SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Superman #42 by Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi, Alejandro Sanchez and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
Ten-year old Jonathan Kent has emerged as one of the breakout characters in DC Comics' post-Rebirth continuity, but he can be a goody-two-shoes. The wide-eyed, optimistic son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane sees the world through rose-colored glasses; despite encounters with aliens, monsters and villains, Jon comes home to the perfect family, as the young hero lives a life of privilege under the bright lights of Metropolis. Evenings are Chinese take-out, and early bedtimes as Mom and Dad Netflix and chill. His worst problem is getting caught lying about where he's been, or being scolded for not taking out the trash.
Jon can be a Pollyanna. As we saw in Super Sons #13, he's even relatively unfazed by Damian Wayne's revelation of his past as a member of the League of Assassins. He always sees the best in people -- but what if his sunny disposition has the opposite effect? What happens when it renders Superboy callous?
Superman #42 upends Jon's status quo, and puts his worldview on trial. It contrasts the perfect Kents of our Earth with the broken Bizarros of Htrae, a cube-shaped counterpart of Earth Prime that exists in another universe where all meaning is reversed.
“Father of Boyzarro” is the first part of Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi's final Superman arc, and it starts by depicting the hard-scrapple life of the Bizarros. Perpetually angry and arguing, they are the rural poor of America's lost highways.
The Bizarros resemble real-world farmers weathering climate change and economic hardship. Seething with resentment, they struggle to tend the land. Unlike the post-Rebirth Kents of Hamilton County, they are not "gentlemen farmers." They aren't hiding out and hoping for better; their world is broken, and the worm farm is all they have.
The two realities collide when Jon sneaks away from Metropolis to hang out with his farm friend, Kathy. Human in appearance, the orphaned girl is actually an alien refugee with access to a dimensional ship. Her late grandfather's craft is trapped in the ground beneath the farm, though, and as a result, the kids can only travel to that same spot in other realities.
As Jon steps into the Bizarro universe, he butts against an alternate version of himself. But he is merely a tourist here; Superboy and Boyzarro are separated by an electro-plasma membrane, a shield that keeps their respective dimensions apart.
Jon refers to Boyzarro as "it," and treats his counterpart as nothing more than a cool distraction. He compares the experience of seeing the boy to looking in a cracked funhouse mirror. The wide-eyed Jonathan pays no heed to the barren countryside of Htrae. The broken husk of Boyzarro is not a living being to be pitied, but something of a joke.
Oblivious to the pain outside the energy sphere, Jon gives in to curiosity. He reaches out to his distorted reflection, and as Superboy and Boyzarro touch, there's an Htrae-shattering kaboom. Jon and Kathy are hurled back to our world, and Boyzarro is nowhere to be seen. Unbeknownst to Superboy and his friend, the explosion has allowed Boyzarro to escape the confines of his universe. In colliding with his Prime Earth counterpart, Boyzarro literally bursts Superboy's bubble.
The issue concludes with Boyzarro crashing through Jonathan's bedroom window, an appropriate cliffhanger for the next chapter of Jonathan's story. It Teases a moment of reckoning for the sheltered Superboy; his mirror image is a living nightmare, but will the upcoming encounter shatter Jonathan’s optimism, or will it strengthen his empathy? We'll find out soon enough as Gleason and Tomasi conclude their Superman run with one last dive into the character they've shepherded into being one to Rebirth's finest.