SPOILERS: While I don’t spoil anything regarding the outcome of the story, I do mention a few surprising character appearances, so come back after reading the issue if you don’t want to be spoiled.
I’m just going to come out and say it: this annual is cute. Adorable, even. For their first foray into annual territory, Super Sons Robin and Superboy take a backseat to their best friends.
And man’s best friend.
Yes, if you can’t tell by the cover, this is less about super boys and more about super dogs. Amazingly enough, it’s not cloying or saccharine either. Sure, it’s undeniably light and fun, but there was never a point where I wanted to claw my eyes out due to the cute factor.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise from Tomasi. Even when his scripts are relatively “safe” and lower stakes, he knows how to balance just enough drama to make the story carry some weight.
The boys get some page time at the start of the issue, where they thwart some bank robbers and enjoy some delicious veggie kebabs.
Per usual, the dialogue in this section is great. Damian and Jon have great chemistry and bounce off each other really well, and it’s always fun seeing other characters bring Damian down a notch or two.
But that’s not the real story.
See, there have been a rash of missing pets cases around Metropolis, a fact that the boys are aware of but don’t jump on right away. Thankfully, Krypto is ready and willing to take the case, and he has allies to help him.
At long last: the return of that Battlin’ Bovine Bat-Cow.
And, you know, TItus too.
As much of a turd as he is, one of Damian’s most endearing qualities is his fondness for animals. Even when he’s an insufferable butt (which is often), the affection he shows his pets helps humanize him. And while there’s no sign of Alfred the cat, Titus also plays a big part in the story, with Ace the Bathound even getting a little cameo.
So really, do you like doggies? If so, you’ll probably love this.
Once Krypto summons his partner Titus, the two canines head to the best source of information they know, and the best surprise appearance of the week.
If I wasn’t already charmed by this point, this got me to go all in.
Besides the intro, this is the most dialogue-heavy section of the book, with Bobo regaling us with the history of the Super-Pets. And guys, I want this book now.
Streaky, Krypto,Titus (who I don’t ever recall being officially referred to as “Bat-Hound,” but I could be wrong), and Bat-Cow are all existing characters, of course. Kind of amazingly, Flexi and Clay Critter are not. As it turns out, the Super-Pets were once a formidable team, but disbanded after a disastrous mission that resulted in a fatality. Or a… claytality*, as it were.
I do want to mention Flexi, in case you didn’t quite catch it: he’s a bird that has the powers of Plastic Man. That’s amazing. Heck, Plastic Man can change shape with ease, so who’s to say he isn’t actually masquerading as Flexi? He’s insane enough to do that, and frankly, that’s how I choose to read this issue. Flexi is Plastic Man. Four stars.
Since there isn’t much dialogue through large swaths of the issue, the visuals have to tell the story. There are “pet sounds” and vocalizations from the animals, but no actual spoken words by any of the Super-Pets. Because of that, Paul Pelletier is the primary storyteller here, and he delivers in spades. His animals look like actual dogs, cats, cows, and the like, realistic enough to be believable but with enough exaggeration and personality that it never becomes distracting. I mean, just look at the sheer joy on Titus’ face as he is whisked through the air.
I’ve already used this word, but it’s just so charming. There’s an undeniable sense of fun in this story, and it never lets up from the first page to the last. Pelletier also manages to evoke quite a bit of emotion, too, particularly with Krypto. After the Super-Pets backstory, it’s clear that he’s wracked with guilt over a disastrous decision he made, and it shows on his face. He and Streaky come to a head about it, too, in an incredibly convincing argument where not a single word is spoken.
Credit to Tomasi for laying out such an engaging script and Pelletier, colorist Hi-Fi, inker Cam Smith, and letterers Carlos M. Mangual and Travis Lanham for putting the story to paper. I particularly loved a lot of the lettering choices Mangual and Lanham made: the animal vocalizations are bold and rather jagged, and “big name” exclamations like “Detective Chimp” and “Super-Pets” are in big, bold, colorful text. It’s just one more detail that gives the story a bit of charm and character.
There aren’t any huge revelations or shakeups in this story, just a lot of fun action and interactions. It ends on a pretty solid punchline that ties the boys back into the story, and while it never feels like there was any real danger, it’s a satisfying read just the same.
- Detective Chimp!
- A bird that is kind of Plastic Man!
Overall: Undeniable fun from beginning to end, the first Super Sons annual is a winner through and through. It’s lighthearted without being goofy, filled with just enough pathos and emotion to carry weight without ever getting dreary or self-serious. The terrific storytelling from Tomasi, Pelletier, Smith, and Lanham sells the idea of an all-animal super team, resulting in one of the most flat out entertaining comic issues of the year.
*I am so sorry.