Superboy #1

Superboy #1

A-

I’ve mentioned before that Jeff Lemire is one of my favorite working comics authors. His Sweet Tooth series over at Vertigo is one of the books I most look forward to every month, and his Essex County trilogy is, I believe, one of the masterpieces from the last decade of the medium. I also really like Superboy. I thought that the four and a half issues of last year’s Adventure Comics that focused on Connor Kent were tremendous. Among other things, it contained one of the more moving moments in recent superhero comics when, in the final issue, Lex Luthor gives his sister the ability to walk only to take it away again, just because he can. That was powerful storytelling, and I wish that series had kept its focus on Superboy instead of moving to the 31st century.

Those are two factors, then, that give me a positive bias going into DC Comics’ new ongoing series Superboy, the fourth volume to bear the name. Happily, almost all my expectations were met or exceeded by this introductory issue, as Lemire and artist Pier Gallo give us an debut that provides a fresh take on a lot of familiar elements.

Superboy #1 finds Connor Kent still adjusting to his life in Smallville, a process made even more difficult by the sudden arrival of the Phantom Stranger. The Stranger warns Connor of impending danger to the town for which Superboy himself will be responsible, and the first warning signs come as a trickle of mainstay DCU villains (including Parasite and Poison Ivy) make their way to rural Kansas with sinister intent.

I think it’s an easy temptation (or editorial mandate?) to start off a series by having our protagonist face a familiar villain; as I talked about last week, even Neil Gaiman did it in Sandman! I love Lemire’s use of Parasite here, though. The method by which Superboy defeats that big purple blob is especially inventive, and it makes me think Lemire has some really interesting twists cooked up for Superboy’s powers.

Speaking of twists, Lemire handles the issue of Superboy’s secret identity in a way I’ve never seen before. I don’t want to say too much for risk of spoilers, but I thought that such boldness about breaching one of the superhero genre’s oldest tropes was incredibly refreshing.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for about this issue, it was the art. Unfortunately relative DC newcomer Pier Gallo’s work will inevitably draw comparisons to two other artists: Fancis Manapul (the last artist to draw a monthly Superboy title) and Jeff Lemire himself. To me, Manapul is easily one of the best artists working in the superhero industry and his art on Adventure Comics was pretty much perfect. Meanwhile, Lemire’s art in his creator-owned stories is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a comic; it stands out in a great way and I could always go for more. It would be surprising, no doubt, if DC gave Lemire art duties on one of their superhero comics, but I do wish Manapul had been available for this series (as great as he’s doing on Flash). That said, Pier Gallo does a fine job, especially in conveying the rural/small town setting of the book and on the look of the monstrous Parasite. It’s just hard for me to shake Manapul’s Smallville from my mind.

Overall, I thought Lemire and Gallo’s first issue was a terrific read, full of cool twists, nice action and a lot of potential. Superboy is a series I’ll be happy to put at the top of my read pile for months to come.

tags: Jeff Lemire, pier gallo, superboy

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