Friday, October 27, 2017

REVIEW: Super Sons #8

SUPER SONS #8, Nov. 2017.
Main cover by Jorge Jimenez.
©DC Comics
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Date: Nov. 2017
On-Sale: Sept. 20, 2017
Cover Price: $3.99
Format: Standard, 32 pgs
Variants: 2 covers

“Planet of the Capes, Part Three” (20 pgs)
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: ALS’s Dave
Editors: Paul Kaminski & Eddie Berganza


A fun story that puts a lot on the table, in terms of new characters introduced and concepts to consider, but also leaves a lot on the table, in terms of how truly great it could have been. *** MOSTLY RECOMMENDED***

STORY SUMMARY (spoilers!):
We start in media res, or, more correctly, in tentacles tangled! If you look carefully in the background of the first panel, you can see the dimensional rift Superboy and Robin fell though. It’s easy to miss, though, and so, while our heroes are kind enough with their WTFing to expositorially catch us up on what sent them here — although it might’ve been even more helpful to say “Kraklow the Magician,” rather than, “that Kraklow guy” —  the reader can be forgiven for not realizing we’re on an alien world. Hell, I read the last issue and I didn’t get it at first myself. That, I think, somewhat lessens the impact when, on the next page, we learn <gasp> this planet is alive!

Luckily, the boys are saved from certain death by the sudden appearance of two new heroes, Hard Time and BigShot. Big Shot mostly shoots guns and uses a jet pack. I did not actually notice it until my second read-though when drafting this review, but Hard Time appears to exhibit some super-powers — super-strength and jump-style flight, for instance. So, basically, while Superboy and Robin are pubescent white boys, what we have were are otherworldly analogs who happen to be pubescent black girls. That’s cool.

As Superboy and Robin try to decide just how cool, we get some of the classic Tomasi bickering, with the boys being just insulting enough to make it funny to the reader, but not so cruel, even with Damian involved, to make them seem cruel and unlikable. That is an incredibly fine line to walk and Tomasi has thus far done it expertly in this series, which is probably why it’s just about my favorite thing now being published by DC.

It’s during this sequence that Robin reveals he and Superboy can understand the girls because he “jacked” a couple of universal translators from the Justice League. This will create a logic issue later. Wait for it.

Superoy and Robin join in the fight and the tentacles are quickly defeated. The two super-duos then take off, with the boys recounting their backstory off panel, since, we can presume, they presume the reader to have read the last issue. Luckily, I did. The girls then explain the planet is indeed alive and its name is Ygarddis. That seemed familiar so I googled it. No hits not related to this issue.

Of course, this raises the question in my mind of why a living planet, presumably an organic creature, would control metallic robot tentacles. So, unless we get some explanation in subsequent issues, I’m just going to conclude this particular design element was not thought through beyond, “Hey, this’ll look cool!”

There’s a cute bit here when Superboy asks the girls if they just live on Ygarddis, like birds that hang out on alligators. You see, they don’t know what an alligator is. Or a bird. So much for the universal translator. Unless the girls don’t have alligators or birds on their planet, I guess. This will create a logic problem later on. Wait for it.

The girls’ planet is named Eoroe. No hits on that, either. Or more correctly, Eoroe was their planet. Seems Yarddis came along and swallowed it whole. Eoroe had been a very earthlike world with generations of super-heroes of its very own. And, oh, look, in the flashback scene, many of them can fly. In fact, a couple of them even have wings. You know . . . like birds. Hmmmmm.

Luckily, the girls were among the few inhabitants saved by the magician Kraklow, and they fight on now, trying to find a way to defeat Ygarddis while also struggling each day just to live one more day.

Robin, of course, being the detective, quickly picks up on the Kraklow name drop, but everyone decides they’re must be talking about two different Kraklows, because the one Superboy and Robin dealt with is kind of a dunce, despite some magic clay he had. But the girls note their Kraklow made use of a similar clay, which was abundant on their world. At least before Ygarddis ate it.

The kid quartet then arrives at Hard Time and BigShot’s makeshift village, which may be something they created, or the jungle-reclaimed remnants of a Eoroe city. It’s hard to tell. We see a few inhabitants, but they are all in silhouette or colored similarly to the background, so they’re real easy to miss. I did not see them at all on the first read. If you look closely, they appear to be busy digging for something, and that may pay off in a subsequent issue. It sure doesn’t in this one, though.

Once in the village, Robin makes a bit of a big deal about stepping in a mud puddle. That also is placed on the mantle for probable use in a later issue. It’s left stranded in this one though, and so seems an odd detail to waste panel time on.

Then another version of the Faceless Hunter Superboy and Robin fought last issue shows up, scaring a little boy. I had initially taken this boy to be completely random, maybe even transported here by the hunter, until the second read when I realized we had seen other people in this village. Our heroes then leap into action. Robin binds the hunter in his bat line, discovering it is made of clay. After all, “SKLLUKK” is the sound of a bat line winding around a lump on clay on any world. He then orders Superboy to make like the Big Bad Wolf, and Jon so accommodates, freezing the hunter, which BigShot then kicks into a quadrillion pieces.

It occurred to me to wonder why the Faceless Hunter was back. Before, he was created by Earth-Kraklow. Why that form? We don’t know. So, was this Hunter also sent by Kraklow? It seems as if it was sent by Ygarddis. But if so, why would he choose this same form? Is this the clay’s default humanoid shape when to wants to get ambulatory? But then we have to recall that during the girl’s recounting of Eoroe’s history, we see a scene of all the heroes squaring off against a giant that looks enough like a Faceless Hunter that it probably is a Faceless Hunter. So, the most probable explanation is that the clay is spontaneously taking a form from the memory of its former master, Eoroe-Kraklow. Of course, another possibility is that the giant the Eoroe heroes faced was something made by Eoroe-Kraklow and that he, too, is (or was, we don’t know if he’s still alive) secretly a villain.

Anyway, Robin picks up a piece of the resulting rubble pile and announces he has a theory, and, as the heroes stride off, Superboy turns and gives a thumbs up to the frightened boy, who, to judge from this panel, may actually be an Ewok.

Meanwhile, at Ygarrdis’ core, the living planet appears to be making an army of soldiers out of the same clay, each resembling a former, now dead hero, of Eoroe. At least that’s my interpretation. He could be resurrecting the actual heroes using the clay. Or there may be no clay involved at all. Or these could be heroes from some other world Ygarddis ate, or even creations of his own, given that none appear to be an exact match for any of the heroes we saw in the earlier flashback when the girls were describing their now-dead world.

Later, back on the unnamed village, we see Robin swinging across what is now definitely a city. From the skyline, it’s worth noting that Ygarddis has at least three moons. It’s sort of interesting that a living planet has satellites. Are they alive, too? Are they only where he happens to be at this moment, or do they follow him around the galaxy?

Speaking of which, as Robin gets back to the room where Superboy is trying to sleep, they discuss how the air here is thicker and more pungent than on Earth. But at least there’s a yellow sun, Robin says,  which is, of course, good for Superboy. But that raises another question — to wit: If Ygarddis travels around the galaxy going all Galactus on various planets, why is there any sun at all? He’d spend a lot of time between suns, wouldn’t he? Why then has he chosen to hang in Eoroe’s solar system, assuming that’s where we are?

As the heroes continue to talk, Superboy works out the whole two Kraklows thing — that the good Kraklow of this universe must have given his magic clay to the dim-witted Kraklow of Earth, little realizing he would use it for nefarious purposes. He also concludes that it’s the clay that Ygarddis actually feeds off of. Apparently, he just eats planets because they have magic clay inside — kind of like how Mr. Owl always takes three licks of a Tootsie Pop. This also may explain why Ygarddis is content to park it next to a yellow sun. He’s probably sleepy. It is, after all, a well-known fact that magic clay is just loaded with tryptophan!

While this conversation is going on, Robin mentions how he does not trust the water on Ygarddis, and so makes a production out of purifying a glass of it before he’ll drink it. At least that what I presume he does. He doesn’t really explain what he’s doing. He could just as easily be mixing himself a martini.

This whole water thing may or may not be related to the mud puddle Robin had a fit about, and it will probably play into the ultimate solution to the problem, which will be great and not seem to come out of left field at all for the reader who’s read and remembers this issue a month or two from now.

And then, as Robin hands Superboy a martini of his own, Ygarddis’ big fat planet face bursts in with all the probably-dead/maybe-clay heroes of old Eoroe, just in time for the big last page cliffhanger.

Superboy (Jonathan Kent), Robin (Damian Wayne), Hard Line (first appearance), Big Shot (first appearance); Supporting Players: None; Villains: Ygarrdis, the Macrocosm (first appearance); Kraklow (of Earth-Rebirth and Eoroe universes, both mentioned only); The Faceless Hunter (in the form of a magic clay animatron. Others: Various unnamed heroes of Eoroe (seen in flashback, most now presumed dead, first appearance all); an unnamed young Eoroeian boy (or an Ewok)

Ygarddis, the Macrocosm (living planet, first appearance), an unnamed village on Ygarddis, Eoroe (in flashback, other dimensional planet eaten by Ygarddis)

Robin’s grappling line, Big shot’s explosive grenades; Powers: Superboy’s super-breath.

SUPER SONS #8, Nov. 2017
Alt. cover by Dustin Nguyen.
©DC Comics
COVER (7.25/10)
It’s alright. I don’t love it. It’s a good idea, but I’m not super wild about the layout. At least the spotting of blacks. Or maybe it’s the coloring. But both of the heroes seem a little too lost in the tentacles. Robin’s left arm, for example, gets entirely lost and you kind of have to look twice to see it at all. I would have advised to reposition it — perhaps flailing in a way that helps lead the eye back toward Superbo, but at least at an angle that leaves room to show his ‘R’ symbol and more of his red tunic.

Also, with the tentacles rising from some green checkerboard area, it gives the impression that they are a physical manifestation of some virtual reality A.I. tech, and not part of a living planet. I half wonder if this cover was drawn first, maybe even before Tomasi himself had decided the tentacles would be part of a living planet, and that’s why the tentacles inside the book are metallic robot arms, when logic would seem to dictate they be made of earth and rock, or some organic material.

The alternate cover by Dustin Nguyen is a nothingburger that has nothing to do with anything, I’m sorry to say. It is completely generic and (worse) kind of boring.

PLOT (7.00/10)
At first blush there seems to be a lot going on, but really, it’s just a fight with tentacles then debating what’s going on until the inevitable last page teaser. That’s precisely where the issue should have ended, I think, so the question is how best to fill the time until then? Had it been me editing, I would have encouraged Tomasi to lose the fight with yet another Faceless Hunter. As noted, using the character again introduces ambiguity as to why different villains who’ve never met keep using the same clay construct. But moreso, his appearance really isn’t necessary to our heroes figuring out what the magic clay is all about and how it works, and we have plenty of action with the tentacle fight. Cutting those three pages would have allowed one page added to the tentacle fight, which, when redrafting other parts of that confrontation a smidge, would’ve allowed room to better flesh out the personalities and powers of Hard Line and BigShot because, as it is, the exist to exposit on the history of Eoroe, but otherwise come off as static characters, with not real personalities of their own. We don’t ever really get a clear idea of what their powers are.

I mean, does BigShot have any? It doesn’t appear so, but Hard Line’s request for “no powers, please” as the quartet enters her village betrays an apparent belief that super-powers are common among folk she hangs with. I mean, it only makes sense for her to request no powers of the boys if she were to assume having powers was more common than not, and that would imply BigShot also has powers. And just how analogous to Superboy and Robin are the girls? Is BigShot a self-reliant jerk and Hard Line an overly-optimistic do-gooder. We have no idea. That they exist and that the grew up longing to one day join their world’s super-hero set is really all we know about them.

The other two pages frees by excising the Hunter would have been best put to use by seeing some of Robin’s exploration of the city, or better, the girls giving the boys a tour. This would’ve allowed more room to flesh out their characters and, more importantly, allowed the creators to engage in a bit of Weisinger-style world building.

We should have seen enough to really experience just how similar Eoroe was to Earth, and how different, giving the reader reason to mourn its loss (fueling requests to see more and/or feeding fan fiction of a world that was), while also driving genuine fear into Superboy and Robin that, should a Ygarddis exist in their universe, the very same fate might befall Earth.

And of course, while touring the city, some small bit could’ve happened to allow Superboy to big brother an Ewok, so that we still get a but of that telling interaction.

SCRIPT (8.75/10)
Here I have few problems. As already mentioned, I am very happy with how Tomasi writes his dialogue for Superboy and Robin — two distinct characters, who are clearly young boys and slightly immature, but who are both basically good at heart, though they approach problems from different angles.

My only issue this outing is with the whole “birds” joke. I really don’t think we needed the translator explanation for why the boys could understand the girls. And how could the girls understand the boys? Did they jack translators from the Justice Squad of Eoroe before Ygaddis did his Jonah and the Planet reenactment? Maybe the boys’ translators have outgoing as well as incoming dictionaries? And, as already noted, the “What’s a bird?” joke fails the moment we see Eoroe had birds (or at least winged super-heroes). So, clearly, the translator should have turned “bird” into whatever word the girls have for the concept of animals capable of winged flight.

Instead of monkeying with translators at all, it would have been better to just presume that, since Eoroe is basically at alternate Earth, it has a language very like English, just with maybe a difference in words here and there. For instance, maybe they call birds, floogenshnoogles. And, of course, it makes sense that not every Earth in the mutlitverse calls itself Earth. The Bgztl example instructs us of that. And having a different world for Earth, despite the other similarities of language, would’ve by itself helped inform and set up the “What’s a bird?” line.

Read Time:
Words: 1,449
Words/Page: 72.45

• “By your moth—AAGHH!.” ~Robin

• Superboy: “Who the H are they?”
Robin: “I have no idea. And you’re parents are a whole dimension away. You can curse here.”

• Robin: “Why does everyone always assume if someone’s taller they’re older?”
Superboy: “And usually smarter.”

• “Don’t make too much noise. We’d rather not attract the planet’s attention.” ~Hard Line.

• Robin: “Priority Number One: Get home.”
Superboy: “Agreed. But also help the people here.”
Robin: “There’s only one Priority Number One! That’s the whole point.”

• Hard Line (on observing the results of Superboy’s super breath): “How did you do that?”
Superboy: “I just blew really hard. It’s kinda an inherited thing.”

• “I’ve got a theory.” ~ Robin (who always has a theory)

• “Feed. Create. Feed. Create. Feed. Create. Feed. Create.” ~Ygarddis (a planet of many passions)

• Superboy: "I’ve been to the moon and lotsa other weird places with my dad. You?”
Robin: "Apokolips. Long Story.”
Superboy: “What was it like?"
Robin: “Hell. Pray you never see it.”

LAYOUT (8.25/10)
Generally strong. Although Jimenez has a touch of the Neal Adams disease, in that when the action starts, the panels get all tilty at weird angles. Sometimes that enhances the sense of drama. But often there’s no real call for it and it only serves to confuse the reading. The panels here are pretty easy to read here, though, so not harm, no foul, I guess.

Panels: 78
Panels/Page: 3.90

ARTWORK (8.75/10)
Nice. Jimenez has a good ink line with nicely varied weight that really helps to give the characters depth. I also like that his kids look like kids, even if his Superboy can sometimes get a little cartoony and we sometimes get anime big-mouth syndrome. I did not much like the design on the scared village boy, however.

EDITING (5.75/10)
So, what can I say — everything I bitched about in the plat and script sections is something the editor should have fixed.

• The Faceless Hunter was originally a one-off character from a cover story to STRANGE ADVENTURES #124 (on sale Nov. 25, 1960), having arrived on Earth from Klaramar, a world revolving around an atom in the clouds of Saturn. The monster proved popular enough that he popped up twice more, in STRANGE ADVENTURES #142 and #153. He then entered limbo, missing the Bronze Age entirely, not appearing again until the Copper Age, as a member of The Forgotten Villains, in DC COMICS PRESENT #77 (on-sale Oct. 4, 1984).

• Pomo Page — DC ALL ACCESS, “Batman Day is being taken over by Harley Quinn.” (mentions three free books being issued to comics shops for “Batman Day” September 23, all featuring Harley Quinn in celebration of the character’s 25th anniversary.

• PIN-UP PAGE — “Celebrating 25 years of the Clown Princess of Crime! “ Features six classic Batman covers with Harley Quinn inserted into the action.

PRODUCTION (9.25/10)
High marks all the way around. No complaints.

Ad Pages: 38.89%
Paid Ads: 22.22%

Snickers “Crabby” comic-style ad, with Flash and Superman vs. “Gorilla Grodd. (full page, cut down and panels re-ordered from 2-page ad last month) [Drawn by ?]
• DC Collectibles Batman Vs. Harley Quinn battle statues (full page).
• LEGO Ninjago Garma Mecha Man kit, based on the THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVE now in theaters (inside back cover).
• WONDER WOMAN movie “includes bonus scene not seen in theaters” and “Certified fresh [by] Rotten Tomatoes.” Availble on digital DVD Aug. 29, and Blu-Ray Sept. 19
• HARLEY AND IVY MEET BETTER AND VERONICA, limited series co-published with Archie Comics, starting in October (full page).
• GOTHAM CITY GARAGE, new series “inspired by the DC Collectibles statue line,” coming in October (3/4 page)
• DC COMICS free digital comic download code under peel-off sticker. (1/4 page)
DOLLAR VALUE (6.00/10)
Not bad for a modern comic. It does occupy my time for 12 minutes, and has some additional editorial material to boot. But it’s still a $4 comic, and that’s not good.

 Page Value.
(Cover Price/Pages)
Story: 18¢/pg.
Total: 20¢/pg.

 Entertainment Value.
(Cover Price/Reading Time)
Story: 33¢/min.
Total: 28¢/min.

Well, I imagine this series is going to remain in my collection until the day my estate is auctioned off over my cold, dead body. I don’t see me wishing I’d never bought into it and selling it off in years to come. That said, this issue will probably never have much after market value, and I wouldn’t expect it to fetch much above cover price come auction time. That is unless Hard Line and BigShot make a splash and become significant characters, driving collectors to seek out their first appearance. In that case, the relatively low print run on this book (about 32,615 copies ordered by comics shops, according to should mean a steep climb in value.

Very Good:
Very Fine:
Near Mint: $4.00

Not nearly as high as a score as it should have been. As noted, I really wanted to be. I mean, again, imagine the sense of wonder had this same story been done during the Mort Weisinger era! The things we would have seen, and the future stories those few panels would have led to! Imagine fanboys on the interweb debating the world of Eoroe 40 years from now! But it’s not to be.

Interestingly, although Hard Line and BigShot are gender and race benders for Superboy and Robin, every other Eoroeian hero seen seems to be white, and gendered as one might expect. There is only one character who, by hair and facial features, in probably black. He appears to have a Superman-like chest symbol, so odds are he will be revealed as Hard Line’s dad. Whether any of the other characters get names remains to be seen, but we have a beefy demon-looking character with bat wings (seen in the flashback and the final attack) who might end up being our Batman analog, and a woman with long white hair and a circular medallion (seen in the flashback and on the “Feed. Create.” page, who could be Eoroe’s Wonder Woman. We’ll have to wait and see.

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