NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for "Superman" #10
The Man of Steel and the Dark Knight have been many things to one another throughout DC Comics history: friends, allies, enemies, and even romantic rivals. But in the pages of DC's "Rebirth," the two superheroes have become something else, first: fathers. For Batman, it's his son and current Robin, Damian Wayne. For Superman, it's his son Jonathan - the new Superboy. Unfortunately, raising adolescent boys isn't an experience the two have stepped into together. With the version of Superman that emerged alongside Batman in the New 52 now dead, it's a clean slate between Bruce and the older, pre-New 52 Superman. And where Batman faces a clean slate, he sees only suspicion.
It only seems right that Batman and Superman should be trusted allies, no matter their reservations or paranoia - and when they won't do it themselves, "Superman" #10 shows us, their kids will do it for them. Casting DC's two biggest heroes as out-of-their-depth dads may be unexpected for modern fans, but trust us: the result is more than we dreamed it could be.
Like Fathers, Like Sons
For those who haven't kept up to date on the personalities or progress of Jonathan Kent or Damian Wayne, the existential threats or impending doom facing either of them has given way to their biggest challenge: finding their own identity and future in the shadow of superhero fathers. The true beauty of this first chapter in Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's "In The Name of The Father" is that both Jonathan and Damian - while staying true to their existing personalities - embody their father's values and outlook... taken to an extreme.
For Jonathan, that means an abundance of optimism and 'golly gee' demeanor that could only come from the son of Clark Kent - even as he follows in his father's footsteps, taking to an isolated forest to test out his new abilities. For Damian, it means a level of suspicion and subterfuge that makes a caricature of Batman's vigilance - believing that he sees what others can't, and is therefore responsible for the situation. For the son of the Bat, that means drugging and restraining Superboy in a secret lair (and hacking the Justice League's Watchtower to run "tests" of his own).
When Batman arrives on the scene to see a sedated Kryptonian, it only takes an instant to realize the danger his son is now in - after all, what would he do if Superman held his son hostage? The question's rhetorical, since walls shatter in a blast of heat vision a heartbeat later.
My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad
Fans of DC Comics or those brought back into the fold with some of the "Rebirth" titles will know the premise and changes by heart: the Superman of yesterday - the one who died at Doomsday's hand, only to return, marry Lois Lane, and father a child - is back. And for the moment, Bruce Wayne has gained some control over Damian, the son formed by his mother's League of Assassins. Clark Kent learned all there was to know about Batman's son in his years of surveillance from the shadows, and Bruce Wayne has now been formally introduced to the young Superboy.
But it's another matter entirely to see those sons come to blows - and their fathers step in to end it. Pride, protection, accusations and ego flourish where any parents are forced to defend their children, and Batman and Superman are no different. That being said, these men are heroes. Instead of pointing fingers, the two realize that Superboy and Robin don't just need mentors, but their dads, too (aided by a blast of ice breath from Jonathan). And if their sons can't be friends (to be fair, that's mostly due to Damian) then their dads will need to set a better example.
It turns out Alfred Pennyworth is all that's needed to bring Damian in line, as Batman and Superman agree to test Jonathan's changing genetic structure. The only clear verdict is that more powers will still be developing as he turns from boy to man, but it's the interactions between Jonathan and Damian that offer the real entertainment. We mentioned above that these boys really are their fathers' sons, to the point of almost demonstrating what a story about "Kid Batman and Kid Superman" would look like. One taking every chance to be naively positive - the other cloaked in melodramatic brooding.
All good things must come to an end, of course, and Damian already knows how to push a Kryptonian farmboy's buttons (that must be genetic). When the boys return to fighting eachother, it's their fathers who decide that their trust in them was a bit premature. Despite their respective moods, both Bruce and Clark have tried to be nurturing fathers - but the time has come for some truly tough love.
Prepare For Boot Camp
The previous scene included an observation from Alfred that Jonathan Kent was so clearly Superman's son, he likely would never need to endure the "boot camp" Batman relied upon to bring his previous sons and wards into line. But the punch thrown in anger by Superboy proves otherwise. It's easy to understand both the boys' frustrations, having to face the changes and realizations all children do when entering their adolescence - combined with the desire to be a famous, powerful superhero. It's also ground for some bad habits or ego to form... and that's something neither Batman nor Superman will allow.
The issue ends with a tease of the "boot camp" to come, as Superman and Batman go into full 'Dad Mode,' towering over their misbehaving sons and projecting a clear message of having 'had-it-up-to-here.' Tough love is incoming, since loving support is obviously not going to keep Jonathan or those around him safe. But if we were the betting kind, we would wager Damian Wayne is also going to get a refresher in the process.
Superman and Batman aren't just dads... they're angry dads. The world may not be ready for them.
Superman #10 is available now.