Enter History 101 with the Kent Family in Superman #28

by James Ferguson

 

Clark, Lois, and Jon continue their RV trip across the country seeing the patriotic sights including some good old-fashioned protests along the way. If you had any doubts that Superman stood for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, Superman #28 will put them aside. Unfortunately, it will also come with some literal history lessons.

While this issue has some great heroic moments of Superman doing things for Americans that we wish could actually happen, it feels like overkill, especially after the previous chapter did essentially the same thing. This whole side quest could have been a single issue instead of spread out over two.

The vast majority of it has Clark and Lois basically reading from a history textbook. Although these stories are important and can serve as a great reminder of the real heroes that we can see in everyday life, it is a big momentum killer. Superman has been a shining star from DC Comics since Rebirth began and writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have been absolutely killing it on this book. This issue is a slog to get through.

I know this might sound like a whiny rant. “I don’t want real world history in my super hero comics! Boo hoo!” There’s certainly a place for that and it can help provide some valued context to the capes and tights crowd. This takes it too far, focusing so much on the history that you almost forget you’re reading a Superman comic.

This is doubly disappointing because artist Scott Godlewski draws a breathtaking Superman and we only witness this in a handful of shots. There is an incredible double-page spread where Superman is flying above a monument, holding Lois, who is holding Jon’s hand. The family is soaring through the sky and it’s absolutely beautiful.

Godlewski’s Clark Kent is a total geeky dad. Yes, he’s big and muscular, but he’s a complete dork with his plaid shorts and slip on shoes. I say that knowing full well that that’s basically my summer time uniform, but I’m also a geeky dad so I fit right in.

Although the issue’s content is very dry and educational, Godlewski captures it in a compelling manner. He finds interesting ways to show the information, delivering the somber tones and gravitas that these important American monuments and memorials require.

I mentioned this in my review for issue #27, but it bears repeating here. Superman, and by extension, the rest of the DC Universe, work best when they’re in a fictional setting. The heroes live in fake cities like Metropolis and Gotham, unlike the Marvel Universe, where everyone lives in New York. Yes, the real cities are mixed into DC too, but they’re secondary compared to the actual home turfs of the heroes.

This is an idealized world where caped crusaders roam the skies and protect us all. Grounding it in reality–and time as Clark references some specific dates and how they relate to present day–only stifles that idealization. It ruins the fantasy. This works in the opposite direction too. How would you react if Spider-Man visited something like Central City? It would feel weird, right?

I’m always happy to see further character development of Clark as a father with his family. It’s something new and refreshing. It’s fine when the creators take a break from Superman punching big alien monsters and assorted super villains to show his life outside of the cape. This issue missed the mark by focusing on the real life surroundings which, while inspiring, is not why we’re all reading this comic.

Superman #28 is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.