"Last Son: Part Two"
Writers: Geoff Johns & Richard Donner
Artists: Adam Kubert, Dave Stewart (colours)
Publisher: DC Comics
Richard Donner's run on Action Comics continues, and with it the "Last Son" storyline which began last issue. The cliffhanger from issue #844 is wrapped up surprisingly quickly, and with Superman now in possession of the apparently Kryptonian child who crash-landed in Metropolis last issue, he attempts to use the power of the press to ensure that Sergeant Steel and the Department of Metahuman Affairs treat the boy better than last issue's poking and prodding suggested. However, the child also becomes the focus of Lex Luthor's attentions here, and he dispatches Bizarro to claim the boy from Superman. The ensuing fight forms the centrepiece of the issue and is as expansive and huge-scale as all good superhero fights should be, with a strong emotional core and a sense of staging and spectacle that is a sure sign of Richard Donner's cinematic sensibilities coming to the fore.
Much of the success of the issue can be credited to Adam Kubert's excellent art, which feels like a real step up from last time. Whilst his characters still have a slightly sketchy feel to them, it works well with the thickness of his inking to give them a sense of energy and liveliness (check out that lovely opening splash of Superman & Son in flight), whilst his more delicate background work shows that he can bring a high level of detail and finesse to his art, too. The battle between Superman and Bizarro which tears through the streets and buildings of Metropolis juxtaposes the artist's beautiful, nostalgically evocative backgrounds (lovingly coloured in subdued tones by Dave Stewart) with his more vibrant central figures, who are rendered in far brighter and more solid shades so that they pop off the page, and there's such a strong sense of visual storytelling throughout that any expositional dialogue or captions are completely unnecessary
The writing also brings its own seal of quality, with an unsurprising sense that Donner and co-writer Geoff Johns really understand the core of Superman's character prevailing throughout the issue. Their acknowledgement of the simplicity of Clark Kent's scheme to adopt the boy is welcome ("What do you suggest we do? Give him a pair of glasses?"), and they show how the plan makes perfect sense given Superman's own history. Their handling of the relationship between Clark and Lois Lane is also solid, showing that there are obstacles for the couple to overcome in their attempt to take the boy under their wing, but never milking the situation for melodrama; instead, their conversations are as down-to-earth and relatable as any couple's discussions of the issue of parenthood, and it helps to root the story in emotions and characters which feel very real. Bizarro proves a great villain for this issue - he isn't as goofy here as I've seen him before, and his sparse dialogue allows him a certain presence which makes the threat to Superman feel very real. There are also some lovely little touches in the dialogue, with the most obvious being the affectionate homage to Christopher Reeve in the naming of the child. A nod which could come off as schmaltzy or sentimental from other writers is affecting and heartfelt here, thanks to the actor's relationship with Donner, and I'm sure all Superman fans will approve of the naming of Christopher Kent (who is already proving a far more likeable presence than Grant Morrison's young Damian in the pages of Batman).
I'm always amazed when I read a Superman book that I enjoy, but with Donner (& Johns) and Kubert at the helm, I really shouldn't be. They've married the charm of the movie Superman with the unrestrained imagination and scale that can be achieved with comics, and provided a fast-moving story which should be as pleasing to longtime fans as it is accessible to a casual reader like me. Like All-Star Superman, this is a shamelessly enjoyable superhero book which makes you realise that fun and colourful comics didn't die with the demise of the Silver Age, and that it's possible to reconcile the conventions of old-fashioned comics with the sensibilities of a modern audience.
And if that unexpected yet perfectly fitting cliffhanger doesn't have Superman fans cheering in the aisles, then I don't know what will.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!