When one considers what Superman is supposed to be, there are some basic concepts that come to mind and they all center around the general themes of truth, justice, hope, and simply doing the right thing at all times. Unfortunately, in practice—or more specifically on the pages of comics in recent years—some of those concepts have gotten muddled at times with various initiatives to push stories and continuities in different directions not to mention the poor execution of some ideas. One of those ideas that wasn't especially well-executed was Brian Michael Bendis' aging of Jonathan Kent as it never allowed for the character to mature emotionally or explore who he is in the larger Superman narrative. That is rectified in Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 and writer Tom Taylor delivers a beautiful exploration of Jonathan as a young man finding his place and his purpose and an exquisite return to the quintessential goodness at the very heart of Superman.
This issue is largely table setting, but that's an excellent choice in this instance. Readers are reintroduced to Jonathan starting with a flashback to his birth and then see him grown up, serving in a heroic role and trying so hard to do the right thing while playing by the rules. However, it's the questionable nature of the rules and the fact that his doing good never really solves anything in the long-term that causes Jonathan to question himself and everything around him. It's something that resonates from this reader's perspective as the idea that some heroes could solve real problems but don't is a regular source of discourse.
Taylor also re-establishes the Super Sons dynamic by having Jonathan seek out Damian Wayne for friendly advice and shows just how well Taylor understands and respects the character as well as the larger world he exists within. Also, a brilliant move on Taylor's part is that he has Jonathan struggling with the very same issues that are defining the real world. Climate change looms large in this story and it gives a very specific sense of gravity and familiarity to the proceedings. It makes Jonathan's ask our questions as we share a massive challenge.
Adding to the very well-constructed story is the art. John Timms' artwork with Gabe Eltaeb's colors are wonderful and pair well with the story. They elevate things to a place that feels like a pure Superman story. It possesses an energy that is simultaneously grandiose and intimate. It's truly top-notch comics storytelling.
While Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 is heavy on the setup, it's wonderfully crafted and exactly the sort of setup that is needed to tell a story examining what it means to be a hero as well as what it means to carry the burden of legacy as Jonathan sports that enormous "S" on his chest. Taylor has crafted a heartfelt and human story in this debut and it's truly something to behold.
Published by DC Comics
On July 27, 2021
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by John Timms
Colors by Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by John Timms