Ricky Church reviews Superman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 1…
Its an easy argument to say Superman has had a tough time in comics in the last few years. DC’s New 52 reboot was, many fans felt, contrary to many of the core characteristics and ideals of Superman in his line of comics. Gone was his marriage to Lois Lane, instead replaced by relationship with Wonder Woman, and, for most of the New 52’s time, his job at the Daily Planet. Even his demeanour was different; depending on the writer, Superman was depicted as fairly brooding and grim with the exception of Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics and Geoff John’s brief arc on Superman.
DC Rebirth has not only been a return to form for the company, but for the Man of Steel himself. Superman by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason sees his marriage with Lois not only restored, but grown into a full fledged family. Thanks to the reboot and outside forces changing the DC universe, Superman and Lois have a 10 year old son named Jon who is going through the same changes Clark went through when he was younger. In Superman: the Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 1, family is everything is this grand and insightful return for Superman.
Much like they did with their Batman and Robin run, Tomasi and Gleason examine Superman’s new role as a father. Previous Superman stories have shown him as a father and mentor figure to younger heroes, but its an entirely different feel now that he has an actual flesh and blood son. Tomasi has a great handle on Superman, embodying his core characteristics in the Rebirth era. He’s confident, charismatic, has the perfect blend of seriousness and camp, and is every bit as heroic as he should be. The series offers a great rebuttal to The New 52 and what it is that makes Superman such a great hero and character.
Jon is an interesting character and one who, much like young Clark Kent, is very much trying to figure out his powers and place in the world. Unlike Clark, Jon is a being of two worlds, being the continued legacy of Krypton and having Earth DNA thanks to Lois. This is one of the primary themes of the first story arc, ‘Son of Superman’, as a Kryptonian creation tries to eradicate the human genes in Jon to retain Krypton. Jon is a sympathetic character and Tomasi makes you feel for him as he grows into his new abilities, sometimes with devastating results. Jon’s presence brings a lot of fun to the series and opens both Superman and Lois up in new and interesting ways as they navigate parenting a superpowered child.
Lois is also given a good characterization and shows just how formidable she can be when cornered or protecting Jon. There’s a great moment where she suits up in one of Batman’s tech suits to save Jon from The Eradicator and later again as she helps fight a monster in their new hometown. Lois doesn’t get quite as much time as she does in Action Comics, but she’s still great and has some very nice chemistry with Superman in these stories, particularly the chapter ‘Our Town’.
The book collects the Superman: Rebirth one shot and Superman #1 – 13, making this a fairly lengthy collection. Readers will really enjoy the stories of Superman’s ‘return’ and time with his family. ‘Son of Superman’ is the main story, lasting six issues, but the others are just as entertaining. ‘Our Town’ is an insightful story about the Kent family enjoying the town fair and features very little Superman. There is also the great ‘In the Name of the Father’ where Tomasi and Gleason return to Damien Wayne as something of a back-door pilot to Super Sons, showing the first meeting between Jon and Damien while Superman and Batman try to keep them at bay.
There are also a couple issues tying into Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier as a tribute to the late writer/artist that is not only fun and heartfelt, but part of the overarching narrative in the series. The book ends on a fairly Lois-centric tale as she and Superman help Frankenstein find a monster in Hamilton County. That story isn’t quite as good as the others, but still showcases Lois in some nice moments.
Gleason’s art throughout the book is great, especially in the Jon/Damien story, and he perfectly captures Jon’s youth as well as Superman’s heroism. Since the book is bi-weekly, though, he shares art duties mostly with Doug Mahnke while Jorge Jimenez fills in for a couple issues. Each artist brings their own style to the book, yet they blend in fairly well together. The transition from artist to artist isn’t jarring. It helps though that, aside from ‘Son of Superman’, each artist works on their own chapter before a the next switch, and even in ‘Son of Superman’ the change from Gleason to Mahnke isn’t as bad as some other transitions.
The book also collects some variant covers as well as nice sketches from Gleason, Mahnke and Jimenez on various character designs and images in the story. Some of Tomasi’s script for Superman #1 is also included, though its only a few pages rather than the full thing. It would have been interesting to see the full script and how Gleason adapted those pages in sketch form. Nevertheless, its still a good look at the making of the series. All in all, Superman: The Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 1 is a solid entry into Superman’s new era as a father that old and new fans alike will enjoy and identify with.