jon holds as a hero, due to his being the son of both Superman and Lois Lane, and this is achieved through a dialogue between Batman and Wonder Woman, two other iconic heroes of the DC universe. The setting then shifts to the present day, to a scene of a massive wildfire that has broken out in California. Jon is rescuing civilians trapped in burning debris, reassuring them they will be safe, with the same friendly smile his father often wears in his hero work. When it is discovered that the cause of the inferno is in fact a superhuman, Jon responds not with violence, but rather with compassion, as any hero such as Superman should. He does so by preventing the military from opening fire on the man before entering the flames himself to calm him down, bringing the fire to a stop. He hands the man over to the military, but he rushes to his aid once more when a soldier knocks him unconscious.
This event perfectly establishes Jon’s willingness to defend those in need from oppressive attackers, regardless of societal labels such as “hero” and “villain,” “lawmaker” and “criminal,” etc. This characteristic is further explored in the second issue, and it seems as if it will be a primary focus of the series moving forward. In fact, the direction this story seems to be going in is perfectly put by Robin, Jon’s best friend with whom he talks at the end of the first issue: “It’s easy to punch a ninja. A little harder to punch the climate crisis, inequality, the erosion of a free press, and the rise of demagogues.” This line sets up the idea that fighting villains is easy for a superhero, but thwarting the true problems that plague society is much more difficult, establishing this as a central struggle Jon will face moving forward.
Overall, the premier issue of Superman: Son of Kal-El is put together terrifically. Not only does writer Tom Taylor establish the character of Jon Kent for readers new and old alike, but he also establishes Jon’s motivations as a hero moving forward. Taylor’s characterization of Jon is brilliant, as he blends some of the best traits of Lois Lane and Superman himself into the character. His version of Jon possesses the compassion, kindness, and dedication of his father alongside his mother’s fierce determination to stand up to injustice. Furthermore, due to Taylor’s experience writing stories about Superman and the DC universe as a whole, this story has a sense of familiarity to it that is sometimes lacking from comics featuring new characters or concepts. Additionally, John Timms’ art, while often hit or miss in some of his other work, is excellent and fits this series wonderfully. It gives off the vibes of DC’s older animated series and movies, which is always nice to see, and Jon’s facial expressions are portrayed well.
Superman: Son of Kal-El is shaping up to become something truly special. Not only does it continue the long legacy of the Superman character, but it also sets up a fresh new direction for the character that doesn’t deviate too far from the heart of what makes him special. A.