Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Superboy #12

Where is Superboy as a book going?

I read the earliest issues and felt it was a team book with Caitlin and Rose with Superboy working his way through life with those two role models. Would he be like Red or the Ravager? Then I read the Gathering issues and thought that he was a reluctant hero on journey, learning about this new world in which he was created. While he seemed conflicted, I thought he would find the right path. I did worry that the loss of Caitlin and Rose on the book would hurt how much I enjoyed it because I thought they were the most interesting characters.

Then I read Superboy #11 and wondered if it was going off the tracks. It read wrong. Superboy seemed narcissistic, uninterested in being a hero, overly edgy, and thinking only about living a fun and over-the-top life. Was this a bump in the road? Or the beginning of a new theme on the book now that Tom DeFalco signed on as writer.

Superboy #12 sort of continued the themes of last issue although maybe not as abrasive. And yet, when it was done, I thought it read mostly like a retread of some of the Jeph Loeb/Joe Kelly Supergirl issues. (I'll point out the similarities as I go along.) And I hope that feeling isn't going to continue. While I know Loeb/Kelly had their fans on Supergirl, she was mostly unlikeable and unheroic on their run. I just hope that Superboy rights it self faster than Supergirl did. It was 19 issues before DC realized the callous, self-important, selfish Kara wasn't right.

As I said, this issue wasn't as bad as last. So maybe I should try to remain optimistic.

The issue starts with Superboy out at a dance club with his newfound supporting cast. He quickly realizes that all his super-powers can't give him rhythm and so quickly extricates himself from the dance floor.

So an underage (and I am going by assumed maturation age not actual age - he has been around only months) Superboy sneaks into a club to hang out. Sounds like the Kelly Supergirl, or even the Palmiotti Supergirl.

I'm not saying that he can't relax every once in a while. But this simply built on the feeling of the character from last issue.

The person he is dancing with is his landlady Dallas Sorrentino, a sort of Paris Hilton celebutante. She is there with her friends. There is Sam Mendez, NBA star. There is Hartford Howard Wellington, a young brilliant businessman a la Patrick Bateman. And there is another beautiful young woman named Jules Bennet and Raz, the green haired punk of the group.

We learn how Superboy got there in a flashback. Here, at least, Bunker continues to tell Superboy that robbing banks is ... gasp ... wrong. Out loud, Superboy says with all the 'rules and regulations' of being a hero he might not want to be one. Sounds again like the Kelly Supergirl who sold Batman Kryptonian technology so she could also be an instant millionaire and be a bon vivant instead of a hero. At least he wonders about returning the money.

Dallas then shows up. She is played up as being somewhat oversexed asking if she can stay with Superboy for weeks, commenting on how good he is with his hands when he helps her get into her apartment (she was locked out), and telling him to come in for a 'reward'.

When he refuses, she demands they go out clubbing later. I do like Bunker's reaction. He says he should go, mostly for research. If Superboy wants to learn about humanity, he should hang out with people without powers. And why not the famous Sorrentino. Now this ultra-rich partying group isn't typical of everyday America but it has to be better than the Titans.

At the club Superboy is handed a drink which he quickly downs. I do like how he asks what the allure is.

But look at that second panel. I guess this crew is our new supporting cast. I don't know if any of them are going to be more than one-dimensional. I don't think they will make me forget Rose and Red.

I think I am still trying to wrap my head around just what this Superboy's powers are. They seem more like straightforward telekinesis rather than tactile TK. But he also seems to have a Spider-Sense which tingles when this redhead enters the club. She radiates evil. It is clear that she is after Dallas.

Superboy steps up, trying to buy time for Dallas to escape. So at least he stepped up for a friend.

But she is more than she seems. She is Kiva, Mistress of the Dark Domain!

Her powers seem to be two-fold. One is that she can rebound someone's powers back against them. The other is that she can flood their minds with hallucinations.

Battered, Superboy rids his body of the alcohol by vomiting up the remaining drink in his stomach. Yeesh, TK to ball up your stomach contents?

Perhaps reassuring is that in his mind, Superboy pictures himself in his costume and not in dance clothes. This is his manifestation of himself in this hallucination. Maybe deep down he considers himself a super-hero.

And if his power is rebounding back against him, the only thing to do is stop using his power and let Kiva all the way in.

She doesn't like what she sees, screaming in fear and going catatonic.

He must have something dark inside him. So dark it frightens this devilish woman.

It all sounds so familiar ...

Reminds me of early on in Supergirl when she battled Raven (she was always battling heroes). Supergirl is enshrouded in Raven's soul but it is Raven who is defeated, Supergirl being soooo dark on the inside that the daughter of Trigon is incapacitated.

I didn't like it then. Don't expect me to like it now.

At least all these shenanigans aren't going unnoticed.

Detective Lure, who helped spring Superboy from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is going to step up to bat. And I hope she will be more teacher than executioner. At least there will be someone in his life trying to be a mentor and showing him right from wrong.

So Superboy wants to learn more about humanity, jumps up to help a friend, and pictures himself in his costume. A mentor is waiting in the wings. All good.

But there was also that shudder of early 2000's Supergirl, out at the club, not wanting to be a hero, surrounded by other self-involved people, and with a dark soul ... dark enough to scare a demon-esque villain. Who wants to read that book?

The art on the book is a hodge podge of inkers over Eduardo Pansica pencils but feels awkward as we go from style to style.

Overall grade: C-


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that Supergirl was the one who was attacked in issues #1 and 2 under Loeb. Let's not forget that Supergirl kept trying to avoid the fight in issue #1 and was even ready to forgive Power Girl and Power Girl still acted horribly to her. Let's not forget that the JSA recognized Power Girl was in the wrong and had not been herself.

We must also remember that Supergirl had many battles with heroes during Gates' run. The battles under Gates' run happened when Supergirl was supposed to be established and everyone knew what she was about.

Dave Mullen said...

I agree the with the review Anj, I skimmed thru this book on the way home today so will have to sit down and give it a proper read, but the lack of a clear purpose for the character is probobly the biggest problem driving it.
Why is he here? Why is he wearing an S-shield? Why is there no connection to Superman as yet? There's no end of questions that come with this book but the characters actual purpose in life is the biggest one of all...

In Tom DeFalco's defence he was shoehorned into this book and inherited this situation, I think he's done a commendable job taking Legion Lost and making it interesting and lively so can't be too harsh on his Superboy as yet as we all know how much baggage and ploitics a Superman book comes with these days.
I honestly think the crux of the problem with Superboy is that like a lot of the reboots last September not a lot of thought was put into it as a concept and ongoing storyline and the premise was flawed anyway. I count Legion Lost, Red Lanterns, Deathstroke, Hawkman and Stormwatch with this problem as well as all of these are/were very flawed ideas for books.
So DeFalco is wrestling with all this as well as trying to figure out what tone the book should have, and even that's only if editorial let him! DeFalco's typical style is well tailored for writing teens like this, he would have been a fine choice for the 90s Superboy for example, but this current Kon-el is nothing like that fun loving scallywag so again there is a conceptual problem, this Kon-el is locked into a quite dull and humorless characterisation which is so ingrained I suspect he will only work as the butt of other peoples jokes... he's a lot like Mr Spock in fact....

tony said...

Ok i picture SB like Data from star trek,new to everything,and even sayijg things that others think are jokes,but its just him being honest.if you watched the star trek show you should notice this SB and Data are very his tastes in clothing,and lifestyle seems right to come from lex ,even his intelligent thouht and speakijng seems to come from him.

Also his TK ismt just TK,its "tactile" TK,and its meaning is a lil.different means anythijg his TK can touch he can scan,which means see,learn,and react from.that "spider senses",and the chemical breakdown in his drink while.holding it,is only a few things this "tactile" sensory ability can do,but its at present limited to things he is in physical contact with,if KIVA was floating,he wouldnt have seen her any better than any normal human would have.

I thought his night club buddies and kiva were more throway than anything,these were the weak points in this issue for me,while his characterization,voice,and power usage was the highpoints of it.

Dave Mullen said...

Ok i picture SB like Data from star trek,new to everything,and even sayijg things that others think are jokes,but its just him being honest.if you watched the star trek show you should notice this SB and Data are very similar

Yes they are similar, the differences are that Data is purely part of an ensemble cast and the medium is television.
Superboy at the moment works fine as a Titans member but not as well in his solo book, a reader needs more than this thin and dull persona to keep them interested in a book longterm.
Superboy is odd as he lacks any emotional range. There's no humor in him, no sadness, and barely even any anger. He is the antithesis of the 90s Kon-el, simple though he was too in many ways, and I'm not seeing any easy way of turning this characterisation around at the moment. He's become sort of set in stone already, any change in him is going to take quite awhile to do, I don't know as he'll have that long...

Anj said...

Thanks for the discussion and posts.

I thought that the feel of this issue was much better than last issue.

His emotional range is an interesting topic. We have seen him sort of swoon around Wonder Girl, feel loyal to Red, and get angry. But I think these responses are sort of in an early adolescent stage.

I wonder if Detective Lure will be the one to try to get him 'up to speed' on being human.

tony said...

i think she will get him up to speed on being a hero,or being taken down,which is cool.

i think his emotional range is exactly where someone who has no experience dealing with anything,oh and being alive would be at.

i think this issue was defalcos best issue,writingwise,than any of his other scripted only issues by far.

Martin Gray said...

Great review. even though we disagree on some points - I loved this issue, it felt so much more positive than last month's. And while I see the similarities with early issues of Lolita Belly Supergirl, I didn't feel them as I was writing. That early Kara was just nasty and dumb, where Superboy seems a lot more likeable here.

I disagree that Superboy's new not-yet-friends are presented as self-absorbed. OK, Fifth loves to play with his smartphone but as for the rest, they seem to be well socialised.

I wonder if Dallas hadn't lost her key at all, but was seeking sanctuary from Kiva and her goons.

Anj said...

i think this issue was defalcos best issue,writingwise,than any of his other scripted only issues by far.


Anj said...

That early Kara was just nasty and dumb, where Superboy seems a lot more likeable here.

I agree that this was a much more likeable Superboy. That nasty Kara feel was much more prevalent last issue.

I do think was way better and a step in the right direction. Hopefully the trend continues.