In Review: Superman #26

This issue captures the heart of what it means to teach a child, even if one has super powers.

The covers: Jonathan Kent, aka Superboy, stands in the foreground with his arms crossed over his chest, giving the reader his most intense look. Behind him, eclipsing the majority of the background is the Man of Steel. He’s a proud papa as shown by his barely visibly smile and the hands he has warmly placed on his son’s shoulders. Great illustration of the two, even if one’s face is obscured by the title, but that is a clue to the story within. Lee Weeks and Brad Anderson have done a terrific job on this Regular cover. The Variant cover is by Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez and it’s the reason why I picked this book up. Based on the iconic Superman #14 cover by Fred Ray, who is given credit above the artists’ signatures, Superman smiles with a bald eagle on his left arm, standing before a stars and stripes shield. Jimenez has done a bang up job on this and the colors, especially the highlights on the characters, by Sanchez are tops. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: This story features the greatest challenge for the Man of Steel — parenting. The first two pages show young Clark, being awoken by his adoptive father. Pa Kent tells young Clark that today he’s going to run the farm all by himself, but with one caveat, he can’t use his powers. His father tells him “–See, I know you think you can run this farm better than me. You’re under the impression that my years of experience are no match for all the things you can do. Well, son, you’re going to learn how valuable experience can be.” Left alone, pouting behind a tractor, Clark vows, “I am so going to show you, Pa.” In the present, grown up Clark, wearing his Superman costume, is in the kitchen of his house telling wife Lois how things went badly with Jon as they were fighting some robots. “He thinks the only muscles he needs to flex are below his neck. And that’s…that’s not the way I’ve ever done things.” This is alternated with the incident, ending with Superboy jumping the gun on the mass of metal warriors, much to his father’s chagrin. “Brains vs. Brawn” by Michael Moreci initially began with me groaning at the premise of a “teaching” issue. By the end of the issue I was completely won over by this tale and it had me getting misty at both endings, reminding me that everyone needs to be taught: the student and the teacher. As a school teacher of twenty-five years, yeah, it got to me. There are some great moments when Superman tries to teach his son to hold back on the muscle, such as on Pages 8 and 11. Two serious, and established, threats arrive and it’s time for the son to show the father what he’s learned. The final two pages show how both fathers realized that they learned something from their super power sons and it gave me goosebumps. Not only did story have the action, but the heart that a Superman tale must have. Thank you, Mr. Moreci. Overall grade: A+

The art: Scott Godlewski does a good job on the visuals off this book. I was fearful that I would confuse the flashbacks to Clark with the present scenes with Jonathan, but both characters were easy to differentiate. When Clark is told he’s going to run the farm by himself he has the look of joy that any tween would have at hearing their greatest wish is to be granted. This leads to the complete opposite emotion at the bottom of Page 2. On the following page Clark and Lois’s conversation is alternated with Superman and Superboy’s battle with the bots. It looks good with one exception, Superman’s face. This was a constant problem: his head is too bulky, too much like a rectangle. He’s gotten a pronounced profile from other artists over his long run, but Godlewski has his head just way too big. Look at Pages 3, 5, 6, etc. If his head is tilted downwards or shown in profile, it’s ginormous. The last panel on Page 8 has it just looking poor. Using the greater than symbol on his chin isn’t helping. If the title character on a book isn’t illustrated correctly, it’s going to impact the enjoyment on the reader. 11 repeats this awkwardly drawn hero, and it’s spread to Jon. Outside of Superman, everything else looks fine. His page layout is great, with 9, 11, and 12 being standouts; I like how he has one panel on each without borders to draw attention to it and make it the strongest image on the page. I was really impressed by the shorter of the two antagonists, who’s never really looked threateningly before (and I have this character’s first appearance), but here he does. I like the visuals, but not the lead. Overall grade: B-

The colors: The colors on the book are by Hi-Fi, who do another spectacular job. The third panel on the first page shows a bright light entering Clark’s room and the highlights are really well done: the curtains, the floor, and the lamp table’s coloring help establish the time of day. All of the characters have terrific shading on their skin to give them some nice depth. When Superboy connects with a villain the backgrounds go a vivid orange, upping the intensity, while Superman’s are a light aqua, giving his battles a measured response. This is a great way colors lead the reader to comprehend the fights. My favorite coloring is on Page 8 because the borders are given a yellowish tan to reflect the interior of Jon’s room. This made the discussion seem more real. The final page has a great use of color to show the sunset for all four characters. Hi-Fi always delivers. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Rob Leigh creates scene settings, dialogue, a mumble, yells, the story’s title, the book’s credits, an editorial note, alien speech, sounds, an antagonist’s speech, and the tease for next issue. The wide variety of fonts make the book a visual feast, from the slightly uneven letters to create Clark’s mumbling to the sensational alien dialogues, Leigh is on fire. I also like his scene settings, which would stand apart from the other texts due to their design, and not because of the coloring. Leigh is bringing his A game to this issue. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This issue captures the heart of what it means to teach a child, even if one has super powers. It gave me goosebumps, though the art did occasionally take me out of the story. I’d recommend this for fans and for those who haven’t read a Superman comic ever or in years. This story could create new fans. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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