Spotlight Sunday 1.7.18

Spotlight Sundays

Despite a very strong showing from “I just like clicking things,” there was only one actual comic book in the running this week, so spoilers lie ahead for…

Superman #38
Writer: Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Sergio Davila
Cover: Oclair Albert, Ivan Reis
Rated T

Personally, I’m kind of surprised that “I’m choosing this one to tell Jon to suck it!” didn’t get any votes, but I suppose that, really, that’s what all of the people who don’t visit the Weigh In posts or don’t vote are selecting through their inaction…

In any case, as is obvious, I only picked up one book this week. I looked around for a while to see if there were any trades I was interested in, and nearly picked up the trade collecting Shirtless Bear-Fighter, but ultimately I decided that this was a good opportunity to spend a little less money for a change.

(After I got home, I realized that I should have picked up the couple of issues of Batman I had been thinking of getting, as they featured guest-appearances by Lois and Clark. Maybe next time.)

This issue marks the conclusion of the “Super Sons of Tomorrow” storyline that was spread across Superman, Super Sons, and Teen Titans, and it follows on the heels of the issue of Teen Titans that I picked up last week.

In that issue, we see the aftermath of Jon accidentally unleashing a solar flare – I thought they were calling it “super flare,” but I guess not – which did some damage to the Titans Tower, and knocked most of the Titans unconscious, and was the sort of thing that had led the Batman of Tomorrow (Tim Drake) to travel to the past to prevent.

While everyone else is recovering, Damian sets off to find Jon and to bring them both to the Fortress of Attitude (their Super Son HQ) to hide from Tim while they figured out what their next move would be. Back at Titans Tower, Tim finds his batsuit shredded, so he raids the Titans’ closet to cobble together a spiffy new outfit and decides to take on a new costumed identity in the process: Savior.

Savior makes a pitch to the Titans after they recover, and some of them – Raven and Beast Boy – agree to help Savior, on the condition that he not kill Jon, leaving Starfire, Kid Flash, and Aqualad to head off in search of Jon and Damian in the hopes of getting to them first.

Also, Savior’s Hypertime time travel doohickey is acting up, and keeps trying to pull him back to his own time – where his teammates of tomorrow, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Flash are trying to locate him, and seem concerned about his obsessive need to travel back to the past and “fix” things – and while he manages to mostly resist the temporal pull, his hand ends up making the trip back without him.

While Raven is using her psychic abilities to track down Jon and Damian, Aqualad notices that he can see a faint trail of energy left in Jon’s wake.

Which brings us to this issue, in which Savior’s teammates have taken hold of his time-displaced hand and are being taken along for the ride as it tries to reunite with him, and the Starfire-led Titans get to Jon and Damian before Savior and company can.

(Somewhere along the line there’s a nice little scene in which Damian, however reluctantly, admits that Jon is not just his junior partner and is actually his friend. Aww.)

The speculation is that, due to his half-human heritage, Jon can’t master his solar flare power the way he’s been able to do with the other powers that are his birthright, but at least using it doesn’t leave him completely powerless for a day like it did for his dad. Thus, not knowing that Starfire, Kid Flash, and Aqualad are on their side when they burst into the Fortress of Attitude, there’s a brief scuffle, because of course there is, but soon the misunderstanding is sorted out.

Damian, however, isn’t really on board with the Titans’ plan for hiding them from Raven’s psychic search: knocking him and Jon out.

Jon, however, is, and it’s the best scene in the book:

With an assist from Kid Flash, Jon then knocks himself out, and the Titans head for the Fortress of Solitude, thinking that will be a safe place for them, and no knowing that Tim has already trapped Jon’s dad.

Oh yeah, him. This is Superman, after all. Now Jon and Damian are conscious again, Savior and company are hot on their trail, and there’s no time to release Superman from his Red Kryptonite cage.

Apparently, this Red K doesn’t have the same effect as classic Red K, as it merely weakens Superman. It weakens Jon, too, so Superman has Aqualad sink him, cage and all, into the water under the ice so that the Red K won’t interfere with Jon’s ability to defend himself.

Jon doesn’t like that idea one bit, and as his temper flares, so does he, building up to yet another solar flare.

From there, a lot of stuff happens very quickly, and in a confusing manner. Somehow – from the flare? – Superman is freed from his cage, and tries to calm Jon down, to no avail. Future Wonder Woman, Flash, and Superman show up. Everyone works to try to contain the power that’s building up in Jon, except Savior, who figures that in his weakened state this second flare will kill Jon, so problem solved. Savior says that the power is becoming its own entity, because sure, why not?

Superman tries to rush to his son’s side, accompanied by the Superman of Tomorrow (Conner Kent; more on him in a bit) who makes some cryptic remark about failed Jon before and not wanting to do it again (Maybe something to do with the solar flare that Tim originally travelled back in time to prevent?), and Savior finds himself moved by the heroism around him.

“…the light…the purity of their sacrifice…”

Tim’s heart grows three sizes that day, and he tells everyone to stop trying to contain the power, because they can’t do it anyway, and he’s going to stop fighting the temporal pull and take the power with him.

And that’s what he does, and as Superman jhugs Jon and answers his question about what happened – “Someone made things right…by giving all he had…to save us.” – we see a smiling Savior floating through Hypertime.

This isn’t quite the conclusion, as there is an epilogue in the next issue of Super Sons, in which we’ll, presumably, find out how Batman is doing after getting shot by Tim at the start of this, and of course Wonder Woman, Superman, and Flash have yet to return to their own time.

This…this wasn’t great.

The ending was really rushed; it seemed like they realized they were running out of pages and needed to wrap things up in a hurry, and so everything just ended in a sudden blur.

I’m not going to bother trying to explain Hypertime here, but one of the things I did like was the inclusion of little Easter Eggs, showing various pivotal moments in various continuities playing out in the background as people travelled through Hypertime.

I suspect that, with the power he took from Jon, Savior will return at some point, as a Parallax-style character bent on changing history (which is what Tim already was at the start of this, minus the power).

There are some other things I wasn’t clear on, such as whether or not the Wonder Woman, Superman, and Flash of Tomorrow were on board with the stuff Tim had been doing. They seemed concerned about his obsessiveness, and surprised to see all of the events he had interfered with playing out before them as they followed his hand back in time, but they never clearly expressed disapproval, though they were quick to try to help out when they arrived on the scene and found Jon about to explode, with Wonder Woman in particular asserting that no child would be hurt while she was around.

Also, I’m guessing that the split that happened between the (current, not future) Titans who chose to help Jon and Damian and the ones who chose to help Tim is part of some ongoing division within the ranks for them, but I don’t read Teen Titans, so I can’t say for sure.

The art is decent; the DC site incorrectly lists Ed Benes as the artist, which suggests that Davila, with whom I’m unfamiliar, was a last-minute replacement. He’s a good choice as a replacement for Benes, as he has a similar style, although with less of a focus on the female form – and very particular aspects of the female form – than Benes. The storytelling gets a little muddled in the denouement, but that seems more like a script problem than an art problem, given the overall rush to the finish in the narrative.

It’s interesting to see some exploration of the impact Jon’s unique physiology has on his powers, and I guess we’ll see if this means that the solar flare power is gone for good, and if this adventure has any effect on his other powers.

It was also nice to see some progress made in the relationship between Jon and Damian, with the latter no longer viewing the former solely as a weapon and admitting – to himself and to Jon – that he values him as a person. Damian also wailed on Tim a little, in part because he was mad at him for what he was trying to do to Jon, and for the problems he caused, and also because the one constant in any timeline, that I’ve seen, is that Damian hates Tim.

There are a lot of confusing aspects to this story for anyone who’s not particularly well-versed in DC continuity. Like Tim, his teammates are alternate future versions of characters from yet another alternate continuity. Wonder Woman is Cassandra Sandsmark, the once and current Wonder Girl, Flash is Bart Allen, who is actually originally from even further in the future and is the grandson of Barry Allen.

(Does Bart even exist in the current, main continuity?)

And the Superman of Tomorrow is Conner Kent, or Kon-El, a character first introduced back in the nineties in the aftermath of the Death of Superman.

Conner originally believed himself to be a clone of Superman, created by Cadmus Labs in an effort to replace the fallen Man of Steel. In time, it was revealed that Cadmus had failed in their attempts to clone Superman, and instead managed to use what they learned from his DNA to create a gene that would create an approximation of some of his powers, inserted that gene into a spare clone they had lying around, modified the clone’s appearance to make him look like Superman, and began the process of implanting knowledge directly in his brain while his body matured. He ended up getting released before he had finished “baking,” and went on to have super-adventures of his own.

He was a fun character, back then; inclined to help people, but lacking the full nobility of the hero he was designed to replace. Plus, he was a teenage boy, with all that entails.

Eventually, he morphed into kind of a mopey teen, and some of his backstory was retconned in order to align with a fan theory that Geoff Johns had formed back before he became a comics professional, based on a misunderstanding of what Superboy actually was.

As mentioned, he wasn’t a clone of Superman, so the question became “Whose clone is he?” The original plan, if I recall correctly, was for him to be a clone of the Director of Cadmus, but Johns speculated – because he thought it would be cool – that he was actually a clone of Lex Luthor.

And so, over time, as Geoff Johns broke into comics, that’s the way things played out, and his origin went from having a gene that simulated some of Superman’s powers grafted onto a clone to being an actual combination of the DNA of Superman and Lex.

Which, okay, I guess, and that concept did lead to some interesting stories – though it also contributed to some of Conner’s mopiness – though I would say the best stories based on that concept happened on the Young Justice animated series rather than in the comics.

The other advantage to the change was to allow him to develop some of Superman’s other powers, to varying degrees, in a way that was, I suppose, similar to what we’re seeing now with Jon.

(Eventually, Superman gave him a Kryptonian name – Kon-El – which he adapted into “Conner” as a civilian name, eventually taking on the role of Superman’s cousin, Conner Kent.)

That version of Superboy, an alternate version of which became the Superman of Tomorrow, went the way of a lot of other characters when DC launched “The New 52,” though a different version of Kon-El was part of that line-wide reboot.

No Bonus this week, obviously, so that does it for this Spotlight Sunday. The next Weigh In will give you more to choose from, I’m sure, and even if you have to vote for an actual comic, you’ll still be able to get your “clicking on things” fix!

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one). And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!


14 thoughts on “Spotlight Sunday 1.7.18

    1. Well, I do have a lengthy, pointless, meandering anecdote about a particular experience clicking things in my youth, but I’m saving that for some future post.

    1. Well, he’s met the main, present-day Tim many times over the years – Damian’s been around since 2006 – and he’s always been rather disdainful of him. He’s also met Future Tim in some story that I haven’t read, which, I gather, involved Tim going back in time to try to kill Batwoman to prevent some future catastrophe or other.

  1. didn’t classic red K have whatever power the comic needed because it was traveling through a space cloud?

    1. Yes, it was kryptonite that was changed after going through some strange red cloud in space. It had unpredictable – but temporary – effects on Kryptonians, generally causing strange transformations or changes in behavior. For example, one time it turned Superman into an ant-headed man. Another time it made him an amnesiac.
      No two chunks of it had the same effect, and any Kryptonian exposed to a given chunk of it was immune to that particular chunk after its effects wore off.

  2. “although with less of a focus on the female form – and very particular aspects of the female form” as not a comic book insider T or A?

      1. Soooo much A. As in, the inclusion of it in panels as a framing device for the actual action in the scene. Kinda hilarious. If he weren’t a decent artist it would be bad, but he is decent (at drawing,) so it’s more fan service than bad. I think it’s probably more self-service than fan service, though.

  3. “actual combination of the DNA of Superman and Lex.” well Superman and his male L L lover had to conceive somehow. 😉

  4. Damian and Tim (and Jason, for that matter) have a… contentious relationship. There’s a degree of mutual respect, and even some affection in New 52 and Rebirth era comics, but Damian sees them as rivals for the mantle of Batman. He sees that as his birthright, and he does not take kindly to usurpers. It’s different with Dick, for three reasons. First, Dick was the first Robin. Damian is following the trail that Dick blazed, and he respects that. Secondly, Dick pretty definitively became his own man. He will become the Batman if it is needed, but only with great reluctance and a clear willingness to set that aside when/if someone else worthy comes along. Damian knows that he’s not a threat. Thirdly, Damian served as Robin under Dick when Dick briefly took up the mantle following Bruce’s not-death in Final Crisis (some version of which may or may not still be in continuity). That cemented the respect, and resulted in the only purely harmonious relationship he has with any member of the family (because Dick doesn’t actually have to parent Damian the way Bruce and Alfred do).

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