Jon Kent, the newer, younger Superman gets to mix it up with the wider DC universe in Superman: Son of Kal-El Vol 2. Aquaman (two versions), Nightwing, Batman, Lex Luthor and more show up, and Jon comes out to his mother, Lois Lane.
After the set up of Volume 1, writer Tom Taylor can really get into the story. Jon Kent’s made an enemy of Henry Bendix, the autocratic ruler of Genosha, and Bendix is fighting back with his own team of superheroes and a media disinformation campaign painting Superman as the villain. Meanwhile Nightwing steps in to take on a mentor role to the young superhero.
Cian Tormey creates the art for most of this collection, with extra issues by Nightwing artist Bruno Redondo, and Steve Pugh and Clayton Henry stepping in for the 2021 Annual that brings old-school Superman villain Lex Luthor into the mix. Together they make this a handsome read. Tormey is a natural fit to take over from John Timms, continuing that already established languid style. Jon Kent is a muscle twink compared to his father’s beefier build. While Redondo draws some of the most classicly handsome figures in modern comics; Dick Grayson looks fine under his pen!
This volume is filled with big action and big emotions, but the brightness of the artwork keeps things light and entertaining. Jon Kent is, in many ways, a more anxious and “emo” version of Superman, but juxtaposed with the vibrant colours and beautiful imagery, the book never feels leaden or too heavy. It manages to jump from Love, Victor style emotional drama to the big spandex punches with ease.
The choice of guest stars feels very deliberate, from fellow young hero Jackson Hyde, the new, gay Aquaman, to queer favourite Nightwing. Jon Kent may be dealing with his dad’s absence but he’s not alone. His coming out scene to his mother Lois is as cute as it is cathartic, and plays a fun line between “she’s a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist” and “she was confused by a pair of glasses for years”.
Taylor keeps the stories grounded in the world of youthful activism. The climate crisis is front and centre, as is the use of manipulative media and politicians who knowingly lie to the public to drum up support. Even Lois Lane has to play a little dirty—but she walks a very fine ethical line—to get the job done.
In terms of the world of LGBTQ+ comics, Superman: Son of Kal-El has settled into a nice “comfort-queer” vibe. It’s still a superhero book, with Jon’s sexuality seamlessly spread through the fabric of his adventures. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to read a book like this when I was thirteen, but I can only hope it’s giving younger readers exactly what they deserve from a Superman comic: hope.
By Chad Armstrong
Superman: Son of Kal-El Volume 2 (collecting Superman: Son of Kal-El #7-10, Nightwing #89, and Superman: Son of Kal-El 2021 Annual #1) is out now at your local comics retailer.