The homespun charm of life in Hamilton falls apart in Superman #21. Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi make a major reveal in the second part of “Black Dawn,” as the truth about the Kents’ next door neighbors finally comes out.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Publisher: DC Comics
Here’s the official synopsis:
The Man of Steel is challenged to break his code against killing in front of his son as the mystery surrounding Hamilton deepens.
OK, that doesn’t tell you much about the issue. It picks up right after the action in Superman #20, where Batman told Superman that Jonathan’s environment might be the real reason why he still hasn’t developed all his powers. Batman was suspicious of the milk they’ve been getting from farmer Branden Cobb and his granddaughter Kathy. As usual, Batman was right. Something really mysterious and wrong is going on in Hamilton.
While trying to find Batman, Superman, Jon and Damian are distracted by a giant squid, which sets up a dramatic fight that pushes the limits of Superman’s vow not to kill in front of Jon. This comic book version of Superman (unlike a certain movie version) keeps himself from killing, but someone else in the book steps up to end the squid’s life.
Superman #21 also connects everything that we’ve seen going on in the previous 20 issues of the series since “Rebirth” began. That squid first appeared back in Superman #2 and clearly the “Dark Harvest” story in Superman #17 wasn’t just a filler.
Never forget about Damian’s Bat-Cow.
The good news with #21 is that Supes is back at the center of his own book, and I could read banter between Jon and Damian all day. This issue actually felt like a lost part of Super Sons, as if Superman was just a vehicle to make sure the younger heroes get where they need to go. We also get to see how Jon doesn’t quite understand the limits Superman sets for himself and why he does that. He has to learn that just because his father is all-powerful doesn’t mean he has to use all his powers without thinking about the consequence.
Gleason’s art in this issue is also certainly grittier than the last one. I love his opening page, where Jon mirrors his father’s own triumphant flight in a dream. It’s interesting to contrast the way Gleason draws figures of authority during the battle sequence with how he draws the main character.
Overall, Superman #21 asks more questions than it answers, especially with an eye-popping cliffhanger. Without spoiling it, we now know that Superman and his family can’t trust anyone in Hamilton.