I’ve been a fan of the Conner Kent/Kon-El Superboy since his earliest appearances during “Reign of the Supermen,” but I don’t know if he’s ever been handled better than in the most recent volume of his series, under Jeff Lemire’s capable pen. Superboy’s bounced around a lot, from Cadmus to Metropolis to Hawaii, but setting him firmly in Smallville and giving him a modern spin on the Silver Age adventures of his namesake was a stroke of genius that helped to flesh out a more mature personality for the Boy of Steel.
Suffice it to say, Scott Lobdell had his work cut out for him on this one. With that in mind, it seems like a smart move to make this a complete and clean break with what came before. This isn’t the jeans-clad farm boy who led Young Justice and spent a thousand years in a Kryptonian birthing matrix; about all that’s left from the character’s pre-Flashpoint status quo is that Superboy is a clone of Superman and Lex Luthor (itself a retcon) whose powers involve telekinesis.
And Lobdell makes the differences obvious from word one. When Kon-El first appeared in Adventures of Superman #500, his defining bit of dialogue was “Don’t ever call me Superboy!” This version opens with “They call me Superboy. I have no idea why.” It’s a nice indicator for long-time readers like me that this is a new take on the modern interpretation of the character, and I hope it’s intentional. It does raise some uncomfortable questions about continuity, especially since Superman obliquely referred to the Doomsday story in Swamp Thing, but that kind of confusion is part and parcel of these soft reboots.
Superboy’s an experiment — thought to be a failed one — by the mysterious organization N.O.W.H.E.R.E. The kid’s unique blend of Kryptonian and human DNA has somehow led to his consciousness being distributed throughout his body (“to my every atom,” he says, and the scientist in me grinds his teeth), which apparently makes him super-intelligent with an encyclopedic knowledge. But when the project director tries to terminate him, he naturally gets violently defensive and escapes, after a fashion. Along the way, we meet Superboy’s as-yet-unnamed handler (all-but-confirmed to be Gen13’s Fairchild), Rose Wilson (still deadly, no longer Ravager), a sinister doctor improbably named “Zaniel,” and an intrepid whistleblower who contacts Lois Lane about the secret organization.
R.B. Silva’s art is uniformly great, but I’ve been a fan since the Jimmy Olsen Second Feature last year. It’s expressive, fluid, and very distinctive, with a clear eye for detail. Lobdell’s scripting could probably use another round with an editor; much of the book feels over-narrated, and Superboy’s cold, stilted voice behind the bulk of that narration gets a bit tedious in places. I have a bit of a hard time believing that Superboy learned language by observing people and would still say something as awkward as “I intuit” when interpreting emotions.
It’s also a little jarring that a member of the Superman Family is introduced by apparently killing a room full of people, even if by accident. It’s clear that the nature/nurture issue and Superboy’s conflicted parentage are going to play a major role in the series, but it still makes me uneasy. That big red “S” shouldn’t stand for “sociopath.”
I feel a little lost in trying to sum up the issue. The art is gorgeous, and the story is pretty good. The take on Superboy is utterly new, and I’m curious to see where it goes. As long as that path doesn’t require me to pick up the awful-looking Teen Titans, I’ll follow it.
Pull List Verdict: KEEP IT.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more