It’s always fun when a comic has two different storylines going on: the first is the more clear cut narrative, the events of what’s actually going on in the story; the second is more subtle, hinting at emotions or decisions that the main character must make, generally in the form of an internal struggle. Superman: Last Son is one such comic. The surface story focuses on the appearance of a mysterious boy in Metropolis, who bears striking similarities to Clark in terms of strength and powers.
Clark is drawn to this boy and feels a need to protect him, knowing in his gut that he is a fellow Kryptonian. Unfortunately, he happens to be the son of General Zod, born in the Phantom Zone and abused for years by his father. After finding a looppole in the zone, Zod sent his son to Earth and soon follows with a legion of villains, who choose to use their power to lord over humans. Superman battles Zod and ultimately banishes him back to the Phantom Zone, but unfortunately the young boy must be sent back as well. It’s a sad goodbye, and the comic closes with at least a hint that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the characters.
The secondary story, and the one I found more compelling, is Superman’s struggle with accepting that he will never have children.
Superman must come to terms with the fact that not only will he never have children, but that he is truly the last generation of his race, and can do nothing to carry on Krypton’s legacy. The appearance of a young boy from his home planet drew Clark in, providing him with a possible future in which a child could be raised. Clark and Lois even plan on adopting the young boy at one point, naming him Christopher and deciding that they can at least try to be a family. This dream is cut short as Christopher is forced back into the Phantom Zone, and with it any chance Clark had at having a Kryptonian child. Watching Clark’s pain as he struggles to accept this was incredibly compelling, and made the larger story more intriguing because of it.
While this wasn’t my absolute favorite comic ever, it added a new layer to the Superman mythos that needed to be explained. Superman has no hope of ever continuing Krypton’s legacy, and given everything he’s been through this must be incredibly difficult to accept. He tries so hard to be human, but ultimately he isn’t. Still, he has no one (save Supergirl) that he can relate to as a Kryptonian, leaving him in this odd in-between place, not truly human but not part of any Kryptonian culture either. It’s not a position I envy, and it helps shed light on Superman’s real life, proving that although he has powers, his life is far from perfect. These small distinctions help make the character feel more real and complex, showing the sad reality of being the last son of Krypton.