Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: Superboy #3

I will do my best to catch up on my reviews from last week and the first one up is Superboy #3.

Superboy has actually been a comic that I have enjoyed much more than I anticipated. What is interesting is that it is more the supporting cast and setting that has been the revelation here, not Conner. In the first two issues, writer Scott Lobdell has introduced us to 'Red' and Rose Wilson and given those characters some decent depth in a short period of time. We have been shown NOWHERE and while we don't know much about their purpose, I have seen enough to be curious about them.

The one character that I know the least about is Superboy and that is probably on purpose. He is supposed to be a tabula rasa; he won't have depth yet. We are seeing his first experiences in the real (non-VR) world as it happens. So that is an interesting hook for a book's main character ... except he has yet to feel like the star of the book. This book does a better job of putting him mostly in the spotlight, but also by showing us his responses to the world around him. Rose and Red (my favorite parts of this book so far) continue to shine but more in the background here.

As always, RB Silva's work just sparkles here. There is definitely a whiff of anime here, especially when showing more extreme facial expressions which just works here. But his style just complements the story here wonderfully.

As I said, part of this issue that seemed to work so well is reading Superboy's internal monologue and seeing it contrasted to the scenes in the book.

The opening scene shows us a metahuman young couple murdering their way through a convenience store for snacks and gas. So much for the sanctity of life ... it's worth a full tank and some Skittles. But it is nicely contrasted to Superboy's monologue wondering if he will like the people in the 'real world' as opposed to his VR Pleasantville. It is hard to like people like this.

That scene segues to Superboy deep underground after he imploded the Pen 51 prison last issue.

We have seen some of the upper levels of Superboy's powers in this book. But here we get to see some of his limitations. His hand can be burned while his body remains safe immersed in lava. It becomes clear, Superboy needs to concentrate for his TK powers to kick in. We are learning his powers as he does.

I am going to have to go back and reread the Kesel/Grummett issues of Adventures of Superman back in the Reign of the Supermen. I am pretty sure there is moment when that Superboy also learned that limitation by burning his hand on something.

In the mean time, the NOWHERE crew is shocked by the outcome of the Pen 51 battle. They didn't expect Superboy to bring the facility down. They don't even know if he has survived. And now they will need to deal with the media fallout. So much for a secret organization!

As usual, Rose has some of the best moments in the book. First off, I love this personal statement here. Her mission was complex - keep Superboy alive or kill him. She isn't working at NOWHERE out of allegiance to their cause. She was hired. This is business.

And it turns out she has some measure of psionics as she is able to communicate with Red telepathically. That's another interesting wrinkle.

Moreover, we get a hint - as we have earlier - that there is more to Red than a mousy scientist. She has some power. She refuses to show it though, even if that means Superboy remains loose or dead. It is a good moment showing us that, at least for now, Red is concerned about her personal safety and secret over the lives of others. That is interesting too!

With Superboy off the map, Rose has no purpose at NOWHERE. She takes off, hopefully not for long.

In a fun scene, Superboy stumbles across young lovers when he tunnels up to the surface. Worried the 'super-freak' will kill them, the young Romeo takes a tire iron to Superboy's head almost knocking him out. Again, it shows that Superboy needs to be aware and actively keeping his powers on to be 'invulnerable'. It is a big liability and one that will be a challenge for Lobdell to write. Any sniper can kill Superboy with that power limitation.

The girl is smitten by Superboy however and asks him to take her home. That's a bit fast but it leads to a good scene.

For one, again Superboy is stuck trying to equate this response to what he has learned in his VR world. I love his blank expression when he says he is from NOWHERE. Again, it is anime-influenced but works as he struggles to figure out what is happening.

After bringing the girl home at super-speed (nearly injuring her in the process), an unnamed 'lava girl' arises from the depths to fight Superboy. She was one of the inmates from Pen 51 who escaped in the chaos and isn't going to let Superboy bring her back in.

She drops in a lot of clues about both her and Superboy in the battle. She is from another planet, trapped here. She can sense the human parts of Superboy, and the Kryptonian part ...and something unspeakable. Now that is a big bombshell for the book. This Superboy isn't 50% Kal/50% Lex. He is something more ... an amalgam of alien races.

But where is she from? Apokalips?

As for Superboy, he doesn't even know what Kryptonian means. Before he can get more information from her, she dies, melting to slag. Superboy doesn't even know if he killed her. He just doesn't understand his powers. All of that adds to his mystery as well.

Silva shines in this brief fight with a great 2 page spread with an interesting circuitous panel route across the pages.

At the very least, he isn't comfortable as a potential killer. He feels sorrow, guilt for possibly killing this being.

And he can't deal with being an uncontrolled and possible lethal weapon of mass destruction. That expression at the bottom is great.

He goes to the only person he thinks he can get answers from ... Red. He doesn't want to be a threat to the world. So he basically threatens Red to tell him his origins.

She responds in kind, finally showing us on screen the 'Fairchild' we all thought she was. No big surprise.

What I do love here is that she isn't the slinky super-model she was in the Campbell Gen 13. She is much more Big Barda here. You can sense her strength here as she dwarfs Superboy. That is great stuff by Silva.

So there was a lot of stuff happening in this issue. A lot of bread crumbs to follow. A lot of hints about stuff. This issue flew by because it was full of short action sequences. And while there wasn't necessarily a beginning-middle-end story feel here, this deepened this Superboy's story effectively. I finished this issue and wanted to read the next right then. That means the issue was a success.

So Superboy remains a good read. Hopefully Rose isn't gone for long. And I hope some of these mysteries/origins are explained soon. Not all of them ... but some.

Overall grade: B+


Gene said...

"She responds in kind, finally showing us on screen the 'Fairchild' we all thought she was. No big surprise."

But a very pleasant reveal nontheless! :D

I found out online that Caitlin's mother was never revealled in the old Gen13 series. Wouldn't it be cool if Dr. Doris Zeul was Caitlin's mother in the DCnU?

Next issue:

Superboy: "Wait, why didn't you turn green?"

Caitlin: "Wrong comic dork!"

Anonymous said...

Lol. I LOVE IT that Caitlin's in this! I've missed seeing her since Gen13!-ealperin