My family has always enjoyed Ridley Pearson novels.
I read his and Dave Barry’s Peter and the Starcatchers to my oldest when she was eight and got her started on that adventure. We all swept through the Kingdom Keepers series (which confirmed my suspicion that “It’s A Small World’s” dolls were evil), and his adult-level crime novels are great escapes. It’s safe to say Pearson knows how to tell a good tale.
Now, Pearson is taking on a new format, the graphic novel, and adding to DC’s offerings for younger readers with the first installment of his three-part Super Sons: The PolarShield Project illustrated by The Heroes Club co-creator Ile Gonzalez. This series is both Pearson’s and Gonzalez’s first project with DC.
The series is part of new DC Zoom imprint, with new original stories geared toward middle-grade readers, and DC Ink series for young adults, featuring Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Black Canary, and other favorites. Writers such as Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries) and Gene Yang (Avatar: The Last Air Bender) are just two of the contributors for future titles.
The first DC Zoom title, DC Super Hero Girls: Search for Atlantis, continues the incredibly popular series (a favorite of my younger daughter) by Shea Fontana, illustrated by Yancey Labat.
However, DC Super Hero Girls isn’t alone as in the “young DC heroes” world. Books and comics like Lil’ Gotham, Gotham Academy, Tiny Titans, and Secret Hero Society all demonstrate the appeal of allowing kids and teens to read stories from the perspective of characters closer to their own ages.
Pearson’s first graphic novel series is no exception, and it shows how much young people can step up to challenges when need be, all while growing a little more into the adults they will soon become.
While DC Super Hero Girls gives a fresh look some of DC’s favorites at a younger age, Super Sons shows the next generation, the sons of Superman (Jon Kent) and Batman (Damian Wayne) who, like their fathers before them, are polar opposites. They differ in personality, ideology, how they face challenges (both on a large scale and in their social circles), and especially with the relationships they have with their superhero dads.
Pearson goes one further by setting them in an entirely new universe where polar caps are melting and floodwaters are spilling into the coasts, driving a large portion of the population inland. Gotham and Metropolis exist in the nation of Coleumbria, while an evil general controls the continent across the ocean, Landis.
So far, the efforts of both Superman and Bruce Wayne (and his Project PolarShield) haven’t had much luck in stopping things.
Yet, 12-year-old Jon and 13-year-old Damian (call him “Ian”) soon find themselves having to get over their differences and work together to be the heroes the world needs them to be. We don’t even see the “World’s Greatest Heroes” after the first half of the story.
We are also introduced to two new characters, Candace and Tilly, who team up with Jon and Damian to figure out the mystery of another crisis. There’s a sudden rash of a devastating illness affecting certain individuals, including Jon’s own mother, Lois. Candace’s purpose for the reader is especially a mystery of its own, which will continue to unfold as we learn more about her possible royal lineage.
Even while tackling large-scale global issues, one of the more enduring things about this book to me is the focus on character. I’ve always liked the Super Sons series, and have to admit I was at first worried the characters would be a little watered down for the DC Zoom readers. This isn’t the case, as this first issue already gives us more than one facet of their personality, just as there is to ‘tweens and young teens today.
Jon and Damian remain the nuanced and multifaceted characters they should be, making you not only want to continue this series to find what happens but also how these two handle it.
One thing I appreciated in this book is, while even though the climate crisis will be an issue that extends throughout the entire series, they were able to nab at least one baddie, giving the reader a sense of satisfaction at the end. I find having this little bit of closure a good choice for young readers, who will want to continue to see what unfolds in the big picture but can also enjoy seeing the origins of this new young “super team” achieve a small victory.
Gonzalez’s artwork is a good fit, and her take on Damian is a little different than I’ve seen in other stories. Yet, he is still very much Bruce’s son, whether he likes it or not.
Does Pearson’s storytelling continue to hold up in graphic novel form? With this first issue of Super Sons, it looks like it very well may.
Super Sons: The Polarshield Project lands in bookstores and comic book shops on April 2.
Lisa received a PDF copy of the novel for review purposes.