By Adam Henderson
Despite only first appearing in 2015 during the “Convergence” event Jonathan Kent, son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, has been pulling a speed-run to steal Cable’s title of “most ridiculously complicated backstory in comics”. From being delivered by Thomas Wayne as Batman from the Flashpoint timeline to his lost years held captive on Earth 3, it’s A LOT.
Tom Taylor has taken the best possible approach to this backstory you possibly could with Superman: Son of Kal-El #1, and just slapped a big “Don’t worry about it” on it. Taylor takes advantage of DC’s latest of many reality changing reboots during Death Metal and retells the story of Jon’s birth, focusing not on sentient planet but instead centering the story on Clark, Lois, and Jon. Now it’s still far from a normal birth as Batman and Wonder Woman watch over Lois as she gives birth in the Fortress of Solitude while an (attempted) alien invasion rages above, but it’s straightforward. Understanding the backstory of Jon Kent no longer takes a trip to his wikipedia page.
Whether this is your introduction to Jon Kent or you’ve been there from his beginning, understanding this book is as simple as reading it. There are still some friendly faces to reward those longtime Jon fans but nothing is buried in continuity. This is a perfect jumping on point for Superman fans old and new.
Whilst the issue itself isn’t too plot heavy, it has a clear focus on defining Jon and who he is. Instead of falling into the easy trap of making Jon a clone of his father (not literally, that’s Conner), it sets a clear distinction on what makes Jon different from Clark and how he will function differently as Superman. By placing the focus as much on Jon’s human heritage as his Kryptonian. By showing the influence that having Lois Lane as a mother just as much as having Superman as a father, Taylor is able to instantly set Jon apart from Clark.
That’s not to say his Super-influences aren’t present. Taylor shows how Jon embodies the kindness that really defines Superman perfectly, and makes it abundantly clear he’s a worthy successor to the Superman role. Jon’s mission statement reminds me a lot of Grant Morrison’s take on Superman, especially in All-Star Superman and Action Comics. Both in what drives Superman to be a hero and having him deal with issues proactively instead of reactively, their Superman has always been my favorite and I look forward to Taylor taking a similar approach to the character.
Superman #1 frames Jon’s role in the DC universe in the way I’ve always wanted to see Dick Grayson framed. He’s the son of one of the universe’s biggest heroes and is so connected to the universe as a whole, and that should be celebrated not shied away from. Jon is destined for greatness from the beginning, and I will always love seeing him thrust into bigger and bigger roles. With the Super Sons we saw the beginning of that, and I hope that Taylor continues to focus on Jon’s place in the wider universe as Superman as the series progresses.
The success of this issue is as much a work of John Timms and Gabe Eltaeb as it is of Taylor. Timms work is dynamic as ever, and Eltaeb enhances that in every way. There are some great layouts throughout the issue and some stunning splash pages which show how suited this creative team is to showing the full extent of a character like Superman’s abilities. Dave Sharpe’s letters add a lot of personality to the book too and perfectly compliment the rest of the creative team’s work in every way. His sound effects are used brilliantly and without spoiling it, some were genuinely hilarious.
Overall, Superman: Son of Kal-El feels like the beginning of a bold new era for Superman that aims to use Jon to bring something new, yet familiar, to the character and his history. It’s a perfect place for fans of the character to jump back in with, and it’s set up for characters who know nothing about either Jon or even Clark Kent to start here. With what has been set up in this debut issue, I can’t wait to see what’s next.