Sometimes the most satisfying moments in life are the ones you didn’t even realize that you needed.
You know what I mean, right? That night out with friends or afternoon spent with the kids. That phone call from a family member you really missed or movie on TV that you find yourself watching in spite of all your plans for the evening. That stray cat you wind up keeping or chance meeting that changes your life. These moments can be big or small, but when they arrive, you know it was just what you needed, and suddenly, you’re wondering how you could have been so surprised.
That’s me with Superman #16 right now. I didn’t realize I needed a Super Sons reunion, but I so, so did.
First, though, I need to admit something. I haven’t always been the biggest Super Sons fan. It’s not that I haven’t appreciated or even enjoyed the various Super Sons titles that Peter J. Tomasi, Jorge Jimenez, Carlo Barberi and others have gifted us with these past few years. It’s just that they felt so different and far removed from the rest of the DC Universe. Am I to really believe that Damian Wayne of all people would have the patience and desire to team up with the (at the time) ten-year-old son of Superman to fight Amazo-kids and an alien Legion of Doom? Damian’s a trained assassin who is constantly pushing the limits of what’s acceptable behavior for a superhero. He barely plays well within his own family, let alone outside of it (see the current Teen Titans series, if you have any doubt of that). While on the surface, the idea of a partnership between the sons of Superman and Batman would seem to make sense, in the greater context of the DCU, it…well, hasn’t always played well to me.
Until this month. This month it all started to make sense. See, while I was thinking of the likelihood of two pre-teen boys essentially becoming organized vigilantes with the blessing of their parents and communities, I didn’t think much about why the two boys would need each other.
Damian Wayne never had a childhood. From the moment he could stand and hold a weapon, he was groomed to eventually lead the League of Assassins. He’s killed, tortured and stolen. Choosing to live with his father has given him a much better purpose in life, but hasn’t given him much of a social circle outside of Bruce, Alfred and the three prior Robins. He has literally no idea how to be a boy. Damian is driven, skilled, unwavering and smart, but he’s never taken a moment to play and goof around. Think of what you spent most of your pre-teen years doing. The sort of things you likely look back on most fondly during that stretch of your life, Damian hasn’t had at all. Damian may be awful at things like putting aside patrolling and crimefighting to spend an afternoon or evening playing video games, eating junk food and talking about girls or movies. But that’s precisely why he needs to learn to do it.
Jon Kent, meanwhile, may have had a childhood, but it’s been an unusual one. Aside from the fact that he’s from an entirely different timeline, he spent much of his life living secretly off the grid. Even when his father returned to the mantle of Superman, his parents chose to keep him largely away from the superhero life, living in rural Kansas…at least until he started exhibiting powers of his own. While Jon may live in Metropolis now, like Damian, he doesn’t have many friends his age. But in his case, he doesn’t need them to teach him how to be a kid, but how to transition into adulthood.
As someone who lived a pretty wholesome existence on a Kansas farm for the first eighteen years of his life, and who has since seen no end of pain, suffering and danger, Clark is only naturally going to want to keep his son from growing up too fast. While this is a good quality in a parent to an extent, at one point it starts to become inhibiting, and it was arguably getting to this point when Jon met Damian.
To oversimplify things considerably, Damian needs Jon to learn to be a child, while Jon needs Damian to help him grow up. They balance each other almost perfectly.
As such, it’s no coincidence that Damian is actually the one who seems to finally convince Jon to accept the Legion of Super-Heroes’ offer and journey with them to the future. Lois and Clark are reluctant for Jon to leave them again, while Damian can’t believe Jon would ever consider turning the offer down. As he puts it, “To go there?! And fight for the real future? Away from your parents? It sounds like college but…better. And you’re basically college age now, so you’ll be going off to future college.”
For better or worse, Jon isn’t a kid anymore. He’s grown, and eventually all grown children have to leave the nest. It’s something Superman acknowledges himself in the absolutely perfect Fortress of Solitude scene that follows, while also acknowledging that it’s a different path than the one he followed.
Of course, the irony here is that the Super Sons will be breaking up again just when I finally have come to appreciate them, but while children grow up and leave the nest, friendships as unique and integral as the one shared by Damian and Jon don’t ever really end. Whether it’s in another few months or a thousand years in the future, it’s safe to assume that the Super Sons haven’t seen the last of each other.
Tim Beedle covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com, writes our monthly Superman column, "Super Here For...", and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Look for him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.