Review – Superman #29: Vulnerable

Comic Books DC This Week
Superman #29 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Superman #29 – Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Sean Ryan, Writers; Phil Hester/Eric Gapstur, Sami Basri, Artists; Hi-Fi, Ulises Arreola, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Ray: Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s Future State mini was intense and plot-heavy, so I think it’s smart that he takes a very different tack for the first issue of his solo run. With art by Phil Hester, the main story here is at its core a very strong father-son tale. With Jon Kent back in the present after his trip with the Legion, the family is struggling to find its rhythm again. Superman and Superboy (man? How old is Jon now exactly?) battle against some alien invaders from an interdimensional breach, then catch up and talk about the time lost alongside a narration about the complex way children view their parents. It doesn’t break any new ground in terms of themes, but it does ground itself in the characters in a way that works very well.

Father and son. Via DC Comics.

But this issue isn’t as simple as all that. The interdimensional breach is more than it lets on, and we already know from solicits that we’re going to see another attempt at incorporating the Wildstorm characters into the DCU. Cutaways indicate that Amanda Waller has something to do with it, and the reveal that Superman is seemingly not invulnerable to these alien invaders adds a new sense of urgency to the story. By the time we learn exactly why Jon is so invested in this particular mission, the issue has a real emotional gut punch that’s been lacking from Superman comics for a long time. I don’t know what the master plan is here—the last Superman run that used Wildstorm elements wasn’t great—but this FEELS like Superman, and that goes a long way.

The backup by Sean Lewis and Sami Basri is an odd case, but focuses on one character we haven’t seen for a long time—Bibbo Bibbowski. Jimmy Olsen seems to be the character tying this together, but this story gets us into the head of the gruff Metropolis bartender as he finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy involving two mysterious supervillains with dark plans for the minds of Metropolis citizens. Bibbo was often a problematic character in the old days—often coming off as mentally handicapped and played for laughs—but this version dials that back and makes him a clever archetype of tough-as-nails two-fisted noir protagonists. Definitely a more straight-forward narrative than Lewis’ previous Superman stories, and it shows he has a great grasp of old-school Metropolis continuity.

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2 thoughts on “Review – Superman #29: Vulnerable

  1. Maybe I’m in the minority here. But I certainly preferred Jonathan Kent as an 11-13 year old and learning from his Dad . On the other hand , Jimmy Olsen never ages at all , that’s disappointing . Also certain writers have written that Jon could potentially be more powerful than Clark or Kara. I know it’s comics, but that doesn’t make sense. He’s only 50% Kryptonian how can that be ? Unless Lois Lane has some Meta Gene that we don’t know about .

    1. I don’t think you’re in the minority! I and most people miss the Super-Sons dynamic a lot, and there’s a fun digital-first series by Pete Tomasi continuing that right now.

      Comic book ages are weird, but I do think this is the best he’s been written as a teen/young adult so far.

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