Superman Vol 5 #16
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: David Lafuente
Inker: David Lafuente
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Colourist: Paul Mounts
Cover: Ivan Reis (pencils), Joe Prado (inks) and Alex Sinclair (letters)
Variant Cover: Brian Hitch (pencils) and Alex Sinclair (inks)
Associate Editor: Jennifer Chen
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
Superman, Superboy (Jon Kent)
Robin (Damian Wayne)
The Riddler, Catman, Kiteman, a few others (all in minor roles)
Back when Superboy was exploring the galaxy with his grandfather Jor-El, he started having second thoughts and recorded a message for his friend Robin. In the message, Superboy said that leaving home might be the dumbest idea he ever had and right now, he was working on a way to get back home.
In the present, Robin is fighting some Leviathan soldiers that had been located at Gotham City Harbour. The Justice League's tracking systems had detected Leviathan activity in Gotham and Robin thought he could do something to stop them. Unfortunately, the Leviathan soldiers escape with their teleportation technology and Robin is left empty-handed. As Robin inspects the area, hoping to find anything left behind by Leviathan, he turns around and finds the now teen-aged Superboy, who has come to Gotham so he could talk with his friend.
Robin refuses to believe this young man is his friend and throws batarangs at Superboy's face, to which Superboy doesn't react. They bounce right off him. Knowing this is how his friend is processing this new development, Superboy calmly explains what happened to him and even hugs Robin. Robin, however, is still confused by what's happening and he cannot believe that Superboy is now taller than him, thinking this is some sort of Leviathan trick. Superboy, already aware of Leviathan thanks to Superman, reiterates that his story is true and invites Robin to eat some hot dogs.
As they eat their hot dogs on top of a gargoyle, Superboy explains he was stuck on an alternate Earth, populated by evil versions of the people they know. Robin asks what Superboy will do now. Superboy has no idea, but for now, he just wants to spend time with his friend. As they spend the night rescuing cats from a burning house and fighting super-villains (the Riddler, Catman and Kite Man, among others), Superboy tells Robin about the invitation he got from the Legion of Super-Heroes and Robin is fascinated that super-heroes exist in the far future. The new day begins and the Super-Sons part ways, but not before Robin actually hugs Superboy.
Superboy flies to the Fortress of Solitude, where his father is waiting for him. Superman admits he feels jealous of the choices laid out in front of his son, but for the most part, he is proud that Superboy handled himself well in space. Suddenly, a time portal opens inside the Fortress of Solitude and from it emerges Saturn Girl, who has travelled to the present to see whether or not Superboy has decided to accept the Legion's offer to join them. She’s a little bit emotional about being in the Fortress of Solitude, but then gets down to business. She starts by handing Superman an object in an odd container, then asks Jon Kent if he accepts the invitation to join the Legion of Super-Heroes. At first, Superboy asks Saturn Girl to let him see what the future looks like and Saturn Girl connects him psychically to her own memories and experiences of the Legion. This impresses him, and he tells her that he can't believe he was even debating the whole matter, let alone considering passing on the offer. Superman opens the small box that he was given, to reveal a button with the Legion logo on it. He asks Saturn Girl what it is, and she tells him it’s so he can call Superboy home at any time. Superboy and Saturn Girl depart towards the future and Superman bids his son farewell. As the time portal disappears, Superman silently stares at the Legion button.
Okay, I’ll start here by saying that I have no comments to make about the whole Super Sons storyline here and what is going on in the tales running through the Superman family of comics, except as it relates to the Legion of Super-Heroes. I don’t read the comics, other than the Legion appearances, and have no idea of what’s been going on in the Superman titles. So, with that out of the way…
So, the story starts off seemingly in the middle of the Leviathan storyline that Bendis has been telling in the comics in recent months, but it actually takes a twist and becomes a “best friends” tale that has some twists to it. Superboy is now a teenager (go check out Superman Vol 5 stories to see how that came out, ‘cause I’m not discussing it), Damian (Robin) Wayne doesn’t believe it’s really him for a while, but it’s more about the fact that Jon has been away for three weeks our time, he has been gone for years in his own time. He is now a teenager and Damian doesn’t take the news well that his friend has gone through puberty before him, is now taller, and has more life experience. When Jon tells him that he’s got an offer to join the Legion of Super-Heroes and is still thinking about it, Damian is surprised and says that he would go in a heartbeat. I got the impression that Damian really would like to go with his friend to the 31st Century, and based on the advanced hype for Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #3 (iirc), he will be showing up there. I don’t really like that idea, but that’s what author Bendis is planning, though how permanent Damian’s 31st Century presence will be is something for nothing more than speculation.
I have mentioned the stuff about Jon and Damian above simply because I got the impression that Jon’s hesitation to accept the Legion’s offer was partially based on his not wanting to leave his best friend behind. However, that is exactly what happens, of course, so how things will play out is anyone’s guess. However, this makes the parting of these two towards the end of the issue all the more bittersweet.
As for the Legion part of the story... Saturn Girl’s arrival at the Fortress of Solitude at the end of the story is one that was handled well, though I’m still getting my head around the fact that the normally stolid, somewhat emotionless Imra Ardeen says that she’s going to cry. While Jon is still hesitant about accepting the Legion of Super-Heroes’ offer, Saturn Girl lets Superboy see her memories and experiences of the Legion. This convinces him to accept the offer, which he does. She gives Superman a button with the Legion logo on it that will allow him to call Jon home at any time; this shows her understanding of the Man of Steel’s feelings of losing his son, but also demonstrates that Saturn Girl is, once more, not the Imra Ardeen that we’ve known previously.
I will say that I didn’t really like the storytelling of author Bendis in this tale, though I did understand what he was trying to do, and will say that his grasp of the Super Sons is very good and that he really accomplished what he set out to do here: Despite the age and experience difference, Jon and Damian are still best friends and that will not change. The issue is all about the relationship between the two, and from my limited feel of the two characters, Bendis accomplished that.
I’ve not been exposed to David Lafuente’s artwork before this (only recently having gotten back into comics with the announcement of the new Legion series), but I found his cartoonish (that is, chunky, Saturday morning cartoonish) style to be delightful and a good fit for this story. Paul Mounts’s colours were quite catchy and eye-popping in the story, and lent the tale an excellent sense of perspective with the events going on in the tale.
As for the Legion’s presence in the story and its relevance to the Legion of Super-Heroes, all I can say is that this issue isn’t worth picking up unless you’re into the limited 2-1/4 pages of Saturn Girl’s appearance. The fact that she allowed Superboy to see her memories and experiences of the Legion, I’m not sure how that will affect Jon Kent as the LSH series begins and gets underway. However, if she’s got that many memories and that much experience of the Legon to this point, that would indicate that the team is not just starting from scratch when their own comic book begins. Hmmm...
Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #1