The initial original graphic novel from DC's new DC Zoom imprint, Super Sons: The Polarshield Project by Ridley Pearson and Ile Gonzalez, is the first installment of a planned trilogy focused on the sons of Superman and Batman taking place outside of main comic book continuity. While still immediately recognizable as Jon Kent and Damian Wayne both visually and in terms of overall character, this is a significantly different incarnation of the DCU that may catch longtime readers and fans of the characters off guard, but serves as a great entry point for younger readers looking for an introduction to the superhero sons of the DC's flagship characters.
This version of Earth is in the midst of a global climate crisis. The polar caps have largely melted, resulting in the displacement of millions. Coastal cities, including Metropolis, are protected from rising sea levels by massive walls financed and maintained by Wayne Enterprises. So far as has been revealed, the world's only superheroes are Superman and Batman, and both have been called away to gather a rare kind of asteroid orbiting around Mars to help with the titular polarshield project. The plan is to lightly coat Earth's atmosphere with asteroid dust to reduce the intensity of solar radiation and stabilize the melting of the ice caps. With the planet's two greatest heroes absent, that leaves their sons to defend citizens from rampant crime, and along the way uncover a massive conspiracy threatening the entire city.
There are two very big things to keep in mind before reading The Polarshield Project. First, this is an original graphic novel created specifically for younger readers than the usual comic book crowd. As such, don't expect something that completely lines up with real-world constraints: Children are tasked to tackle heavy investigative work, and the dialogue and narrative progression are written and paced to keep younger readers engaged without getting overly focused on the details. Second, it bears repeating that this story is not set in mainstream DC continuity, which means Jon Kent and Damian Wayne (who prefers to go by "Ian" here) have never met before the events of the story. What's more, Ian is not Batman's partner, nor does he take on the mantle of Robin. Perhaps most jarring, the Wayne family assistant is no longer Alfred Pennyworth but someone new named Patience.
This gives writer Ridley Pearson, in his first major foray into the graphic novel world after a bestselling career as an author of young adult prose, a clean slate to work with. As an introduction to these characters and this new continuity, there is actually relatively little superhero action for the majority of the story. Instead, we get a surprising amount of mystery as this particular dynamic duo, joined by two completely new allies, investigate someone sabotaging the coastal walls while a mass illness sweeps across the city. Despite these differences, Jon Kent is still very much Lois and Clark's superpowered son and Damian Wayne is still the brooding, socially conflicted son of Bruce.
Similarly, Ile Gonzalez, in both her first major graphic novel and first project for DC Comics, reinvigorates the characters visually without compromising their familiarity. Hailing from a digital storytelling background, Gonzalez injects the story with a fresh energy while keeping things family-friendly, particularly during the action sequences. There is an animation-styled sensibility to Gonzalez's art, not far off from current animated depictions of DC characters on Justice League Action or DC Super Hero Girls, and it lends itself well to the story. As with the scripting, there are certain creative deviations from the traditional designs of several characters but none particularly jarring to distract readers from the experience.
As long as you can leave preconceived notions about the characters and tone to the wayside, Super Sons: The Polarshield Project is a great, accessible jumping on point for younger readers unfamiliar with the sons of Superman and Batman. Definitely serving as an introduction for a far bigger story, the original graphic novel is timely without being heavy-handed and a well-paced mystery that brings its eponymous superhero sons together at the start of their own crime-fighting careers.
Super Sons: The Polarshield Project is written by Ridley Pearson and illustrated by Ile Gonzalez. It is scheduled to be released on April 2 by DC Comics.