Adventures of the Super Sons #5 review

I’m of two minds about the episodic storytelling of Adventures of the Super Sons.  On the one hand, taking a brief detour on an almost issue by issue basis allows for the boys to have lots of different adventures.  That is part of the title, after all, so fulfilling the promise of plural “adventures” opens up different storytelling opportunities.

On the other hand, with a story that doesn’t stay rooted in one spot for too long you run the risk of a lack of emotional attachment.  If the boys aren’t going to be sticking around for more than an issue or two, then why should we as readers be emotionally invested?

It’s a tricky prospect, yet one that a writer of Peter Tomasi’s caliber should be able to surmount.  Much as I love Tomasi, though, and as optimistic as I remain, it’s a hurdle that has yet to be cleared.

Besides a brief aside with Joker, Jr. and Rex Luthor (where, uh, spoiler

it totally looks like Space Cabbie dies?  Say it ain’t so!
), the focus of the entire issue is on the boys.  When last we saw the boys, they had stumbled upon a mysterious mansion on an equally mysterious planet.  Once inside, they ran into themselves.

Or at least, their future selves.

This is an idea that could have gone some really interesting places: stubborn Damian seeing how much more of a stick in the mud he becomes, and excitable Jon just thinking it’s so cool that he gets to meet himself as a grown up.  It’s not without its charms, sure, and there is some fun to be had, but there isn’t enough here to make it truly memorable.

What I appreciated more than anything were some of the nods Tomasi pulled out.  Damian is referred to as “Ibn al Xu’ffasch,” a name that was first used in Kingdom Come and has since been tied to the Son of the Bat.  Not a huge deal, and it could easily be seen as a throwaway line, but if you’re read and love Kingdom Come (which you have, and you do) it’s a cool little call back.

My favorite reference, though, is in the names of the caretakers of this mysterious house: Kainn and Labell.  They’re alien brothers, one sadistic and the other a bumbling fool.  Truly, they’re ideal hosts for this mysterious house of secrets.

Beyond the fun nod, though, there really isn’t much to their inclusion.  It’s a pretty basic “show the characters a future that could be” scenario and nothing more.  It could pay off down the line, I suppose, but it all passes so quickly that it’s difficult to get invested.

Even if I’m not completely buying what the story is trying to sell, there are a few scenes that are inspired on a visual level.  Carlo Barberi, Matt Santorelli, and Protobunker have doing some great work on this title, and that certainly continues here.  There’s a sequence where the Robins fall through a doorway into a featureless void where they can’t make a sound.  It’s jarring in the best way, with great use of blank space and empty word balloons to emphasize the nothingness of this realm.  It ends on a pretty funny sight gag made all the better by a wonderful sound effect from Rob Leigh, the true MVP of this series.

Barberi also makes some good use of symmetry when the boys are captured by Kainn and Labell.  Strapped to separate tables, the Super Sons have jagged torture devices hovering above them.  The spikes jutting from the devices work with the dialogue to lead the eye down the page, with inset panels almost perfectly mirroring each other before settling on the sadistic Kainn.  It’s a neat layout choice, showing that Barberi and the rest of the team aren’t phoning it in.

Month in and month out I find myself rooting for this book.  The creative team is great, the leads are a fun pair, and the idea is a lot of fun.  We’re approaching the halfway point of the series, though, and Adventures of the Super Sons has yet to achieve greatness.  Here’s hoping, again, that the book finds sure footing soon.

Recommended if:

  • You’re invested in this series.
  • You like some pretty deep cut references.

Overall: Interesting visuals and some fun references aside, this book has yet to gain any momentum.  I appreciate the episodic approach, with Tomasi sending the boys on a wide variety of adventures instead of one singular quest.  There are flashes of inspiration and enjoyment here and there, but the book suffers from a lack of focus.  It’s hard to get invested when you know Robin and Superboy are going to wind up somewhere else by the end of the issue, and the Gang storyline isn’t as involving as it should be.

SCORE: 5.5/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.