It's hard to believe it, but these first issues of Adventure Comics has actually made me interested in the character of Superboy! That opening arc when he tried to figure out who he was, as he struggled with his past, the dark side of his ancestry ... it was written well and drawn lovingly. With that arc over and Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul moving on to the Flash, I wondered what I would think of subsequent Superboy stories. Would I continue to want to read about him?
Well, Adventure Comics #7 continued a stretch of good Superboy stories which makes me want to at least follow his adventures a little bit longer. That Superboy introspection continues here as he struggles to regain control of his body which has been taken over as a Black Lantern. Written by R.E.B.E.L.S. scribe Tony Bedard, we really get to see just how much Superboy is still trying to discover who he is and where he is going.
Like most of these Blackest Night cross-over issues, the story opens with a quick recap of the characters history as the Black Ring downloads the memories. So we get to see Superboy in his leather jacket and goggles phase. We get to see his bald Luthor-controlled time as well. And we read about his death at the hands of Prime.
One thing I enjoyed about this book is that Superboy appears to be trapped within his own body. He can hear what his body is saying, he can see what it is doing, but he can't stop it. We saw that technique used well in Blackest Night:Wonder Woman. Superboy's love for Wonder Girl really permeates his internal dialogue here. We heard his words of love in the first arc. Here we read a bit of his regret as he remembers hurting her when Luthor triggered his rampage.
That internal struggle for control is shown artistically in an interesting way. We see the live action Black Lantern and hear the awful things he is saying. We then see a wraith like Conner wasting away as he sees the real world. This 'soul' is somehow able to stick around but as the issue goes on it becomes more gaunt and sickly. It is as if the Black Lantern is slowly eroding this sense of self.
Cassie tries to maintain control and attempts to coax the real Conner back to the surface.
As usual, the Black Lantern is trying to evoke an emotional response from Wonder Girl so that he can feast on her heart. Within his own mind, Conner hears the awful things this Superboy is saying to Cassie. And he knows that there is a small kernel of truth in all the things this thing is saying, enough of his voice is there for Cassie to know he means it a bit.
And then comes the coup de grace moment for Black Lantern Superboy. He tells Cassie that when he is alone he sometimes thinks about Supergirl not Wonder Girl. It is a delicious low blow. One that Conner knows hurts.
In fact it irks Cassie enough that she unleashes the power of her lasso onto Superboy. That shock to the system frees his body long enough for the real Conner to whistle for Krypto.
I've commented on the emotional registry as a nice plot device before. Here I think it is great that Krypto is all action. There is no fear here.
Who would think that Krypto would ascend to such a big role in the super-family? But he has been everywhere recently.
During the ensuing battle, Conner again wrests control of his body and gives Cassie a cue to head to the Fortress of Solitude. As I said, his love for Cassie really is the running theme in the book. Conner says the only reason he thinks he is able to do what he is doing is because his girlfriend believes in him.
There, Wonder Girl runs interference while Krypto digs up Conner's body which is currently healing in the Kryptonian matrix. It is a gamble that works. The ring isn't quite sure what to do with 2 dead Conners around.
It is something that I wondered about back in Final Crisis:Legion of Three Worlds. So there are 2 Conners existing in current time ... one a dead body healing, another a resurrected body brought back in time. In the old DCU, the same person couldn't exist more than once at a single time. Remember all those time travel stories where 'time traveller Superman' observed his youth as a ghost like phantom? He couldn't be in the same time twice. I guess that soft rule doesn't exist now. It seems weird that there is a regenerating Conner buried in the ice while this one runs around.
With the ring 'confused', Cassie reminds Conner of his 'training'. It is revealed that after Luthor took control of him, Superboy and Cassie visited telepaths so they could build up his mental shields. With this training in his back pocket, he is able to reject the ring. It completely makes sense that he would do that and so I thought it was a nice twist.
And as it flies to the corpse-Conner, Superboy finally manifests the final Superman power he was missing ... super-breath. Imagine ... a double page splash of super-breath! With the ring encased in ice, Cassie tosses it to the moon.
With the ring gone, Conner swells with pride. And Cassie swells a bit as well. They both realize that Conner is a worthy legacy of the Superman name.
This book reads almost like an 'epilogue' of the Johns/Manapul run and was a nice capstone to that story. What would Superboy do? Act like Superman.
I also like how the relationship between Cassie and Conner is showcased here. Bedard writes it in such an easy way. You can tell the two have deep feelings for each other, that they truly love each other. And it feels right that they should be together. I especially liked how Cassie was able to shrug off all the terrible things the Black Lantern was saying. It shows some maturity. This is a love story worthy of being posted on the weekend of St. Valentine's Day.
The cover of the issue is drawn by Aaron Lopresti who has completely floored me with his run on Wonder Woman. The internal art by Travis Moore is sort of pedestrian.