NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Super Sons #1
They may have existed or been stars of their own comics before the arrival of the DC Rebirth, but there's no doubt the return to the heart of DC's best known character will benefit Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent. Otherwise known as Robin and Superboy, the two young heroes have teamed up to give their respective fathers some significant headaches - as a result, bringing the two closer together (after all, this Superman is the older, pre-New 52 version, not the one Batman befriended and trusted). But that was all an appetizer to the main course: a comic of their very own.
After being delayed into 2017, DC's Super Sons has finally arrived, pitting the two friends (frenemies?) together as each tries to follow in their father's footsteps. Needless to say, the first issue from writer Peter J. Tomasi and artists Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez is the kind of first chapter guaranteed to raise the hopes of devoted Batman or Superman fans. As the heroes deal with seriously dark times in the comics and on the big screen, there's only so much that Robin and Superboy can take seriously - and after one issue, we're still waiting for the first such threat.
Damian Wayne, Master of Disguise
It shouldn't be lost on any prospective readers that Tomasi takes full advantage of both Damian and Jonathan's ability to present the attributes and motivations of their fathers to their most ridiculous extremes. Where Jonathan Kent is quite literally a shrunken version of Clark Kent, glasses and all, he fails to stop bullying on his school bus about as effectively as Clark Kent could (without donning his cape, obviously). By contrast, Damian Wayne shows he's the Dark Knight's most extreme caricature by... well, disguising himself as an elderly man to replace the regular bus driver, thereby keeping an eye on Earth's newest alien resident.
That gives a fairly accurate sense of where the bar is set by both writer and artists (with Damian also revealing that he posed as a substitute teacher for one of Jonathan's classes, as well). It's a moment fit for a single-panel comic strip, but there's more below the surface. Where Jonathan struggles to keep his powers in check, refusing to unleash his full power on the aforementioned bullies during a snowball fight, Damian Wayne has no such reservation (nor such experiences with schoolyard bullies), making the crushing blow of a boulder-sized snowball all the more satisfying.
Anyone who has picked up a comic starring Damian Wayne knows that his attitude and scorn for all mankind is only as endearing or entertaining as the writer makes it, and Tomasi has already shown a unique grasp of this post-Rebirth balance of humor. And as always, the two miniature versions of the big blue Boy Scout and Dark Knight have their different paths and personalities anchored in very real emotion - as evidenced by the time spent with their fathers.
Sons of (Very) Different Fathers
In just a handful of panels, Tomasi and Jimenez make it difficult to not feel for Damian, since, when you think about it, having Batman for a father might actually be a lonely existence (Alfred excepted). Having been born of the world's greatest detective and one of the world's deadliest women, Damian was born and groomed for a life of ninja killing. But in the resetting of Rebirth, has found a new path with the Teen Titans. While this is a classic case of a single character occupying more than one book, the same elements are there in Damian across the DCU: he's lonely, but would never admit it. He needs friends, but would never allow himself to need anything... and he seems to like Jonathan, all claims to the contrary.
As Damian passes the days before he can take his father's place, Jonathan is battling with a coming-of-age of his own. Still unable to fly, and with his superpowers seeming to come and go without warning, the half-human, half-Kryptonian has unique problems to worry about. Unsurprisingly, emotional support and comfort are two of Superman's strengths, shown in the advice offered to Jonathan. Where Damian is being trained to use his body and mind as weapons, Jonathan is being told that having the heart of a hero is more important than any superpower.
We can only hope that Damian didn't actually hear the full exchange, since his sudden appearance outside of Jonathan's bedroom window implies he's known everything about the Kent family's activites for the previous week. Maybe. Who knows? Probably. No matter how few secrets Jonathan still has from Robin, the crimes of Metropolis apparently call... and Jonathan is a sucker for a heroic call to action (the cape isn't going to wear itself).
The Super Sons' First Mission
Honestly, this sequence of events should be enough to sell almost every comic fan on Super Sons, since it's not too far a cry from Batman knocking on Superman's window in the middle of the night to sneak out and solve crimes together. And what a first crime Damian has in mind too, citing a number of hacks and break-ins at LexCorp's Metropolis headquarters. How do the boys get from the Kent farm to the city on foot? Not as important as seeing them leaping across rooftops, ribbing eachother with accusations of who's taller, who's more of a daddy's boy, and who may or may not be able to fly as well as their father, and why.
As much as you might expect the story to see the boys capering through the offices, the first issue begins with not one, but two different scenes we hope to see explained in coming issues. First there's the prologue, showing a family in what appears to be a TV studio, all agreeing to whatever demands or statements a young boy ("Kid Amazo") is making. Mind control or compulsion may be at work, but what connection it has to the Super Sons is still a total mystery. The second prologue scene is a different story.
Following Superboy and he flees through the jungle with Robin on top of his shoulders, the two realize that Damian may have gone a little bit overboard on the population of what appear to be Superboy and Robin-themed training robots. If we were the betting sort, we would wager that intense training scheme may have something to do with their first nemesis - the one who rudely interrupts their attempts to scale the side of the skyscraper... his skyscraper.
We use the term "nemesis" here with a sense of humor, since the Superman: Rebirth comics have shown that this Lex Luthor actually is intent on protecting Metropolis. Apparently, that includes protecting it from the sticky fingers of two Justice Leaguers' sons. So far the decision to cast Batman and Superman as fathers in this new age of DC Comics has led to exchanges both unforgettably hilarious and undeniably beautiful, as both heroes commit to raising their sons as well as their late fathers tried to before their untimely deaths.
In that light, our hopes are high that the addition of Lex Luthor into the story is one more chance to give these two Super Sons a billionaire, Apokoliptian armor-ed, brilliant uncle. Sure, that may not really be Lex's style, but it always pays to have an established relationship with the future Batman and Superman of the modern world. And if the boys are intent on being trained, we would count on someone like Lex to be completely lacking any parental reservations - and give them the tools to do it. And with Kid Amazo on the horizon, training can't come a moment too soon.
The stories that have been delivered around Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent in the DC Rebirth so far are proof that a darker, well-written take on them can open new doors in long-loved characters' mythologies and psyches. But for the younger crowd still longing to lose themselves in the superpowers and camaraderie of DC's biggest heroes, Super Sons appears to be the answer.
Super Sons #1 is available now.