Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente and Paul Mounts
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
I’ve always considered it one of the great injustices of modern comics that Brian Michael Bendis and David Lafuente’s Ultimate Comics Spider-Man didn’t get 100 issues and a movie, but seeing them reunite on a full issue with the Super-Sons might just be the next best thing.
Given the massive changes in Jon Kent’s status quo, Superman #16 is a fun character piece about two friends reconnecting in the wake of some huge shake-ups. For those who haven’t been keeping up with the Bendis Superman titles, Lois and Clark’s son Jon took an interstellar trip with his grandfather Jor-El… and through the wonders of time travel, came back three weeks later as a full-blown teenager. While many other writers would be twisting themselves into knots figuring out the continuity implications of such a move, Bendis goes back to his roots by focusing on the human concerns - namely, what happens when this time-lost Superboy returns home to his BFF.
I’ve said this in other reviews, but it bears repeating - David Lafuente is one of the most engaging and energetic cartoonists in the industry, and the fact that he’s not headlining a massive book of his choice is criminal. If you don’t like the way his character shapes are exaggerated, don’t @ me — it’s a great way for him to establish a bounciness to his style, as well as to lean into the over-the-top expressiveness of his teenage heroes, and to give extra energy to a story that is punctuated by brief bursts of action.
Just like he crushed it with Peter Parker all those years ago, Lafuente does great work with Jon Kent and Damian Wayne - Damian is a total pipsqueak, while Jon has already grown up into manhood (albeit in a way that looks distinct from Lafuente’s brief work with Superboy Kon-El in Young Justice). And given that much of the script takes place in montage, it means that Lafuente’s work is all killer and no filler, bouncing between glorious bites of Gotham’s legendary Gargoyle Dogs to rescuing cats from a burning building. It all looks incredible.
Lafuente’s showstopping art also fits Bendis’s script nicely - this is definitely on the looser side of what Bendis usually writes, but because he keeps his focus on Jon and Damian’s banter, it’s an easy and engaging read. While there are some bits that don’t quite work - particularly trying to shoehorn some jokes in about Leviathan that don’t really land - but by and large these feel like normal, everyday kids whose friendship feels real and lived-in. It’s also a great way to steer Jon towards his new status quo with the Legion of Superheroes - while it’d be easy to focus on the melancholy side of leaving your friends, family, and timeline behind, Damian reminds us how exciting that opportunity is. “It sounds like college but… better.”
Given all the heaviness of both Superman and Action Comics as they’ve juggled "The Unity Saga" and Event Leviathan, Superman #16 is just a breath of fresh air, given the character-driven storytelling and the out-of-this-world artwork. Bendis and Lafuente have been strong collaborators that haven’t been given their due, but there’s hope that a standalone comic this good might be the first step towards changing that. Comic books like this are a reminder that you don’t need big events or crazy high concepts to make quality, engaging stories - sometimes all you need are two friends having a night on the town.