Did a used bookstore run this weekend and picked up a trade of Son of Superman, published by DC Comics under their Elseworlds banner. The book was written by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman with art done by JH Williams III and Mick Gray. It was originally published in 2000, during my undergraduate years. Spending $20 dollars on an original TPB was definitely NOT in the cards for me economically in 2000… so finding it on the bookshelves Saturday night for $6 bucks? I couldn’t resist.
I enjoyed Son of Superman and its’ understated dystopian setting. Superman’s been gone for fifteen years, leaving Lois Lane to raise their seemingly mild-mannered son as she works in Hollywood as a screenwriter. A solar flare activates Jon Kent’s latent Kryptonian abilities, leading to his taking up of the Superman mantle and the discovery of a worldwide conspiracy affecting the Justice League, the US government, and beyond.
One of the admirable things about Son of Superman is that the story really moves; a lot of comic stories in 2013 feel like they’re being stretched out to accommodate future collections. Not so here. Son of Superman covers a LOT of ground in its’ 94 pages. The script touches on a lot of the paranoia which was de riguor in the late 1990’s fiction (paranoia about the government and cover-ups, co-opting of the government by big business) but it keeps that stuff firmly in the background as color to the main story of Jon Kent… and I think that’s to the book’s credit. Some of the contrivances the writers use to move the plot forward are a little tired out (the news reporter/talking heads thing had been done to DEATH by 2000) but in general the story works.
The art from Williams and Gray is fantastic and it’s no accident that the duo would go on to do such stellar work with Alan Moore on Promethea around this time. Williams’ design work on the new Superman and militaristic Justice League is fantastic. I can’t help but think what a better designed Superman costume this is than the one he’s currently running around with in the regular comics. Gray’s use of blacks add to the darker nature of some of the writers’ plot in an atmospheric way and there are some scenes, like Superman revisiting the Fortress of Solitude, that are just showpieces for Grey’s talent.
I’m surprised DC never had Chaykin and Tischman revisit this future world; the ending, while nice, does seem to call out for a sequel somewhere down the road. Heck, this whole book reads like it could be a screenplay for a movie featuring the characters. Hollywood’s not quite at the point where they’re ready to be doing “SON OF” type superhero movies in the same way that say, monster movies did… but give it a few years.