Superman #20: Family, A Dark Knight and Deadly Dairy

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Now that the Superman: Reborn story is behind us, things begin to settle down at the Kent farm in Hamilton County. Until Batman and Robin show up.


Clark Kent is enjoying his family life as he pauses from his chores to watch Jonathan and Lois go about their day. When a storm begins to brew, Mr. Cobb (a local dairy farmer), asks Lois if she'd send his grandaughter home. He kindly suggests that she get Jonathan inside to take shelter as well. Lois clearly wants to talk about what just occurred but Clark cuts her off and says even though things have changed, they'll figure things out as a family.

This is a Clark Kent who just wants to enjoy the moment and tries not to get caught up in planning ahead.

When the storm passes, Superman goes out to check on the barn, knowing that Batman and Robin have arrived under the cloak of night. Jonathan snuck out there as well to see what was going on. When Lois intervenes, she invites everyone to come inside for coffee and pie. There is a beautiful shot of Lois shining a light on Batman and Robin that is reminiscent of 1942's Batman Vol.1 #9, cover drawn by Jack Bumley. Gleason injecting a little comic book history into this panel was a really fun homage.

While Clark and Bruce talk, Jonathan tries to figure out why they came over. As he begins to theorize, Damien slams a piece of pie in his mouth to shut him up. Lois quickly scolds the boys for getting out of line.

Bruce feels that Jonathan's powers haven't been manifesting as quickly as they should. As a matter of fact he suggests that Jonathan should be more powerful than Superman is on his best day. Clark reminds Bruce that whatever it is, they'll deal with it as a family. Whether he's blowing it off or just irritated that Bruce is intervening, Clark is clearly implying that they aren't interested in his involvement.

But that's never good enough for the Batman.

Worried about the 'worldwide ramifications' that could develop from Jonathan's unpredictable power manifestation, Bruce reminds Clark that the darkness in the world is real, and it's growing. Clark lays on the most Superman response ever by saying,

"Then we need to shine brighter."

Bruce and Damien eventually take their leave, only to have Batman investigate the Cobb Dairy Farm after learning about Jonathan's frequent guzzling of the milk. As Batman extracts some milk from prize winning 'Bessie' he runs a quick test on it to discover something's not right. A chemical reaction causes the milk to morph into some black symbiote, which quickly overtakes Batman as Mr. Cobb walks in.

Starting the issue off with a focus on family life for the Kent's, now that they are whole again, was a good choice for Gleason and Tomasi. It's nice to slow things down a bit before leaping into another problem for Superman to tackle. Lois Lane's ability to perform as a housewife is put on full display. Waiting on Clark and Bruce, and tending to the children, might not be an ideal portrayal for a supporting character such as important as Lois. She does get to voice her opinions though so she's not completely dismissed. Until the Kents make their eventual move to Metropolis, her role will be severely diminished it seems.

Even though I wasn't a fan of having Batman stick his nose in Superman's business, it IS in-character and should be expected. Are we sure that Batman's superpower isn't the ability to be in all of the comics? Anyways, Batman is always preaching some kind of 'doom and gloom' while paranoid that the worst could happen at any moment. Batman using his instincts to discover something that's been developing under Superman's nose makes perfect sense. Superman believes in hope. He believes in the best of things. He's a forever optimist. Which, if you think of it, allows him to be a flawed character. His complacency causes him to be reactive, while Batman's more of a proactive thinker.

My first reaction to Batman appearing in this issue was one of disgust. But it really reminded me why I miss having a Superman/Batman title in the lineup. These two play off of each other so well. Gleason and Tomasi do a fantastic job of contrasting them against each other, without demeaning either hero.

The art in the issue provided by Patrick Gleason (pencils), Mick Gray (inks) and John Kalisz (colors) was detailed and clean. My favorite comic book artist is Jim Lee, but even I'll admit that his pictures are often very 'busy' and can distract from the story. Gleason and his team offer beautiful characters set against backgrounds that are clear and pleasant to look at. They did a wonderful job capturing a Kansas sky and the patchwork quilt that is the countryside. As Superman flew overhead, he's accompanied by both a red and a blue bird. Symbolic of the merging of red and blue energies as seen in Superman: Reborn.

The art definitely takes a darker tone when Batman becomes involved. Which, again, puts the contrast these two heroes have on full display.

Overall this was a really good issue for new readers to jump aboard without being overly confused or feeling lost. It also provides continuity for fans who have been reading along so they can enjoy Superman as he's been progressing through Rebirth.

Written by:

Patrick Gleason and Peter J Tomasi

Art by:

Patrick Gleason (pencils), Mick Gray (inks) and John Kalisz (colors)

5.0 / 5.0