Super Sons: The PolarShield Project
Super Sons: The PolarShield Project, the first of the DC Zoom titles, written by Ridley Pearson and illustrated by Ile Gonzalez, launched the publisher’s middle-grade readers imprint. It’s a shame that it gives such a poor showing. The book is a muddled mess that won’t appeal to either audience, those who know the characters or those who don’t but are interested in second-generation heroes, because much of the appeal of the concept is ignored or run away from.
The author’s foreword explains that DC encouraged him to write his own version of the world, which is a mild way of preparing the reader for a setting like one they’ve never seen. Jon Kent, son of Superman, and his mother flee a flooded Metropolis — it’s surrounded by giant walls built by Bruce Wayne’s company — for the inland city of Wyndemere. Climate change has destroyed the environment, creating refugees who suffer harassment.
The book is full of bits and pieces that never jumble together into an actual story (or get resolved here, see below). The flood walls are being sabotaged by a mysterious conspiracy, and protestors are against Wayne for not making them perfect. The nation’s capital is Coleumbria, where Superman is promptly sent into space for a suspicious science reason.
The book opens on, instead of any familiar character, the mysterious Candace (shown on the cover), who is secretly a princess with a magical tattoo and hereditary leader of the Five Fingers. This is never explained. Later in the book, she’s referred to as “an African queen or something”, which is not the most enlightened phrasing.
Damian Wayne demands to be called Ian and is upset that his father, Batman, won’t let him be Robin. So he calls himself BatKid. Jon doesn’t get a hero name.
After Jon’s mother gets sick, there’s a sudden mention of sick kids at school and a closed restaurant, which abruptly jumps the story to investigating some kind of food contamination conspiracy. It reads as though it’s almost a misprint, bringing in some other story so Jon and his sidekick, wannabe journalist Tilly, have something to investigate.
The big villain is introduced in a similarly confusing way, where Jon suddenly knows who’s behind things while the reader doesn’t know where or how he found that out.
The art does what it needs to do but is static, with no sense of flow. The few costumed action scenes are minimal and hard to follow, with not enough space (either in page length or panel size) to show wonder or excitement. The colors aren’t bright but faded and dark.
The majority of the characters are generic in design. Jon Kent is adorable, but aside from his powers, the rest of the cast could have wandered in from some other “kids save the world” story. They don’t need to match the characters in the comics — it’s probably better, for a wider audience, that they don’t — but nothing much is done with the immense potential of the concept. Most of the time, Jon purposefully doesn’t do anything, and Ian takes up space. It’s part of his character to be annoying, but here, he doesn’t have the compensating knowledge or skills that make him tolerable or understandable.
It’s unfortunate, given the sexist history of the Super Sons concept from the 70s, that this book carries on the tradition of de-emphasizing the mothers of these kids. Ian’s mom is gone and never mentioned, while Jon’s mother is finally called “Lois Kent”, halfway through, once she’s been sidelined. The lack of use of the name “Lois Lane” is weirdly obvious, particularly since the Daily Planet is used as a resource.
The final version of the book, compared to the various promotional art releases, bears a “Book 1” label on the cover, a necessary warning that none of the storylines conclude in this volume. It’s all setup and preparation for something interesting to happen at some later point. (Assuming something will — it would be a pleasant change from what’s here so far.) Book 2, The Foxglove Mission, came out in October. (Review originally posted at Good Comics for Kids.)