I want to like this series more than I actually do. The setup of Superman being a new father is neat, I like his new son Jon, and we get to see the two of them go on adventures where dad can be as big a damn hero as he wants. Whether it’s foiling some small-time robbers at the local county fair, escaping from Dinosaur Island with the last of the Losers, or helping Frankenstein and The Bride capture an intergalactic fugitive, these stories feel tailor-made for Superman to handle.
So what’s missing? Well, even though it’s great to see Superman being unabashedly heroic again writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason aren’t doing much new here. It’s hard not to enjoy stories that have Clark enjoy a night out at the county fair with his family and foil a robbery by not breaking cover, smack around some dinosaurs and a giant ape, or trade blows with Frankenstein. While the father-son dynamic between Supes and his son does add something of a new perspective on these stories, they still manage to play out as straightforwardly as you’d expect.
All of this isn’t actually bad, it’s just too beholden to formula to be really entertaining. I’ll save my actual feelings of disappointment to the Superboy/Robin team-up two-parter. Here’s something that should’ve been easy to make work: The first team-up between Superman and Batman’s sons. Seeing this superhero odd couple try to work together should’ve made for the most entertaining story in the volume. Instead, Tomasi and Gleason spend too much time on showing how much these two don’t get along that the feeling of brotherhood the writers are trying to sell feels hollow. This is clearly meant to be a lead-in to the “Super Sons” series Tomasi is writing, and it winds up setting a low bar for him to clear there.
Fortunately the artists involved in these stories, Jorge Jimenez, Doug Mahnke, and Gleason himself, are thoroughly invested in making these adventures look as exciting as possible. Jimenez brings lots of warmth and energy to the “Smith” family’s night at the fair, making ordinary adventures and superheroics look fun. Mahnke was clearly born to do a story where Superman and his son fight dinosaurs, and his work on the Frankenstein story isn’t too bad either. My one issue with his work here is that I miss the rougher linework I’ve seen from him in the past. The thin style he has on display here does the job well enough, but it’s not his best work. Gleason’s art is probably the best part of the Superboy/Robin team-up — all exaggeration and energy.
Maybe I’m too old and familiar with superhero tropes to fully get into the stories being told here. It’s possible that what’s here would be best appreciated by kids who are Jon’s age. Still, I’d rather see Tomasi and Gleason try to give us something genuinely new rather than rely on the new Superman/Superboy dynamic to make things entertaining. Maybe we’ll get that in the next volume as they follow up on what Grant Morrison started in “The Multiversity.”