Saturday, August 11, 2012

Back Issue Box: Superboy #28

Superboy is robbing banks in his book, described as 'maybe not the good guy' by his current writer, and has a dark soul that scares 'the Mistress of the Lost Domain'. Supergirl is calling him an abomination and watching him carefully. It doesn't look like these two are going to be fast friends.

With all that out there, I thought it would be fun to look into the back issue box and find another time that those themes were prevalent with the characters.

Superboy #28, written by Karl Kesel and Steve Mattson with art by Chris Gardner and Jason Armstrong,  came out in mid 1996 and was the 4th part of the 'Losin' It' arc. This was the Metropolis Kid Superboy, still a bit immature and rough around the edges, still a bit impetuous with the emotions of a teenage boy, and still trying to find himself. In this arc, he gets seduced by Knockout, an escaped Female Fury. She has some evil hidden agendas for Superboy but he can't see it. The two become a team, righting wrongs also but blurring the lines of justice and thuggery. In fact, Knockout kills someone during their 'adventures' but justifying it to Superboy. Conner, perhaps swayed by Knockout's passion and intensity, perhaps swayed by being completely 'accepted' by Knockout, or perhaps simply trying to discover who he is, defends her and embraces her both emotionally and physically.

But all of that noise surrounding it, Knockout's 'no holds barred', 'ends justify the means' approach to life gets the attention of the police and other heroes ... including Supergirl.

It isn't hard to see why this adolescent Superboy might be attracted to Knockout. She is described by Tana Moon as the 'goddess of sex and violence' and that would probably have some appeal for a hormone-fueled teenager. Of course, being in the natural paradise of Hawaii and having her showering under waterfalls just adds to the ambiance.

And yet, things are a bit off here. She is doing this not to titillate Superboy (who initially isn't around) but as some cleansing ritual for losing a battle. She prays to Darkseid for forgiveness. This was a bit of a change for her character who initially embraces her freedom of Apokalips and rejects the Furies. But it does show that she isn't one of the good guys.

Despite the recent events, most of Hawaii still considers Superboy a hero, cheering for him when he helps return some beached whales to the water. And Supergirl, who happened to be in the area, actually joins him.

Again, the sort of superficial and flippant attitude of Superboy is out there as he basically states that he recognized Supergirl by her chest. It was pretty clear in this book that despite these moments Superboy's heart is really in the right place.

I can't help but think that Kesel was playing off of Superboy and Supergirl's initial meeting when he certainly seemed to get an eyeful of Supergirl's physique (from Adventures of Superman #502, reviewed here).

Now these two have been comrades for some time now, part of Team Superman.

Supergirl is there because she is worried about Superboy, worried about what she is seeing, worried about him evading the law. She talks about what the S-shield represents and how it simply cannot be associated with someone evading the law, breaking the law.

In a nice retort, Superboy reminds Supergirl that they just went on a deep space mission to free Superman from the Galactic Tribunal, a mockery of justice. So sometimes the S-shield does mean 'breaking the law'. And after everything they have been through, why doesn't Supergirl trust Superboy?

The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Knockout who simply won't let Supergirl interfere.

You can tell Superboy, who was just defending Knockout, can't believe she would initiate a fight.

And it is quite a fight. A sort of super-street fight with both sides getting in some shots and receiving some blows as well. In some ways, it made Knockout seem a bit too tough ... although I suppose if this was Big Barda versus the Matrix Supergirl  I would accept it.

And Knockout isn't hiding anything in the fight. She admits she has 'big plans' for Superboy, that she isn't done with him. She isn't done corrupting him.

But this is more than just a physical fight. These two represent very different outlooks on life. Supergirl is the hero, determined to do what is right for people, and willing to fight a never ending battle. She'll never give up trying to be the hero.

So who will Superboy fall in line with?

At least for now, it seems like Knockout might have the upper hand. Superboy points out that Supergirl is being a bit pretentious given her own history with Lex Luthor.

And yet, Supergirl comes back with the right response. Friends and family don't want to see people make the same mistakes they have. No one wearing the S-shield and all it represents should be aligned with someone evil.

I really like Supergirl here. She really wants to help Superboy. She doesn't want to see him suffer the way she did. She doesn't want him to besmirch the S-shield as she did. It is very mature to admit your past mistakes and then offer the wisdom they brought you.

But Superboy doesn't want to hear it, staying loyal to Knockout.

And, in a nice dramatic moment, Supergirl strips him of his S-shields saying he isn't worthy to wear them. She won't let Superboy take down the name of Superman. Look at that determined second panel. She means business.

While Superboy says he doesn't care, his body language says otherwise. He is either sulking that Supergirl isn't treating him like an equal or he realizes there is a kernel of truth in all she has said. But before he can make any sort of revelation, Knockout is there hugging him, purring in his ears, and telling him that he needs nothing but her. And he agrees, leaving the S-shields there in the sand.

Luckily, ex-girlfriend now police officer Roxy finds them and pockets them. A reunion with the symbol and his values is to come.

I can remember reading this story arc and realizing that this was going to be a blip on the character's timeline, an arc where he realizes who he is and what he wants to be, a step in his maturation and on the hero's journey. I never worried about the overall tone of the book, that this Superboy was 'maybe not the good guy'. He was the good guy; he just had to rediscover that. So I suppose I should give the current Superboy the same benefit of the doubt.

And I loved that Supergirl was that sounding board. She was the one who tried to make him look inside and realize he was being misled. And it made it that much more powerful since she had also struggled with this very scenario. It makes it less preachy and more personal.

This is more of a Superboy story than a Supergirl story and as such has low importance for a Supergirl collection. The issue also has plenty of pages devoted to Tana and Roxy. And a lightning powered young woman named Sparx shows up mid-battle it seems with the sole story purpose of plugging the upcoming Superboy and the Ravers book. Still there are some nice moments and nice sentiment by Supergirl here. If you find this in the $1, it is worth the purchase.

Overall grade: B

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