Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Superboy #8

Superboy #8 came out this week and suffered a bit from being involved in the big 'The Culling' crossover event working its way into a number of Young Justice titles this summer.

As a whole Superboy has been something of a nice surprise in the DCnU. For one, I think it has one of the best and more complex supporting casts in the new books, especially Rose Wilson. It has stunning art by RB Silva. And Scott Lobdell has done a good job of showing just how confusing it would be to wake up fully grown one day with no idea about who is playing you. Superboy's character has grown over these 8 issues, but more in a baby-step manner than in a huge leaps. Each issue is basically Superboy trying to assert his freedom from NOWHERE and while that plot is fine, I wonder how many issues with the same underlying story I can take.

And so I wonder if it might be too early for me to get wrapped up into a major crossover. I barely know this Superboy so I don't want him to share his book with too many other characters. I know that I don't want to buy books I don't usually buy to fill in the blanks of the Culling.

Nevertheless, we are here, in the opening moments of this crossover. Unfortunately, Superboy has already become entwined with Teen Titans. We start this issue in the middle of a fight which must have begun in Titans. Because when I left Superboy, he had just been captured and Wonder Girl was looking for him.

But instead we have a healed Superboy battling Grunge, another potential Ravager preparing for the Culling. I never really read Gen13 so I don't know if Grunge's powers (in essence the same as the Absorbing Man) are new or changed. The Grunge/Superboy pages are penciled by Iban Coello.

Now what I know about the culling has been gleaned from interviews and promo pieces. It seems that someone named Harvest is gathering young super-powered beings, bringing them to a place called the Colony, and having them brawl until there is just a few standing (this Culling the weak). Those left will be Ravagers who will sweep through the world and help Harvest take over. It seems like an odd plan. Won't you need numbers to beat the super-heroes out there rather than a small group of Ravagers. Wouldn't it be better to have an army?

Anyways, there is some pearls of information in the midst of this relatively meaningless brawl. For one, Superboy and Rose were the favorites to escape the Culling, the ideal Ravagers. That is, until Superboy got a sense of morality. I like that there is some acknowledgment of Superboy's growth here.

It also makes me wonder if Harvest was the seated being in shadows last month. If he was involved with Superboy's preparation, he must be working within NOWHERE.

Grunge has no real beef with Superboy from what I understand, other than he is working for Harvest and Superboy is trying to escape.

As I said before, much of the lead-in to this fight happened in the Teen Titans. So we get a flashback of how the Titans freed Superboy, faced off against Harvest for the first time, and met another 'creepy' character named Omen.
I do think it maybe speaks volumes about the book that I am more interested in the pages involving the supporting cast than I am with the Superboy pages. I guess that means he isn't the star of his own book in my mind.

So it was great to see the bulked-up Caitlyn in action again. Here she is breaking into STAR labs to steal a shuttle. My guess is she is heading to NOWHERE to join the fray. I don't know, seems like a STAR is a victim here. I wish Caitlyn was in a place where she could have just asked to borrow it.

Nice design on her suit though, incorporating the green/purple motif of old with a more combat-ready feel.

But for me, the real star of this book has been Rose Wilson. She is tough as nails and bigger than life. But it also seems like a bit of a facade as we have seen her loyalty to Caitlyn. She is complicated ... always talking about killing and then bemoaning the loss of her friend.

So for me, this was the best moment in the book, thus the cluster of panels here (and fewer scans overall).

After an odd interaction where she loses control and fights her own men, Rose runs into Solstice (who I think is a Titan). We learn a bit about Rose's past and future.

At one point she was the worst of the worst, a killer ... until she was found by Solstice and Harvest and changed, made more controllable.

But that change has been more profound. Rose has become a new person, someone who Solstice thinks would be haunted if she killed again. Someone worth preserving, remaining, even if that means fighting against her old instincts. This is great stuff, showing that it can be tough to do good, that we have to fight against our baser urges to evolve. It explains the sort of duality we have seen in Rose. Just wonderful.

And it is clear that Silva loves Rose. Again we see that 'bigger than life' feel as she exists outside the panels.

In the meantime, Superboy decides he needs to end his fight with Grunge and the only way to do it is to use his TK to rip the absorbing tech from Grunge's body. Gruesome.

But it is an endplay, perhaps killing Grunge. I like how Superboy is already lamenting his victory here, understanding that Harvest wants these supers to cross lines they otherwise wouldn't.

Despite the heartfelt talk a few pages before, the next time we see Rose she is carrying an unconscious Solstice, delivering her to Harvest.

This has to be a ruse, right? This has to be Rose and Solstice scheming to get Solstice close to Harvest (it is implied to two have a history). Right?

As for Superboy, he heals up pretty quickly from his fight with Grunge and is brought to the Colony and entered into the Culling. Here we meet a couple of old/new friends ... Beast Boy and Terra. The Tron-like outfits work here for some reason, although that is one looooonng zipper on Terra's suit.

But the thing is, the Culling just seems to smack more and more like a Super-Hunger games. And now I get to miss out on more of the story as this heads back to Titans.

So overall we got more baby steps for Superboy. We hear how others recognize his morality, how he doesn't want to maim his enemies. But his role in this issue was simply as a punching bag.

Instead the best moments belong to Rose who continues to fascinate. Where will she eventually land when this arc is over? Will she remain here? Or in the Ravagers title?

And I felt like I was dropped into this story. Since I am not getting Titans I probably will only read the even chapters of this arc ... and that's never fun.

I hope we get RB Silva back for the entire issue next month.

Overall grade: B

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