Superman readers have long known that the “S” stands for hope. But we rarely ask what we are supposed to hope for. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason take the opportunity in Superman #6 to delve into that question. They settle on an unconventional answer. Hope, in the Superman family in the era of Rebirth, rests with Jon White, the child of Clark Kent and Lois Lane from the world before Flashpoint.
These two are certainly a good choice to explore the place of children and family in the world of DC superheroes. Together they helmed the New 52 version of Batman and Robin, while Gleason alone created Robin: Son of Batman.
Damian Wayne and Jon White are two very different characters embodying different aspects of the DC Universe, but both represent the concept of legacy that has historically loomed large in the DC Universe and which the Rebirth initiative aims to recapture. Gleason’s art, joined with colors by John Kalisz and inks by Mick Gray, has become symbolic of legacy to many DC readers. Gray’s heavy inks and Kalisz’ red-shifted colors were well chosen for the world of the Bat, and may be somewhat out of place for the brighter, more cheerful Superman milieu, particularly now that Rebirth has emphasized the more positive aspects of the fictional world. But Gleason’s blocky forms, rounded faces, and large eyes provide a visual impression of innocence, or at least winsomeness, that serves the characters and story in good stead.
Tomasi’s story is a bit less successful than the art. The book is essentially a long fight scene and its aftermath. The choice to locate the battle with the Eradicator in Bruce Wayne’s lunar Bat Cave (a literal satellite location for the Bat’s headquarters), is inspired. It even allows for the reintroduction of the Hellbat armor that featured prominently in 2014’s Robin Rising arc. Lois Lane, outfitted in the armor and determined to protect her child, has pleasing echoes of Ellen Ripley, at least for readers of a certain age.
Still, Tomasi’s purpose is obviously to cement these characters in their roles. THIS is the new Superman of the main DC continuity. THIS is the continuity’s Lois Lane. Most of all, Jon White is the Superboy of the prime world, the carrier of hope, the guardian of the future.
Superboy and the Super family are now well established. It is a daring and even brazen move, sure to anger fans of the New 52 Supermsn and those of Kon El. It was not the fault of the current SUPERMAN writers that the previous Superboy was mishandled so badly during the New 52, but they will surely endure annoyance, disapproval, and even outrage. But if we must have a controversy, it should be over something worthwhile. And the great success of Gleason and Tomasi is to prove Jon White worthwhile, indeed.