Ever since writer Brian Michael Bendis began his runs on Superman and Action Comics last summer, one of the big questions has been what, exactly, happened to Lois Lane and Jonathan Kent, her and Clark's son. While Action Comics has focused more on the return of Lois, the pages of Superman have recently seen the return of Jon, albeit now aged from adolescence to a full teenager on the cusp of adulthood himself. The latest issue, illustrated by Ivan Reis and Brandon Peterson, sheds some light on Jon's interstellar whereabouts, but runs especially heavy on exposition in doing so.
Picking up from the surprise reveal of Jon as a teenager, though he only left Earth three weeks ago to tour the universe with his grandfather, Jor-El, the Teen of Steel recounts the first year exploring the galaxies as he's being examined in the Fortress of Solitude. Though the shock of being reunited with his son and his new, older appearance, the creative team is also able to explore Superman's own frustrated feelings over missing out on witnessing those crucial years of Jon growing up.
It's when Bendis' script leans more into the latter than the former where we get the most emotional take on the DC Comics flagship character we've seen from the writer so far. Jor-El's return to the DC Rebirth Universe has largely been a problematic one, one that existed long before Bendis took over the title, and while this issue doesn't mitigate Jor-El's apparent heel turn, it does provide a more nuanced look at the character via Jon's interactions with him. And from Superman's perspective, the Last Son of Krypton's own frustration and anger that his biological father robbed important years from his time with Jon is the most honest examination of the darker incarnation of Jor-El than has previously been seen.
What holds this issue back, script-wise, is the strong emphasis on exposition. To be fair, with an issue relying heavily on flashbacks to provide the missing years of Jonathan Kent, this is to be expected to a degree, but it can and does bog down the narrative pacing. Bendis has developed a reputation for writing dialogue-heavy comics, and this issue will do little to diminish that perception. But it should also be noted that Bendis' dialogue often comes from a real, identifiable place especially in the face of more outlandish, fantastical elements that superhero comic books are known for. When Lois tries to wrap her head around her son suddenly appearing as a teenager after being gone for mere weeks, it makes sense that she would have something to say, but the resulting dialogue comes off as obtrusive to the story overall at times.
As with the previous issue, the art is by Ivan Reis and Brandon Peterson, with Reis handling the present day sequences while Peterson draws the flashbacks. Both visuals lean into the artists' respective strengths, with the standard superhero action in present day provided masterfully by Reis and an imaginative tour of the DCU's cosmic corners brought to life by Peterson. Unfortunately, the two styles don't entirely mesh, making the transitions potentially jarring for readers. However, when it comes to the issue's big moments (and it certainly packs a few within its 23 pages), the art in both sequences hits all the right beats, from the emotions of present day to the endless possibilities of deep space within the DCU.
An uneven issue both in terms of pacing and art, Superman #8 works best when it focuses on the titular superhero himself and is less effective when the narrative centers on his son. Reis continues to bring his A-game in visually rendering Superman, while Peterson provides some breathtaking sci-fi artwork though the two styles don't transition as smoothly as one would hope. However, with the issue's cliffhanger ending, it looks like the story may veer away from interstellar adventure judging by the final twist, hopefully raising the stakes for this story arc while leveling out its pace.
Superman #8 is written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Ivan Reis and Brandon Peterson. The issue is on sale on February 13 from DC Comics.