Superboy #9 came out this week, the second part of the 4 part crossover, The Culling. While the concepts of The Culling have been brewing here (and over in Legion Lost), I am jumping in a bit here having missed The Culling Part One in Teen Titans Annual #1.
This is definitely a 'brawl' issue with nearly nonstop action of people fighting people. While we mostly get Superboy vs. Warblade, we also get the Titans, the Legion, and the Ravagers. It is a big cast of characters and mostly for people I'm not that interested in. Moreover, it is still a bit hard to grasp the big concept of The Culling. Harvest has young super-powered people he has captured fight to the death in hopes of gathering the survivors to work for him. So if Superboy wins, Harvest expects him to fall in line and serve? It seems a bit off ... although the Ravagers team seems to have fallen in line. I don't know, this seems like a quick way to try to grab the zeitgeist of The Hunger Games phenomenon. And a crossover like this seems to come too early into the new universe. We barely know Superboy to have his comic taken over by a crossover. There are a couple of interesting nuggets of characterization here, but you need to sift through the detritus to get there.
RB Silva provide the art and he has really shined on this book. His work is inked by two creators here. I am more used to Rob Lean's clean work on Silva's art. Iban Coello also inks some pages and brings more detail and fine line work to Silva's pencils.
So here are the players on the battlefield, a sort of fiery volcanic environment. The Ravagers are all about serving Harvest and eliminating the competition. But again, I question Harvest's purpose here. If the current Ravagers are prior winners and part of the fold, why endanger them in this fight? Why not have the Legion and the Titans fight each other, cull the weak there until the survivor is told to join the bad guys or get killed by them.
Anyways, that is a lot of characters to keep track of.
My standout character for the Superboy book has been Rose Wilson and I have gushed about her 'gruff exterior hiding a hurting young woman' characterization in this book.
I have also complimented Silva's approach to Rose which has been a 'larger than life', outside the panels, big art approach. Here we see that again as Rose tries to fight Red Robin. This first panel is wonderful with a staring down from the air point of view, Rose in mid flip with sword drawn. That is a fresh sort of perspective showing the 3 dimensional nature of a melee like this.
Again, you can see that Coello inks here. I don't know if Lean would have put such big details on Rose or Robin.
As I said, since this is Superboy's book, we see mostly his fight against Warblade (a character I am completely unfamiliar with). Like most of the Ravagers, he is immune to the direct effects of Superboy's TK. He also seems extremely tough, sparring directly with Superboy, being force fed lava, and being thrown around. In fact, Superboy might have died at the hands of Warblade if Dawnstar doesn't swing by to fly Warblade away.
Still, the point of this battle is Superboy again looking into a mirror darkly. Warblade was also created to be a weapon, but relishes his work as a tool for Harvest, and loves being a killer. This is Superboy if he hadn't been rescued by Caitlin, if he hadn't been created with a wisp of Superman's ethics, if he wasn't his own person.
Superboy chooses to reject being an automaton. It is the underlying theme of this book, Superboy discovering who he is. But we have seen similar scenes throughout the book. I am ready to see more growth in him, to take the next step.
In an interesting turn of events for Titans fans, Timber Wolf recognizes Bart and says that people suffered and died at the hands of the Flash in the future. Now that is intriguing. So I suppose Bart isn't a fun-loving impatient kid eager to be a hero in the DCnU. He is something with a dark past. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
Luckily, the Flash is saved when Tellus mentally shuts down Timber Wolf.
Meanwhile, the Superboy/Warblade fight has a semi-unfortunate bystander casualty. The young stretchy villain from Superboy #3 simply gets in the way as he tries to attack Superboy and ends up being killed by Warblade.
This was a bad guy who slaughtered an entire restaurant of people. So you reap what you sow sometimes. But again, this is Warblade's way of tempting Superboy to the dark side. But what does Warblade mean that Superboy has done it before? Am I forgetting Superboy killing someone?
Nice use of red paint around the outline of the panel ... adds a bit of energy and a bloody feeling to the scene.
And now, my least favorite part of the issue.
After watching Warblade shrug off everything Superboy has thrown at him this issue (punches, TK blasts, lava), Warblade is knocked unconscious by ........ a rock Dawnstar throws that hits him in the head.
Dawnstar throwing a rock from 20ft away knocks him out?
And the rest of the Ravagers? They also get taken out by the Titans/Legion team. It looks like victory.
Until Harvest shows up. And he is talking some smack. He wanted to Titans/Legion/Superboy to win so that they will feel worse when they lose? It was worth having his army get crushed? I don't know ... I just don't get it.
While I have enjoyed much of Superboy as a title ... Superboy's attempts to grow, the tremendous characters of Rose and Caitlin, and RB Silva's fantastic art. But I feel like this book is in something of a rut. How many issues of him saying he can make his own decisions and fighting someone from NOWHERE can I read. I need him to move forward and I need a story that is his and not so tightly linked to NOWHERE or the Titans.