After all the hectic recent events the Kent family has gone through, they’ve decided to take a break and go on a road trip around the 4th of July. Lois has rented an RV and they’ve selected some American landmarks from across the country to check out. Instead of fighting aliens, monsters, or alien monsters, Superman, Superboy, and Lois Lane are going to be a normal family…to an extent.
Superman #27 from DC Comics offers a great slice of life tale. I think DC is often guilty of too much emphasis on the cape and not enough about the person wearing it. This is definitely one of the reasons that the Superman comics have stood out in Rebirth as we’ve seen a different side of the character. Although Clark is wearing his costume in a few scenes, the vast majority of the book presents him as the mild-mannered reporter instead.
Artist Scott Godlewski really hammers home that humble, forgettable look of Clark. He’s a boring dad out on a trip with his family, sporting cargo shorts and a short-sleeved button down shirt. Despite his large frame, you’d walk right by him and not even notice him. He’s a total dork, but an upstanding one.
This contrasts nicely to scenes with Superman, although what really stands out are the opening pages where we see a bit of Clark–or at least the human side of him–come out. Superman is dead tired, literally falling asleep as he’s flying home. It shows that even DC’s greatest hero needs some rest every now and then.
Although this is a brilliant idea and I absolutely love the interaction between Clark, Lois, and Jon, this issue comes through as very dry at times, specifically when the family gets to their destinations. Any momentum that has built up to those points is lost as the characters essentially read a history textbook to the reader, explaining why this is important to American history and perhaps shaming us for not being better acquainted with some of the lesser known monuments in the country.
On the one hand, this gets back to the American Way part of what Superman stands for, but it comes at a cost of the story. This feels like something that would be shown to a social studies class. The one exception to this is the detour Jon convinces his parents to take to Niagara Falls. He and his father boogie board down the falls in a great scene, and one of the few where they’re sporting their capes.
Writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason maintain the great relationship between father and son here. It’s just lost in the dry explanations of the monuments. They also excel at the interaction between Clark and Lois. There’s a very sweet scene towards the end of the issue where they get to share a few minutes together after Jon goes to sleep. Any parent can tell you how much you cherish those fleeting moments without one of your children barging in.
Superman #27 feels like a more organized, yet still bland version of Grounded by J. Michael Straczynski. Instead of venturing out by himself, Superman is crossing the country with his family, looking at what made America the country it is today. Along the way, they’ll all learn a valuable lesson and reflect on the great men and women that built the United States.
This is also a little jarring as DC has always been set in a fictional world. Yes, there are some actual cities like New York or Seattle, but those have never been the main setting (the current Green Arrow series not withstanding). The comics have always been set in fictional cities like Metropolis and Gotham.
Here, the characters are visiting real places where real people are honored. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but it does feel a little odd. Tomasi and Gleason certainly couldn’t create fake monuments without offending someone so this exists in a strange middleground.