What could be more exciting for a Superman Movie fan than seeing the name of its most beloved Director on a comic-book cover? Inviting him to co-write an epic story arc across 5 issues maybe? DC Comics certainly thought so and the result, while reassuringly cinematic, is still a solid addition to the Superman literary archive.
Further to SUPERMANIA’s historic posts of recommended comic reading for fans of the Superman Movies, 2008’s Last Son, although chock-full of affectionate nods to the original films reads more like a sequel to Superman Returns or closer still, an alternate universe take on last years Man Of Steel movie. In fact, Steel writer David Goyer should owe Geoff Johns a hefty portion of his story credit – for as evidenced here, he did it both first, and better.
The Last Son of the title is actually the spawn of General Zod & Ursa, who have sent the little tyke to Earth to pave the way for their subsequent escape from the Phantom Zone along with all its other unsavory captives in a bid for World domination. Or indeed reformation – into New Krypton (sound familiar yet?). Naturally, Superman is present to have first contact with the child and their scenes of bonding having discovered they are both from Krypton represent Johns at his best, inviting the reader to care about the characters and consequently, their fate.
Having rescued the child from a top-secret military installation (once government paranoia about alien invasion leads to his abduction) and from the hands of Lex Luthor (who unleashes Bizarro in another violent kidnap attempt) Superman, as Clark Kent, seeks to adopt the boy along with wife Lois who renames him (in what must be Donner’s touch) Christopher. For a brief moment the future looks bright until the inevitable arrival of his real parents and touching scenes between Lois, Clark & Chris give way to citywide carnage.
While the battle between the warring Kryptonians is rendered beautifully by Adam Kubert (whose cityscapes have amazing realism), the conclusion (which sees Superman himself relegated to the Phantom Zone) is a marked drop in momentum as he enlists the help of inmate Mon-El to assist his escape. In a grand finale (originally published in Action Comics Annual #11) with the unlikely assistance of Lex Luthor, the world is purged of the villains by once again by opening the Phantom Zone, (where Superman defeats Zod by punching him clean into it as opposed to snapping his neck in desperation, bottom pic) but Chris is also pulled into the singularity in an effort to close it, leaving our hero devastated.
Heralded by Variety as “An entertaining read that’s hard to put down”, the collected volume released later that year featured yet another Superman Movie connection, giving silver screen Jimmy Olsen Marc McClure the opportunity to share his unwavering enthusiasm for the series (second pic down, click for larger version) and its director and star with a definitive opening line.
Overall, Last Son is a grand, affectionate, and mature read tailored specifically for fans of the character represented at his purest. Its not perfect (the dialogue about Chris being abused is clunky and uncomfortable and while Kubert nails the environments, his characters are scratchy and in some instances, plain ugly) and one longs for this to be the first of the Johns/Frank team that would mesh so well in future. Donner’s presence is also certainly felt throughout with heart and even in dialogue between Jor-El and Supes (some almost verbatim from S:TM, third pic) ultimately leading to further collaborations between Donner, DC & Johns-
But that’s a post for the future…