Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review: Superboy #4

I didn't know what to expect from the Superboy comic in the new DCnU when it was solicited. I had never really read any Scott Lobdell comics. Conner sounded like another 'angry young hero', disinterested and angsty. And the 'old' Conner had just come off a quirky run by Jeff Lemire.

Surprisingly, I have rather enjoyed the new Superboy comic and that means the creators have had to overcome my pre-release apathy. But as I have said in prior reviews, my love for the comic has mostly been built around the supporting cast and the locale rather than Superboy himself. I don't think I should be surprised by that. This Superboy is a blank slate. So it is hard to like/dislike him at this point whereas 'Red' and Rose seem to be more fully developed and interesting people.

Superboy #4 was released this week and was really the first time the title character was the 'star' of his own book, as opposed to feeling like a player in an ensemble piece. This issue therefore gives us the opportunity to learn more about the character. Unfortunately, I don't know if I like him that much right now. The story this issue seems a bit scattered as Superboy runs through a gamut of emotions in a short time. And, of course, his being the star of the book meant little Red and no Rose, my favorite parts of the book. As a result, this issue has been the weakest of the bunch.

That said, RB Silva continues to shine on the book. The art here continues to be dazzling.

The book starts where last issue left off, with Caitlyn 'Red' Fairchild at her most She-Hulkiest, throttling Superboy for invading her quarters and threatening her. The opening page of her holding Superboy in a choke hold is crisp and definitely conveys the strength Caitlyn has in this form. I especially love how her costume/underwear have the green/purple color combo of the classic Fairchild.

Moreover, we learn a bit more about her as the fight continues. She is impervious to telekinetics; all thirteen of her group are. Hmmm, a new Gen13 I suppose.

While she is too slippery for telekinetics, the rest of her apartment isn't. Superboy implodes the place into them both and this attack renders her unconscious. It will be interesting to see just how invulnerable/durable this Caitlyn is.

Unconscious, Fairchild reverts to her smaller form and is quickly scooped up by a NOWHERE squad.

This only adds to her mystery. Who is she? How is she? Why is she in deep cover in NOWHERE? And who does she work for? Bio-terrorists? Really? I do hope we get to learn more about her story and soon.

This also introduces us to Centerhall, a NOWHERE agent who is now Superboy's handler. And this guy seems completely slick. Unlike the others, Centerhall wants to give Superboy all the information he wants. He wants to give Superboy some autonomy. He even seems chummy. But something about him seems too friendly, almost oily.

Still, he is at least partially up front with Superboy. Centerhall doesn't really know what NOWHERE's mission is. And each wing of NOWHERE seems to be oblivious of the others. Even on the Superboy project, no one group oversaw the whole thing. As a result it is hard to know just what Superboy's genetic make-up is. Each group did a little strand of DNA and no one seems to have the master blueprint. Centerhall is candid. That missing DNA might be from a killer. Will the half Luthor part of the old Superboy remain intact in the DCnU?

And Centerhall gives Superboy his freedom, letting him leave the NOWHERE Headquarters and live as a normal person. On the one hand it seems like a positive gesture. And yet, just how is Superboy expected to thrive in an environment he knows nothing about? A world which he doesn't know and which doesn't know him.

There are several pages of him wallowing a bit in his existence as a freak, a weapon, as someone who doesn;t understand the mundane world around him. And that wallowing leads to some rather brattish episodes where he lashes out at Christmas carolers, people eating in restaurants, and even igniting a Christmas tree.

I had to surpress an eye roll reading these pages. Poor poor Superboy ... so misunderstood. Even he doesn't know who he is. It just comes off a bit too cliche. I mean ... lighting a Christmas tree on fire?

His  little tantrums scare the citizens but really do no lasting harm. And when he witnesses someone being potentially hurt, he springs into action, saving this person pitched from a skyscraper by the super-powered teens we saw last issue.

Now this will be an interesting thing to examine in this book. And I hope Lobdell plans on exploring this. Why does he help people? His VR training? His genetic make-up? Because he is partially human and want to help his fellow person? And if he does want to help, why is he so conflicted about it at first? Why did he lash out before?

Basically what rules him? Is it nature or nurture which makes him decide to be a hero? And what about the other side of his nature (assuming it's Luthor)?

Nice panel here as Superboy confronts the teens. He decides to act 'like a human' and bring these murderers to justice.

And people should listen to him because he's Superboy; that should be enough.

This leads to a fight sequence where Silva really shines with glimmering red TK strands float amidst pyrokinetic flames and supermalleable limbs. It really is a slick couple of pages with nice angles and panel composition.

But these two aren't in Superboy's league and he quickly dispatches them. At one point he say that the only reason they are alive is because he isn't like them ... at least not this night. It does show that there is some conflict in him. He is really is a blank slate. Which way will he veer.

For now though, I like that avenging the people killed by these villains feels right to Superboy. There is more good in him.

But this is a pretty big emotional swing to happen in a few pages. I usually complain about the slow pace of comics these days. This epiphany was reached pretty quickly. My guess is there is more psychological internal conflicts to come.

Realizing he wants to be a force for good and stop killers like these two, Superboy returns to NOWHERE and re-ups. He wants to help round up other 'kids stirring up trouble'. This has to be what Centerhall was hoping for all along, something to happen to make Superboy run back to the only home he knows. The first one on the list:Wonder Girl.

So I have no intention of collecting Teen Titans so I hope this solo book becomes a partner book with TT. I suppose that until everything is up and running in the DCnU, some degree of crossover is necessary. I just hope I can understand this book without that one. Because I am more apt to drop this book than I am to pick that one up.

So overall, an okay issue albeit a bit too pat in some places. And I am sick of the conflicted hero wondering why they should help people. Can't people just be heroes any more??

Overall grade: B/C+

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Great review, and I agree, doing good should be the default. The question should be: why do bad when you have the power to help others?

Caitlin, I don't know - Gen13 strong girl, huh? And I missed Rose too.

Superboy is nuts to trust Centrefold or whoever - no one at NOWHERE is to be trusted, he should have learnt that by now. He needs to seek out someone of proven heart and honour to mentor him, Superman maybe.