Before you read this review or, more importantly, this issue, you really need to read Superman #37. I mean, sure, you should already be reading Superman anyway because it’s been one of the best DC titles in recent memory, but Super Sons here is the second part of a crossover that began in today’s issue of Superman so you might want to read up so you know what’s going on.
There’s not an awful lot to spoil from the preceding installment, but just know that I’m going to discuss some of its plot points fairly openly, so turn away now if you want to go in fresh.
Both Superman and Super Sons this week feel kind of weird. Not necessarily bad weird, just… unrealized potential weird, I guess. With Superman not appearing until over halfway into his own title, part one of “Super Sons of Tomorrow” felt more like an issue of Batman than an issue of Superman. Indeed, most of the issue consisted of Bruce Wayne fighting the Tim Drake Batman most recently seen in Detective Comics‘ “A Lonely Place of Living,” with Superman only making an appearance toward the end. It’s weird pacing to be sure.
It also doesn’t help that Tim’s mission is nearly identical to his story in that recent ‘Tec arc: to prevent his future, he needs to kill somebody in the past. Just instead of Batwoman as before, this time Tim has set his sights on Jon Kent, alias Superboy.
I don’t know if it’s the double-shipping or what, but it feels like we just came off “Lonely Place” and now we’re treated to… pretty much the same story as before. If there was more awareness to the character, it would be easy to write off Future-Tim as a hapless buffoon who recycles the same idea because it’s the only one he has. Played for laughs, it could work. Instead, he comes across like a crapbag who wants to murder a little kid. Had more time passed between his earlier attempts and this story it may have been a bit more forgivable, but instead it just comes across as derivative.
Not to say there’s nothing to enjoy here. Tomasi and Gleason are a great storytelling team, and seeing the two of them together on a title is always a plus. And while it reads more like an issue of Teen Titans featuring Superboy than an issue of Super Sons proper, there are plenty of little moments that make it work. After writing Damian for so long, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Tomasi and Gleason get how much of a jerk he is, yet still make him endearing all the same.
I also loved how Jon contributed to the big fight the Titans were a part of. Beast Boy and Kid Flash congratulate each other on how they took down the baddies, only to find out it was Jon moving at super-speed to help in secret. The dialogue here is a little canny and forced, with a few too many on the nose “oh, that wasn’t me. I was over there” responses. Still, it’s a nice way of showing Jon’s desire to help and be part of a team while also highlighting Damian’s proclivity for a jerk. If that’s not Super Sons, I don’t know what is.
After the relative fun of that scene, the issue kind of comes to a dead stop. Future Tim traps the Teen Titans in their headquarters by engaging defenses that, naturally, he helped design. Again, this is something we saw just recently in Detective Comics, and even so it’s a tired trope. Tim postures and feigns righteousness in his crusade, but it never grabbed me. Never once did I feel like the group and, by extension, Jon was in serious danger. Instead, I was just waiting for Tim to shut up and move on with it. Not exactly what you want from a supposedly serious threat.
Make no mistake either: Tim is one of my favorite characters, and the Best Robin. I want to empathize with him and at least understand why he thinks he needs to take such drastic action to prevent his future. I want to feel like the boys are in danger and that there’s even a chance that his plan could be successful.
But I don’t. Besides what I’ve stated before, I’m not entirely sure where the disconnect is. It certainly doesn’t help that this version of Tim takes some of the worst aspects of the character and magnifies them. Honestly, I haven’t enjoyed Tim as a character in years: he’s become so enraptured by technology and how he can use it in the crusade that he’s become cold and distant. To that end, it’s not hard to see him becoming this broken version of himself,and that’s upsetting. Tim’s always been smart, but I’ve never seen him as arrogant, and even though he’s focused he’s always cared about people. Heck, that’s why he wanted to become Robin: Bruce was destroying himself and he needed somebody to ground him. I realize there’s growth and change over time, and I don’t want Tim Drake to be the exact same now as he was in 1993. I do want him to feel like a natural progression of that same kid, though, yet the Tim we have running around now feels like a regression from “Titans Tomorrow” than a progression of years of character development. Unless something changes, this is an inevitability, not a tragedy.
Forgive the rant, but this is a world-class creative team and even they’re struggling to get this crossover off the ground. The final page does have a reveal that is definitely intriguing and surprised me for sure, but it took a long time to get there. Here’s hoping the rest of the story can capitalize on the unexpected and result in an intriguing narrative.
Any other month the art here would be great, which… alright, that came out wrong. Ryan Benjamin’s pencils, along with Richard Friend’s inks and Gabe Eltab’s colors suit the book well. I wouldn’t mind seeing them as regulars on the book at all. It’s just strange that the series’ regular penciler Jorge Jimenez penciled the Superman issue that served as the first part of the story. I love Jimenez’s style and feel that, along with Tomasi’s writing, it is a key ingredient to what makes Super Sons so enjoyable. Seeing him on a flagship title like Superman is great, it’s just strange that he wasn’t on the book he’s more closely associated with.
But no matter. Benjamin’s style is more than adequate. I loved the brief glimpses at how Hypertime is affecting Tim’s presence. The issue is consistently visually interesting, from the character models to the layouts and the use of color. There’s a sequence toward the end that’s awash in reds and purples, evoking both the crackling energy that appears on the page and the claustrophobic trap in which Jon becomes entangled. Props too should go to Rob Leigh who throws in a good old BAFOOM sound effect that’s just delightful.
In all, this issue is fine. There’s nothing I outright hated, just issues I have with the idea of this crossover as a whole. It’s nothing if not visually arresting, and Tomasi and Gleason are great enough to draw life out of any concept. I just wish the concept here was stronger.
- You read Superman #37.
- You’re a fan of the Teen Titans.
- You don’t like Tim Drake.
Overall: More an issue of Teen Titans than Super Sons. That’s not inherently a bad thing, as the proceedings were enjoyable en0ugh and the final page reveal was a genuine surprise. Still, I’m not entirely feeling this crossover so far, and in a single day of releases it’s already halfway over. A moderately snappy script from the always reliable team of Tomasi and Gleason helps, as do some fairly attractive visuals. The ideas are there for a compelling narrative, but “Super Sons of Tomorrow” has yet to realize its potential.