Though Multiplicity started off strong the ending left a lot to be desired. A big reason for that is Multiplicity should’ve had an extra issue to tell its story. But what is done, is done. Now it is time to move on to get back to a more grounded story with “Dark Harvest.” This new story looks to return the focus to Superman and his family in Hamilton County. After all the extraordinary stories that Superman and his family have been involved with a more grounded tale may be what this series needs. Let’s see if that is the case with Superman #17.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Artist: Sebastian Fiumara
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: With his parents away Jonathan Kent is up late at night watching scary movies alone. Just as a jump scare happens someone rings the doorbell, causing Jon to activate his heat vision out of fear.
Jon goes to answer the door and sees his friend Kathy, who asks Jon for his help. Kathy reveals that her family’s prize cow Bessie went missing and her grandfather hasn’t returned from looking for Bessie. Jon agrees to help Kathy and they both rush off on their bikes.
Jon and Kathy soon find Bessie and Kathy’s grandfather’s tracks leading them to Deadman’s Swamp. Though Kathy finds it hard to believe that is where Bessie and her grandfather is she says they should go into Deadman’s Swamp as her grandfather could be hurt. Jon hesitates to go at first but quickly joins Kathy search in the woods.
As they search Deadman’s Swamp they come across an area where it looks as though some big explosion was set off. As they walk around they feel how hot the ground still is, with part of the ground looking like it got turned into glass.
Jon starts freaking out and thinks that they should go to the police about Bessie and Kathy’s grandfather missing. Kathy realizes that Jon caused the trees to burn when he first manifested his heat vision. Kathy reminds Jon that he can learn to control his new powers like his old ones.
They suddenly hear a snapping noise. They turn around and stop a large shadowy figure walking towards them. Jon tries to stand up to the mysterious thing but Kathy grabs him so they can run away.
As they run deeper into the woods Kathy loses track of her grandfather’s and Bessie’s tracks.
Suddenly the mysterious thing has tracked them down and is bigger than before. Jon uses his x-ray vision to find the direction where his house is and he grabs Kathy so they can go hide.
The direction they run towards leads them be chased by a giant owl and raccoon. As they continue running they run into a giant turtle and porcupine. As they dodge all the animals Kathy thinks that the fog may be the cause for all of the animals enormous size.
They continue running and end up at an old mansion covered in moss. Jon breaks down the door so they can hide inside.
As they look for a place to hide the house begins attacking them with books and kitchen knives. Jon is able to jump himself and Kathy upstairs.
While running through the hallway they end up finding Bessie. Jon and Kathy start yelling for Kathy’s grandfather to see if he is there too.
Bessie suddenly starts freaking out and spits out a large stream of milk at Jon and Kathy, sending all the way back to the first floor of the house.
As they recover the giant figure that has been chasing them rips off the roof of the house. Jon and Kathy run outside to escape.
They find a water well nearby that they use to hide in. They hide there until Bessie suddenly finds them, who is with Kathy’s grandfather. Kathy’s grandfather pulls them back up as Jon assures Kathy he has a hold of her.
Kathy’s grandfather leads the kids and Bessie out of the woods and expresses his relief that they are okay. Jon wonders about all the strnage things they saw in Deadman’s Swamp. Kathy’s grandfather reveals that there is a mysterious gas in the swamp that causes people to hallucinate, which he warned Kathy about.
Jon says he needs to head home and wishes Kathy and her grandfather a goodnight.
Jon gets back to his house and quickly showers and gets into bed right before his parents get home. Lois and Clark check on their son, happy to see that he is safe in bed.
Outside the Kent household the mysterious shadowy creature appears in the cornfield. End of issue.
The Good: As much fun as the big stories dealing with larger than life events are the issue that has stood out the most from Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run has been Superman #7. What made that issue special was that it captured what makes Superman and his family such a unique within the DC Universe. Superman #17 falls into a similar category with how Tomasi and Gleason are able to tell a grounded story that adds further depth to Jon and Kathy’s growing friendship.
One of the aspects that I continue to be impressed with Tomasi and Gleason’s run is how they are able to use so many different characters and settings that do not make Superman and his family out of place. That’s exactly what they accomplish with Superman #17 as we get more of a horror tone to the story with Jon and Kathy exploring Deadman’s Swamp. Adding to how scary of a setting that Deadman’s Swamp was is that we did not see any adults until the end of the issue. Focusing this type of story on Jon and Kathy allowed the horror tone make you feel how dangerous things were without thinking that Superman would suddenly appear to save the day.
The spotlight on Jon and Kathy’s friendship was the true strength of this issue. Tomasi and Gleason continue to do a great job building the two as friends that could be something more when they grow up. For now we are able to see how there blossoming friendship has allowed the two to have great trust in one another. From Kathy seeking Jon out for help in finding her grandfather to Kathy talking Jon through his own fears with his powers, Superman #17 successfully made the friendship between the two stronger by the time the issue came to a close.
Superman #17 also did a good job of continuing the sub-plot of Jon’s powers still in the development period. This issue in particular highlighted his own fears of not being able to control his powers well. This is something we haven’t seen explored a lot since writers have highlighted Jon’s excitement to be Superboy more. While it is great to see how Jon is taking on the Superboy role it’s issues like this that will help build his fanbase as it gives us a better idea of the development he is going through.
The adventure in the Deadman’s Swamp also continued the mystery around Hamilton County not being a normal place, especially the mystery with Kathy’s grandfather. Tomasi and Gleason have continued to highlight how Kathy’s grandfather probably does know that Clark is Superman and Jon is Superboy. Now we see that he may actually have his own unique powers with how Tomasi and Gleason tease us with him being the shadowy figure that chased Jon and Kathy during this issue. Hopefully we see this addressed sooner rather than later.
While Sebastian Fiumara isn’t an artist with a style you think would fit with a Superman book this was the perfect issue for him to show off his skills. The horror tone with the Deadman’s Swamp and mysterious mansion worked well with Fiumara’s art style. He made you feel how terrifying the Slenderman-like figure and the enormous animals were. Fiumara’s art especially shined when Jon and Kathy entered the mysterious mansion where he was able to up the weird level to 11.
The Bad: Nothing
Overall: Superman #17 is the type of issue that shows why this series is so special. Rather than relying on the normal Superman adventures, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason take chances to explore different genres and finding a way to make them fit with Superman’s world. Jon and Kathy’s adventure in the horrifying Deadman’s Swamp is a great example of this as there was never a point that it did not feel like a Superman story. Tomasi and Gleason’s story is helped by Sebastian Fiumara art style that brings the Slenderman-like tale to life.