Since the 90’s, superhero comics have often spent time focusing on legacy and growing up as a hero. Though Superman has had young colleagues like Linda Danvers, Conner Kent and Kara Zor-El before, the introduction of his son, Jon Kent, has changed that dynamic for the character entirely, as Superman #31 shows.
Now, given the recent announcement that Jon will be taking over the Superman series and Clark is headlining Action Comics, we know this arc is a transition story. However, the creative team for it- Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Scott Godlewski, Norm Rapmund, Gabe Eltaeb, and Dave Sharpe– are going all out to show a real transition from father to son in the mantle. It’s not just spinning its wheels and it’s all the better for it.
I’ll get this out of the way first- Godlewski pencils half the issue, and does layouts for the whole thing. His panel layouts and how he sets up the figures is strong through the entire issue. Rapmund’s pencils over the breakdowns are solid for the figures in motion and action, but when it comes to characters’ faces and the emotional beats, it falls short. Thankfully though the most important emotional moments come when Godlewski is penciling and he makes them land every time.
However, on the story side, I don’t think this story could be any better. Johnson continues to show that he understands Superman on a fundamental level, but beyond that, he gets how the young son of Superman would be impacted by his father’s legacy. Jon shows a great emotional depth through the entire issue, as he struggles with the terror of his situation by confronting the weight of what his father means to the universe.
And yes, I get that this issue is meant to make the transition between Clark and Jon more believable, but on top of that, it makes it clear that their relationship is as genuine as possible. I love what Johnson does in the dialogue, as Jon explains why Clark is so good, but also he shows the love that Clark has for his son without just telling us. It’s dialogue that would feel corny without the build-up Johnson does (and probably coming from any other character). From Clark Kent though? “Your heartbeat is my favorite sound” is the most heartwarming piece of dialogue that could be spoken.
Now, notice I didn’t say much about the plot? That’s because it’s a pretty standard alien invasion plot. It’s interesting, and I hope the antagonists- the Shadowbreed- pop up in a later story. But this is not a story about the plot. It’s a story about a father and son grappling with a complicated legacy while still maintaining a healthy and loving relationship.
And it works.
After this issue, I’m disappointed that Johnson is splitting the father and son duo up at least in part due to the nature of Action Comics’ upcoming Warworld story. However, this is the story we need to make it believable. It’s done exactly what it needed to do, and I can’t wait to see what else happens from here.
Superman #31 is available now from DC Comics.
A story about Superman fighting an alien invasion reveals itself to be much deeper than it appears. The creative team shows the bond between father and son, and teaches that it came be complicated while still loving and respectful. Its only drug down by some rough moments in fill-in art.