‘I’m okay, pa. I am.’
Fathers and sons. That’s very much the essence of this installment of the twelve-part epic that is The Unity Saga. While the first half was dubbed Phantom Earth, #7 kicks off the second half, The House of El. Having gone a bit more outward with the DC and Krypton world, it’s time to refocus and zoom back in onto the chief clan around which so much of the story is centered. Jon’s return heralds this clear shift and we get to witness a proper Super-family reunion for the very first time in the new eraa. Jon was off and away in space with Jor-El, his grandfather up until this point and now he’s back, reunited with Lois and Clark.
Bendis and Reis kick off with a gorgeous splash of Metropolis with Superman and son, setting the tone for the rest of the issue. It’s a very telling image that captures a lot of emotion and clear context. Here’s this wondrous, beautiful world that surrounds them and yet all that matters is his son. His boy is back. It instantly puts us in Superman’s place and allows us to feel what he’s feeling. Bendis has long excelled with familial interactions and alongside Reis, continues to portray him as the caring, gentle icon and father figure here. Reis comes through with expressive character work here, which conveys the sweet concern and love that Clark has for his son, even as his son assures him he’s alright. It’s a familiar sight to most people and the work rings with such earnest emotionality which is what makes it work. Complex emotions are dealt with in a believable and understandable manner, with Sinclair bringing a lovely radiance to every moment with his palette.
Alongside this emotional beating heart, the team peppers in lovely bits of levity that feel both fitting and true to character, releasing tension when necessary and adding to it in funny ways when it calls for it. Josh Reed comes through here, delivering the dialogue of the issue, which may be Bendis’ most idiosyncratic yet on the title, with relatively ease and letting Reis’ visual storytelling do all the work, as the entire story is composed in a way makes it easy to grasp through the artwork alone.
Beyond the touching reunion moments, we get a few answers. Jon’s grown up to be seventeen now and it is no trick or transformation. What was a three-week vacation for Superman turned out to be a years long odyssey for the once young Superboy. Clark’s horror and loss at the notion of having missed out on such key years of his child strike with potency. Superman is now put in a similar position as Jor-El once was, reuniting with a son who’s grown and changed beyond his hopes and dreams and what all of that entails. It’s a thrilling parallel and a bold decision that adds intriguing conflict to the character and the family dynamics, which Bendis has consistently been improving and enhancing throughout his tenure on the title. This is no regular family. This is the Superfamily and so their struggles are magnified and enhanced onto a larger scale, despite the emotional heart being a universal one many can grasp. The feeling of your child going away and coming back different is magnified into a comic book epic involving the Lobo, The Khunds and Daxamites.
Once the reunions pass, Jon begins to reveal his secrets and the majority of the issue focuses on this flashback sequence. Drawn by Brandon Patterson, it is a bit of a jarring shift, despite it fitting with the story’s context. It certainly takes some getting used to as the styles differs so much. We go from Reis’ iconic, definitive superhero aesthetic, with Sinclair’s traditional colorwork to Peterson’s much more digital and almost rendered aesthetic. That being said, the sequences are some of Peterson’s finest work and they really do work on their own. This is where all the aforementioned cosmic figures showup, alongside the debut of the brilliant Earth-11 Superwoman-esque look Lois sports on the cover of the issue.
In the sequences, Jor-El takes his daughter-in-law and grandson to a gigantic ship resembling the Millennium Falcon, which is a fun touch. From there on, we’re shown displays of superheroics by the Grandfather and Grandson duo, taking on the likes of The Dominators and helping out people under oppression. Lobo’s debut in The Unity Saga here is also an interesting one, as he gives Jon a curious bit of advice. ‘Yer a man when you decide ta be’, Lobo tells him, before parting ways. From there, we see Lois’ departure and Jon concludes the issue by telling his parents that Jor-El is insane and something needs to be done about it. It’s a quick cliffhanger to the issue that feels a bit abrupt, as the story definitely is written for the trade and suffers from decompression on an issue-to-issue read. But regardless, the team loops back onto fathers and sons and reflections on those relationships and what one does in bonds of such nature. It’s a choice which is true to the essence of the narrative here.
Superman #7 is a slow start to the second half of Bendis and Reis’ epic saga, but it’s packed full of touching character moments and holds great promise. The team’s ability to portray familial bonds is as good as ever and it’s very much the big appeal of the narrative. In the vast world and heart of Superman, it’s family that matters most and that love and dedication cover every page.