There will come a day, if it hasn’t arrived already, where Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s names will be listed among the greatest comic book collaborative teams. With their work on the consistently excellent Batman and Robin and the one-two punch of the near-perfect Superman #10 and this week’s not-quite-as-great-but-still-really-really-good Superman #11, Tomasi and Gleason have more than earned the right to be seen as greats. They get these characters, and they know how to tell incredibly entertaining stories.
After the events of the previous issue, Damian and Jon have been stripped of their respective emblems as punishment. To regain the right to bear their insignias, the boys are sent on a series of trials to better learn teamwork and, worse, become friends.
It goes about as well as you’d expect.
From beginning to end, this comic is pure joy. There’s not as much connective narrative tissue as the previous installment, so it doesn’t stand on its own quite as well, but there’s scarcely a page or panel that didn’t leave me with a big smile on my face. A large part of that is due to Gleason’s fantastic visual style. It’s cartoony and stylized, yet clean and cohesive just the same. From a trek up snow-capped mountains to struggles aboard a runaway train, the boys’ struggles are rendered wonderfully. Each locale has a personality of its own, and the action and movement are fast-paced without being confusing.
Gleason is even able to take time-worn tricks of the trade and breathe new life into them. Going from a page full of panels to a splash page is a staple of comics, and one that isn’t always used to the greatest effect at that. When Gleason follows a page of the boys struggling in the cramped quarters of a train car with a full-page splash of Goliath flying high into the air, though, it’s an example of visual storytelling at its finest. The feeling is dizzying, almost vertiginous, yet exciting and exhilarating. You can’t help but feel the same adrenaline rush and sense of joy as the awe-struck Jon. The images move, so cinematic they are in presentation.
Let’s be real here, though: it’s those faces that sell it.
Man, that panel with Damian’s hand over his mouth. I will never not laugh at that. And the “sick bubbles” around Jon’s head? Great touch from the equally great John Kalisz.
The only thing better would be seeing Damian being hit in the face with a giant fish and I just don’t think OH WAIT GUYS.
Brian said it best in his review for Superman #10: even if Tomasi and Gleason didn’t create Damian and Jon, they refined and perfected their characters. Damian is an arrogant, brash little snot with entitlement issues who is still somehow lovable, and Jon is wide-eyed, innocent, and good-natured while still being well-adjusted. Their personalities are perfect for playing off one another, and the chemistry between the two is remarkable. After all, even though they’re the sons of the world’s greatest superheroes, they’re still kids. They have tempers as short as their statures (Damian’s is shorter, of course. Because he’s short), and they bicker and fight like the closest of brothers.
And believe me, I’m an advocate of showing grace and turning the other cheek, but come on. Damian has it coming to him, right? Right.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they do end up working together. Adding to the humor is the fact that they know the whole thing is artificial and orchestrated by their fathers, so at times it seems they work together purely out of spite.
It’s been a while since I’ve been a teenager, and I don’t want to generalize an entire demographic, but we’ve all been there, right? Defeating sludge monsters just to stick it to your dad? Definitely a common rite of passage.
One detail that I loved was that even after all their fathers put them through, it’s Alfred who gives his blessing to Jon and Damian. Like the “Nightwing bump” from this week’s Nightwing #9, having Alfred’s confidence is one of the highest honors in the DCU. It’s a great moment of triumph for the boys, resulting in one of the most striking images in the book.
This is all just a “backdoor pilot” for Super Sons, but so what? If that series is going to be this great, then it will be well worth the wait.
- You like fun.
- And great comics.
- You like Damian Wayne.
- You also like to see Damian Wayne getting his comeuppance.
- Seriously: fish in the face.
- Also seriously: Tomasi and Gleason are some of the best of all time.
Overall: Fun, funny, exciting, and just flat-out great, this is what comics are all about. The chemistry between Jon and Damian is hysterical, and Tomasi and Gleason continue to prove that they know how to write comic books. Superman is one of my favorite books being published right now, and if this is an indicator for how great Super Sons will be, we’re in for a treat.