Superman #1 directly takes up one of the main themes of Rebirth, the recovery and celebration of legacy in the DC Universe. This is something that author Peter Tomasi and co-author and pencil artist Patrick Gleason have deep experience with. The New 52 era was not a period in DC’s publishing history known for its emphasis on legacy or deep continuity, which is one of the main reasons it eventually became very unpopular in some quarters. However, Tomasi has always been respectful of continuity, even in eras during which such an emphasis was out of fashion. As far as legacy is concerned, his Batman and Robin, which featured Gleason as principal artist, explored the rich and troubled relationship between Bruce Wayne and Damian, his assassin-born son. Patrick Gleason then picked up these threads in his solo Robin: Son of Batman.
Following on the heels of Tomasi’s Last Days of Superman, which closed out the New 52, and this month’s Superman: Rebirth #1, featuring the pre-Flashpoint Superman and his family, now residents of the new continuity, Tomasi and Gleason are in their natural element. This time, rather than Damian Wayne as the carrier of legacy, they have Jon White, son of Lois and Clark. Jon, already named the new Superboy, is a very different personality than the cranky, exotic Robin (with whom he will shortly be sharing a separate title, if early announcements are correct). Rather than a skilled and experienced, if young, vigilante, Jon is a normal child just coming into extraordinary powers and responsibility. The central theme and concern of this title appears to be Jon’s coming of age and the adjustments that forces on his family.
It’s a promising subject, and one that Tomasi and Gleason handle skillfully in this first issue. Jon learns that even good intentions are not enough to prevent tragedy when super powers are in play. He also learns the burden of secrets and suspicion when a young neighbor is witness to his loss of control. The authors carefully limit everything to the level appropriate for Jon’s age, but the implications for the wider world are clear. This is driven home when Clark receives a visit from a certain Amazon and Caped Crusader, who appear to know about young Jon.
Gleason is the main artist on this issue as well as its co-writer. He has shown in the past his blocky forms, large heads, and expressive faces are well suited to stories involving young characters in highly emotional moments. The sequence involving Jon and his loss of control is some of Gleason’s finest work. Mick Gray and John Kalisz provide a naturalistic play of light and color that emphasize the relative normality of Jon and his environment, thus making the appearance of the Justice League emissaries, and Jon’s exhibitions of power, all the more wondrous.
This is not a perfect issue. Jon's situation is a bit too classic, and the morality lessons a bit too heavy handed. Unless the authors are very careful, this could become saccharine and cloying. But for now, this is a worthy contribution to both continuity and legacy, and a clear success for a Superman Office that could use more victories. Some may not accept this Clark as their Superman. But, like Lois said in the last issue of Dan Jurgens' excellent LOIS AND CLARK, "That's our Superboy!"