I cannot tell you all how delighted I am to be reviewing Challenge of the Super Sons. I’ve loved each iteration of the Super Sons series. Superboy and Robin make one of the most delightful teams I’ve read in comics. Which means, I was obviously devastated when Jon got aged up. I’m not kidding, I’m still kind of angry over that development. To say I was excited when this series was announced is an understatement. I was even happier to hear it would eventually be coming out in print. As a reviewer I read a lot of comics digitally, but as a reader my heart is still only for print comics.
More than that, it also meant we’d be reviewing the title. As some of you might be aware, we typically wait to tackle reviews for many of the digital first comics until they’ve hit the stands as physical copies. At this point most of the series is out digitally, but this is my first look at it since I read part 1 way back when it came out. Why did I wait so long? Well because I really wanted to read them in print more than anything, and I wanted to have a fresh perspective going into my reviews. So, was that wait worth it?
Yes. Yes it was.
Peter Tomasi wastes no time reminding readers just why we love Jon and Damian together. From opening the story with their older selves arguing over a video game, to showing their younger versions poking at each other in the way only best friends can, this book is first and foremost a story about their friendship. You can tell in reading it that Tomasi had just as much fun writing this as I did reading it because each page is quite simply, pure joy.
This first issue is all about dropping readers back into the lives and adventures of Jon and Damian while also introducing the main plot of the series: The Doom Scroll. It follows the example of it’s predecessor —Adventures of the Super Sons— by opening back up in the far future, with Jon and Damian as old men, arguing over a video game while the grandchildren of one them sneak off to grab another bound copy of the Super Sons adventures. I loved this format the first time it was introduced, and I like it here because it provides a good framework as to how we’re getting these stories since Jon’s been aged up. It’s simple, and effective, and gives me a glimpse into a happy future for both of them.
The real adventure starts with Jon and Damian in school, and I must say it’s as much fun to read them bickering and teasing each other as it is to see the various staff members’ reactions to them as students. I would read an entire comic focused around just their civilian lives if it’s as entertaining as these few pages were. It’s also a great and subtle re-introduction to them and the dynamic they share. Jon is the goody two-shoes of the group while Damian pushes boundaries (and the patience of everyone around him). Still, they’re friends and we see that through the issue in moments like where Damian actually asks Jon nicely for a ride, and Jon agrees or in Damian’s later concern for his friend towards the end.
After school lets out, we are given a brief overview of their regular patrol, this one on a seemingly boring night in Metropolis, before the action really picks up. Jon and Damian are approached by a strange woman, who then quite literally seems to explode! When the smoke fades, she is alone and far less distraught, in fact she seems very in control of the situation. To top things off, it’s Superboy and Robin who appear out of a burst of magic this time, armed with a scroll and knowledge of everything that’s happening.
The transition can feel a little jarring at first, but I think having it back to back in this issue vs as separate breaks between digital ones works best. What bothers me most about the choice to send the boys into the future and back in just a few panels is that we miss so much of the explanation of what happened. We can assume that time shenanigans have happened, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
The boys do explain the rules of the scroll as the rest of the issue plays out but I’m still a little torn on the way the exposition is shared here. On one hand I really like that it’s doled out through the adventure instead of in huge chunks, but in general I also feel like we skipped some interesting conflict between the boys and the old woman –now known as Rora– here at the start. And for me that kind of removes a little of the tension from the story. There is still conflict in that they’re now in the middle of a race to save members of the Justice League, but why? We know how the scroll works, but where did it come from? Is Rora someone we can trust? The Super Sons do, but I don’t know why. I trust Tomasi to share these answers eventually, but for now it just makes this start feel a little rocky.
The rest of the issue is focused on explaining the rules of the Doom Scroll, and sending the boys off to rescue their first hero: The Flash. He’s been listed as the target of the scroll and if the boys don’t get to him in time he’ll die. All they have is his symbol and a clue as to how he’ll die to help them. As they race to save him we find out that the boys have limited time in which to save these targeted heroes, and strict rules about who can know what.
Something I adore through the whole book is the art. Max Raynor’s style fits this story perfectly. The boys look their ages in and out of costume, and he has a real knack for the hijinks they get up to. Additionally, his characters are highly expressive and have great body language that really make the story pop. Damian in particular has some great moments like this, such as when Jon shows him Superman’s “Super Mobile”.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how lovely Luis Guerrero’s colors are. Overall they’re very consistent, and clean. The boys, and other characters are done in bright bold colors, while the backgrounds are just really lovely. There’s a lot of shots of Metropolis at night and his colors over the city lights look beautiful. I mean, just look at that panel, it’s lovely.
I want to wrap the review up briefly with a comparison between the physical and digital editions of the book. I won’t do this for every issue, unless something really stands out as different, but I thought some of you readers may be curious about the transition from digital first to print. The issue combines the first two parts of the digital first series in their totality and it’s a seamless combination. While the digital series is formatted in a way that the pages are half the size of print ones, here they are put back together in full pages. It looks really great and reads like it was always meant to be a print comic. In general, Challenge of the Super Sons reads beautifully no matter what format you choose to pick it up in. After this first issue, I have to say I’m ready to go out and dive into the rest of what’s out.
- You’ve missed Jon and Damian’s antics
- It’s a great book to read with the whole family
- Sometimes you need something that is pure joy, and this? This is pure joy.
All in all this first issue of Challenge of the Super Sons is very successful in both returning readers to the delightful world of the Super Sons and introducing a brand new adventure for them to go on. While the introduction of the Doom Scroll feels a little abrupt the story is too fun to dwell on that for too long, and I am confident we’ll learn everything in due time. It is a true return to everything delightful and wonderful about the Super Sons series and if you’ve been waiting on this book for any reason, I can confidently recommend picking it up.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.