While spending some quality father-son time up at the Fortress of Solitude, Clark and Jon kick back and watch a holographic recreation of Krypton’s destruction. Most dads just play catch. Anyway, Superman reveals that he’s been monitoring the universe looking for planets facing the same fate as his home world. He just received a notification that the planet Galymayne is going to explode, so he sets off to save the planet’s population and Superboy tags along. Again, there are so many better ways to bond with your child.
Superman #40 starts off with some sweet, albeit cheesy moments between Clark and Jon. They have a healthy relationship and it shows. Jon treats his father with respect and it’s returned. While Clark is a by-the-book kind of guy, he remembers what it was like to be a kid with super powers so he’s flexible at times. Despite all their wondrous abilities, they’re still people.
Jon’s energy is infectious. Artist Doug Mahnke captures the youthful exuberance that is a key facet of the character. He’s ten years old, so he’s wide-eyed and excited about the idea of going into outer space. Think of where you were at ten. If someone told you you’d fly into space to help save a dying planet, wouldn’t your head explode? Jon tries to hold it together, but gives into the awe.
Where Superman #40 falters is with this space mission. Superman and Superboy arrive on Galymayne only to find a resistant population. They don’t want to leave and they don’t care who Clark and Jon are. They’re resigned to their fate. It wouldn’t be too bad if we didn’t see the same exact premise in a recent arc of Green Lanterns.
Speaking of which, this is really a task that’s better suited for the Green Lantern Corps. They have the tools, knowledge, and experience to save an entire planet’s population. Superman flew out into space with nothing but a gas mask. He didn’t even bring a ship. How does he expect to ferry everyone off the planet? Where is he going to put them even if he does get them out of there?
This is going to sound weird, but there’s a tinge of condescension in Superman’s approach to this. On the way over, he’s explaining to Jon how this will all go down. He says the natives will greet them warmly, marveling over their powers, then they’ll be ushered to the highest court in the land where he’ll tell them he’s Superman and everyone will basically do whatever he tells them to. So the white guy swoops in and tells the natives what to do. Does that sound weird to anyone else?
There are some definite parallels to Krypton from Galymayne, particularly once Superman and son are met with opposition. The pair meet a rogue scientist determined to save everyone despite these feelings, just like Clark’s own father. This does provide a nice twist to the tale. Imagine what could have happened if someone showed up during Krypton’s final days that actually listened to and believed Jor-El. How would things have been different?
The Galymaynians are a race of seahorse-like creatures. This gives them an eerie look as they float around Clark and Jon, staring at them creepily. There’s a definite difference between the scientist and the rest of them. The others put all their faith in religion and are dressed in cloaks, while the scientist appears more sophisticated and buttoned-up.
This is a rare misstep for the Superman series, which has been pretty great since it began. It only tangentially touches the heart that has helped elevate the comic with the relationship between Clark and his son, not to mention Lois, who does not appear in this issue. Since the basic storyline feels like a slightly different spin on a very recent arc from Green Lanterns, it feels uninspired. This might all shake out as a proxy for Krypton and a reminder that sometimes death and destruction happens in the universe and not even the Man of Steel can do anything to stop it. Writer James Robinson does know a thing or two about crafting a great story, so we’ll see where this goes.