by Paula R. Stiles
Johnson, Peter and Dessertine, Rebecca. Supernatural: Rising Son. Artist: Diego Olmos. Colorist: Jonny Rench. Letterer: Wes Abbott. [Short story: Kripke, Eric and Johnson, Peter. The Beast with Two Backs. Artist: Dan Hipp. Colorist: Jonny Rench. Letterer: Wes Abbott] La Jolla (CA): Wildstorm Productions, 2009. 144pp. US $14.99/CAN $16.99 CAN. ISBN: 978-1-4012-2205-5.
Terri Clark, a reviewer for the site Supernatural Sisters, hits the nail on the head when she says that she liked the story and hated the art for Supernatural: Origins, but felt the opposite way for Supernatural: Rising Son. Rising Son continues some time after Origins left off (again, I’m reviewing the graphic novel version, not the original comic series version that came out in 2008). John is now heavily into hunting. After killing a monster called The Beast of Bray Road, he goes looking for Mary’s cousin, Eddie. Relatives of Mary have been disappearing and now, Eddie has, too. John finds him in a town full of succubi and has to shoot his way out, losing Eddie in the process. This apparently motivates John to settle down for a while. Meanwhile, Sam attracts the attention of his teacher, Ms. Lyle, who worms her way into the Winchester family, much to Dean’s dismay.
Easily the best part of the book is the very funny short story by Eric Kripke and Peter Johnson at the end, which is a sort of daydream concocted by the Ghostfacers. Sam and Dean appear, but of course, they’re the villains.
In many ways, the art is great and in most ways, it’s an improvement over Origins. People (especially Bobby Singer, who makes a few brief appearances) look more like they do in the show, except for Dean, who inexplicably sports a flaming-blonde crewcut, much shorter and lighter than his hair on the show. The gore is well-presented in an EC-Comics style and there are some genuinely creepy scenes. Some of the best art comes from the covers, such as the one by Dustin Nguyen with John, the boys and the Impala, which gets their likenesses well. On the other hand, the women are mostly drawn as slutty and treacherous (I really didn’t need the angles where I could practically see up Ms. Lyle’s insanely short skirt) and the bright colouring lacks the gloomy menace of Origins.
Then there’s the writing. Hoo, boy. For all of its faults, Origins was better. For a start, there is a distinct lack of variety in the supernatural menaces in Rising Son. You get the aforementioned Beast of Bray Road, demons, succubi (who are a form of demon), more demons, a Transformers-like monster that looks completely out of place in the SPNverse, more demons, a bunch of psycho hunters led by an albino guy who belongs in X-Men or HBO’s True Blood not Supernatural, and yet more demons. Mixed in there is Lilith. Compare this to the variety of monsters in Origins (or the show) and it starts to get very dull.
As a commenter on the Supernatural Sisters review points out, there are also continuity problems with the show. One could possibly handwave the appearance of Lilith almost two decades before she escaped Hell at the end of season two, since she didn’t appear by name until season three’s “Jus in Bello” and Rising Son first appeared toward the end of season three. But that does indicate that, again, we shouldn’t take the comics as canon because the show doesn’t. Lilith in Rising Son also does not coincide very much at all with the child-blood-lovin’ Bad Seed of seasons three and four. Nor does the demonology coincide much with the show. In the comic, the demons often have glowing eyes, whereas in the show, only Crossroad Demons who make deals have red eyes. Low-level demons have black eyes; Azazel’s are yellow; and high-level demons like Lilith or Alastair have white eyes. To make things even more confusing, in some panels of Rising Son, Lilith’s eyes glow red. In others, her eyes are white and in still others, they’re black.
The interest in Sam, from both the demons and the hunters, is also laid on overly thick. Ms. Lyle’s obsession with Sam seems inefficient, for example, considering the hundreds of other psykids growing up at the same time. Yes, child Sam was special, but as we found out in season two, he was hardly unique (and that’s not even getting into season four’s “After School Special”, where a teenage Sam clearly has not had the experience of being anything but a “freak”). So, while she’s drooling over him, who’s “watching over” the other psykids? And where is Azazel, the architect of the entire plan, in all of this?
This isn’t helped by the stuff about the hunter posse after Sam. While the comic tries to gloss over John’s systematic murder of Sam’s hunter enemies as largely self-defense, it never explains how John manages to keep his killing spree a secret from the rest of the hunter community, which the show portrays as superparanoid and very well-connected. The hunter plot also sparks a subplot in which Dean is dragged into the hunter world prematurely to the point where he kills a man to protect his family. Which is great, as far as it goes, but if Dean has already killed a human (something that doesn’t happen in the show until season four’s “Family Remains”), why all of the brotherly discussion about killing humans being verboten in episodes like season two’s “Croatoan” and season three’s “Fresh Blood” and “Malleus Maleficarum”?
Finally, there’s the thing that really made me want to throw this graphic novel across the room with great force at times – I’m talking about the misogyny. I don’t agree with those who claim that the show is either misogynistic or homophobic. If anything, I think it’s surprisingly progressive and left of center, even for current genre shows. While the writers have written some teeth-grindingly-bad female characters, said females have not done stupid things like sleep with their enemies (rather the reverse), or always been evil, or always had to be rescued, or always lost out to the male protagonists. Mary Sues may be crap characters, but they aren’t indications of the writer hating women or putting them down.
If you want to see what the show would be like if it were misogynistic, read Rising Son. Almost every living female character (I think there’s a friendly waitress in there, somewhere) is a slut, evil or both. The women are leggy and busty and wear practically nothing (except for one blatantly-plain maternal figure who turns out to be demonic). They get what they want, not through intelligence or hard work, but through seduction and shaking their “assets”. Worse, we have John acting like a complete moron around these female monsters. Whatever he’s thinking with, it ain’t his brain. Even Sam, who is still a child, is seduced by the “maternal” aspect of Ms. Lyle, who is about as maternal as a Penthouse centerfold. Only preteen Dean sees through the gloss and heaving bosoms, and gets molested for his troubles. Nice.
At any rate, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting any more comic prequels. Rising Son jumps ahead a decade and a half or so and ends with Dean going to pick up Sam in the Pilot. I suspect this may be because the original impetus for the comics (that they would tell the background story to the show’s present-day canon) no longer applies. The show has found various ways to include backstory that only occasionally intersects with either Origins or Rising Son (mostly by borrowing a monster here or there). So, there really isn’t any reason for the showrunners to adhere to the comics or consider them canon. That said, the art is slick and professional, and if you like stories about John, you might like this one. John-centric it certainly is.
Interested in purchasing this book? Buy Supernatural: Rising Son from Amazon.com or purchase it from your local bookstore.
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