WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Superman #7 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson and Jason Fabok, on sale now.
In Superman #6, the Man of Steel was liberated from the Phantom Zone, just as Earth was the issue before. The timing was rather fortunate, as no sooner did Superman return then so did his absent son, Jonathan Kent. Jon, of course, had earlier gone off to see the galaxy under the tutelage of his paternal grandpa, Jor-El. But, as explored in Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis' Superman #7, Jon isn't the same kid he was when he departed.
From Superboy to Superteen
In fact, he's barely a kid at all anymore. Superboy had clearly gone through a growth spurt during his absence, looking more like a super-teen upon his return. Once Superman gets over the surprise of his son's return -- and how much he's changed -- Jon confirms that he is, in fact, now a teenager. Seventeen years old, per his best estimate, as time clearly passed by differently wherever he went.
Jon also confirms that, yes, he really has been gone for several years, by his reckoning. He assures his father that his development occurred naturally over the course of time, and not through any manipulation by Jor-El, Brainiac or anyone else. And, no, it wasn't any kind of Kryponite, either.
In Earth time, though, Jon has been only gone for three weeks. Jon attributes the chronological inconsistency to traveling through a good old fashioned black hole. He lets his relieved father know that he's actually been spending most of his seven years away trying to figure out a way to get back home.
Superboy's All Grown Up
Jon's age isn't the only aspect of him that's changed, however. He now bears a facial scar, the origin of which remains a mystery. Not so visible, though, are his changed feelings towards his grandfather.
Jon was initially anxious to break free from his comparative grounding on Earth and learn about his Kryptonian heritage. As Jon himself relays the experience, he even had some adventurous bonding moments with his grandpa early after he and Lois left. Those same adventures, though, were the ones that prompted Lois to make her early, and initially secret, return to Earth before encountering any age-altering black holes.
Jon's mention of wanting to return home implies a possible breaking of that bond, however. His doubts, in fact, took root immediately after his mother's departure. After regaling his father with tales of his early adventures with granddad, Jon makes a startling accusation against him. The Teen of Steel now believes that his grandfather is insane. It truly becomes a family matter when Jon further stresses to his father that something needs to be done about Jor-El due to his state of mind.
One of Jon's Influences Was Who?!
Jon has more than just grown taller, his sense of responsibility shows that he's grown more mature, as well. His journey from boyhood to manhood arguably started when he left Earth, sure, but a chance encounter soon after proved to be an early defining moment in that journey. That encounter was with none other than the self-proclaimed main man himself, that space-faring bastich Lobo.
Yes, Lobo, the ultraviolent, cussing, womanizing low-life who has tangled with Jon's dad many times over. That's who inspired Jon to grow up? Quite possibly. When Jon takes offense to Lobo calling him "Little Superman," he directs Lobo to call him by his actual handle, Superboy. Lobo, in turn, pushes back, telling Jon that the "boy" can become a man anytime he wants to be one.
Based on Jon's reaction, Lobo's coarse rebuff might have struck a chord. It may very well have been a defining moment for young Jon, one that might have helped him see the truth about his grandfather.
Superboy is back, although what he's going to call himself going forward might be something different. Whatever his potential new moniker, father and son have some family issues to address, and the drama is slated to start in Superman #8, on sale Feb. 13.