Last month, I lamented two things: that Adventures of the Super Sons was disappointingly short on adventure and… well, the Super Sons. While far from perfect, and with a few additional problems of its own, the third issue of the year-long maxiseries is taking some steps in the right direction. There’s plenty of action and adventure, and much more interaction between Robin and Superboy(s) than in the previous issue, resulting in the most enjoyable issue so far.
It’s not the best issue of the series, mind you. The debut was much more confident in its pacing and storytelling, and it had that same easy charm of the original Super Sons series. A lot of that magic is missing here, but it’s still a pretty good time in the end.
When we last left the Super Sons, they were still aboard Rex Luthor and his junior Injustice Gang’s ship. The ever so patient and long-suffering Robin has even more on his plate, though, as Superboy has been split in twain.
Like, not in half, but literally in two. Yes, it’s a Superman Red/Superman Blue scenario all over again, and I won’t lie: it’s pretty fun. Seeing Robin getting annoyed at the prospect of two Superboys is funny enough, and their demeanors certainly don’t help matters: instead of one being more cautious and reserved while the other one is more impulsive and hot-headed (like the split Supermans Red and Blue from the Nineties), they’re both impulsive and hard-headed. Given that he’s a pre-teen boy, it makes sense.
On a pure entertainment level, this is a blast to read. It’s pretty much non-stop action from beginning to end, so it’s a breeze to read. There’s the added layers of conflict that are interesting, too, with Robin trying to keep everyone alive, beat the baddies, and find a way to merge Jon’s halves back together, and the dual Superboys just flying into danger without a second thought. That aspect is interesting, but there’s still just something missing. Tomasi usually has tons of heart injected into his stories, and while you won’t be left feeling cold, the joyous spark of his Superman run and early Super Sons issues is missing.
The villains really don’t land as well as they should, either. Rex Luthor is a despicable punk, and Kid Deadshot is pretty cold-blooded in his treatment of Joker, Jr., but they never truly come across as a genuine threat. Shaggy Boy and Ice Princess take part in some fun fight scenes, but like Brainiac 6 they don’t leave much of a lasting impression.
It does feel like this series has a direction now, which is refreshing. I wasn’t quite sure where it was supposed to be going after the past two issues, but thanks to a final page reveal of a surprising character, a whole lot of narrative opportunities have opened up. I won’t spoil who it is, but I will say that this guy has been getting more and more exposure lately and I am all about it.
Carlo Barberi, Art Thibert, and Protobunker help carry the storytelling load with bright, energetic visuals. Seeing that most of the issue is quickly paced and has lots of action, the art needs to be clear and easy to follow. They succeed, as you’d expect from this team, and also include some nice little character flourishes. While the twin Superboys have similar personalities, there are little visual tics that differentiate themselves from the other (besides, uh, being different colors). Take the image above: they’re in a similar flight pose, but red has a sloppy cowlick and has both fists clenched while Blue has a bit more of an S-curl in his hair and has his palm open and extended. It’s nothing major, and doesn’t really reveal anything about their personalities. It’s just a nice detail that gives the story some character.
It’s Rob Leigh’s lettering that steals the show, though. His sound effects are always top-notch, and that’s certainly the case here: the icy blues of “FWOOSH!” when a freeze ray is fired, the bubbly “SPLASH!” font, and the jagged lettering of a roar of “RARRGH!” are practically characters of their own. His huge lettering for the sound effects and the creative coloring and font choices give the action a light buoyancy, an almost Anime-style exaggeration that send it over the top in the best way. My personal favorite choice Leigh makes, though, is when the ship is going through turbulence, and the dialogue of each speaker on board is shaky and off-center.
Based on the context of the scene and some of the blurred motion effects Barberi, Thibert, and Protobunker use, Leigh could have gotten away with standard work balloons and the point still would have gotten across. The added element of the clearly strained speech really helps drive home just how volatile things are on that ship, though, and it works great. It’s one of those choices that may not have been necessary, but because a little more thought was put into it the scene is that much more effective.
The visuals are strong, and the script is fun if not memorable, so here’s hoping that Adventures of the Super Sons finds its footing soon. These kids are great characters, they just need a defined course and direction.
- You like the Super Sons.
- You’re big into lettering.
- You like this one guy who shows up at the end and is awesome.
Overall: What it lacks in an emotional core it more than makes up for with some great pacing and action. Tomasi is always a winner with me, and while he hasn’t quite hit his stride with this series, I’m confident he’ll find his footing soon. From a visual perspective this issue succeeds, particularly with some strong lettering and energetic action scenes. I don’t love Adventures of the Super Sons, but I like it well enough, and that will do for now.