Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 shows just how stressful being Superman is (Especially when Bendix hits you with some solar energy.) in a focused story from Tom Taylor, John Timms, and Hi-Fi. Jon Kent think he can save everyone thanks to his little power boost that enhances his strength and speed, but it also increases his stress levels and leads to a kind of superpowered burnout. This is a comic for anyone who has taken on way too much at work or school and just can’t handle it any more as Taylor and Timms zeroes on Jon’s emotions and also set up a little romance with Jay, a journalist and metahuman.
John Timms and Hi-Fi’s visuals drive home how overworked Jon is while Tom Taylor’s plot has Jon Kent flying all over the world and only delegating a single task to a fellow superhero, The Flash, who definitely knows what he’s going through. Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 features several single and double page spreads with darting figures everywhere. There’s one page in particular where Timms and Hi-Fi depict Jon as just a red blur grabbing every citizen of a town in Luxembourg that has been overwhelmed by a flood. However, when Jon is portrayed in close-up, John Timms draws him with dark circle and beads of sweat coming down his face showing that he’s ill, and although he’s bulletproof, he still gets tired. A concept that comes into play throughout the comic is control with Jay and The Aerie finally telling Jon to take a break because people around the world are filming and saying that he can’t control himself.
These reality checks combined with Taylor’s narration for Jon shows how much self-control it takes to be Superman. You can’t just fly around willy-nilly: that shit is for Miracleman or Homelander. He and John Timms are digging into a vein of Superman story that can be great (The ending Superman vs. Darkseid battle in Justice League Unlimited) or not so great (Superman Returns video game). They create tension through Jon having to maintain control of his enhanced abilities and avoiding collateral damage that would directly contradict his mission to save everyone. However, the events of Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 are a wake up call for his youthful idealism and stress the importance of self-care and not filling one’s plate too much. But because Jon Kent’s job involves the difference between life or death, this sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, and the issue wraps up with him again going into action.
The cover of Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 isn’t misleading as Tom Taylor and Timms continue to flesh out the relationship between Jon and Jay. In-story, a big deal isn’t made about Jon’s sexuality: he and Jay have chemistry and an emotional bond so they smooch. It’s refreshing and reads like your standard superhero romantic subplot instead of some kind of Glee-esque very special issue although that’s the kind of media coverage this comic has been getting. (Just saying, Superman being bi would have been a huge deal for me as a queer kid so I’m 100% okay with all the hype and have enjoyed laughing at the ignorant cretins on Fox News and right wing Twitter.) I enjoy the back and forth that Taylor writes for Jon and Jay, and how sensitive Jay is to Jon’s needs giving him noise-canceling headphones so he can take a break from saving the day. Previous comics have laid the ground for their activism-driven approach to superheroics so Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 is really the culmination of everything as they’re ready to fight Bendix in upcoming issues. Also, Hi-Fi’s colors play an underrated part in showing Jon and Jay’s feelings for each other as the studio uses softer lighting compared to Jon’s frenetic flying and superheroing. The vibe for their first kiss is more like a Carly Rae Jepsen live show than a cape book.
Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 is character, not plot-driven as Tom Taylor, John Timms, and Hi-Fi dig into Jon Kent’s emotions at both work and play. He has great power, but he also has limitations. However, smooching a cute boy and taking some time for self-care will help with that so that Jon is back in action and using his powers in a social justice-tinged way.
Story: Tom Taylor Art: John Timms
Colors: Hi-Fi Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 9.0 Art:8.5 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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