I have had my problems with Superboy as a title recently, trying to understand a frame shift of 'lost boy with good tendencies' to 'lost boy with bad tendencies'.
This month, I have been impressed with DC's 'zero issues' as most have been on the money with the jmping on point, origin sort of story. In particular, Action, Animal Man, Demon Knights, Earth 2, and Worlds' Finest have all been very good, building on the title while commenting on the characters' beginnings and the feeling accessible enough for new readers to grab on to.
Superboy #0 continued this trend of solid zero issues. We get some history about Kon, the killer Kryptonian clone. We get a new wrinkle to Superboy's history, perhaps explaining his odd feelings towards heroes and Superman in particular. And we get a curious cameo which puzzled me a bit. So that was great. Kudos to writer
But, because of how this was tied into Krypton's history, this also felt like a sort of 'zero issue' for H'El on Earth and better explained Supergirl's response to Superboy a few issues ago.
I still don't think I want a bank-robbing bad boy as Superboy but at least I can understand this one and why he might do that a bit more. Kudos to writer Tom DeFalco for weaving the distant past and the near past together, building on the origin of Superboy.
The book opens up with some exposition about Kon and his attack of the clones on Krypton.
Kon is shown to be leading an army of clones, ripping through cities and citizens alike, razing the surface of the planet. And yes, he does strike a resemblance to Superboy.
These are dramatic first pages showing just how brutal and bloody this revolt was, at one point threatening the entire planet when Kon and his group took over some weather control stations.
So is this man Kon the Kryptonian genetic basis for Superboy? And if yes, how did they get this sample? What is interesting is that Kon is the name of this clone. I had originally thought that Kon was a generic term for clone on Krypton.
And in case you didn't notice on this splash, there is Supergirl in the lower right corner.
Could this mean that at some point there will be a Supergirl time travel story? Or some astral projection to this moment in time to witness this? Maybe it is seeing this piece of history that makes her set out against Superboy fully?
As for this exposition, it turns out it is provided by Harvest who has access to 'certain historical documents'. And he is telling it to Omen at a time around Superboy #1, a time when Superboy was still in a tube in NOWHERE.
While it meant I had to see Harvest and Omen again, I did find this intruguing. Just how did Harvest get hold of Kryptonian documents? I am starting to wonder if Harvest might have some stronger connection to Krypton and Superboy than just scientific curiosity.
Oh yeah, and I was reminded that Superboy was in pod #02. Who is in #01?
Harvest continues to talk about cloning on Krypton.
Clones were used for initial space exploration, then medical experiments, then menial labor, and then finally slave labor. And, at some point, base on 'impulse control' issues, they revolt against their enslavers.
It reads very much like the use of Replicants in 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' and 'Blade Runner'. Maybe too much? Of course, the movie is 30 yrs old and the book is older than that. Maybe this reference is only at the front of my memory.
But it also makes me wonder something. Are Kryptonian clones literally clones of someone (meaning there was a person who was the exact genetic makeup and donor for Kon) or are they simply androids/artificial life, created from random code?
This did have a sort of echo of the cloning issues on Krypton we heard about in John Byrne/Mike Mignola's The World of Krypton.
What I did like about this issue was that it was much like Superboy #1 albeit from another point of view. We know that Superboy eventually escapes that pod with some help from Fairchild.
And yet, we now see that somehow the concept of bloody revolution is hardwired into Superboy.
And what about his human cells? I can't imagine that they are Luthor's anymore. So whose are they? Any guesses?
Back in the past, just when Kon seems about to win his war, he is betrayed from within leading to the genocide of the clones. This being a good mystery, Kon's body is said to have not been recovered.
So even more questions arise and that is always a good thing for me. When I try to piece through a puzzle, it grabs my interest.
Who is this 'Kryptonian agent' who snuck into Kon's camp? If Supergirl's appearance is true, that she time traveled ... maybe it is her? Or maybe it is Superboy himself if he joined her? Or maybe an El family ancestor, perhaps the genetic donor for Kon? Hmmm ...
We then hear about a sort of isolationalist movement/ fatalistic cult that blossoms in the aftermath of the clone revolution. Krypton will remain pure and alone.
Is it me, or does this cult leader look like Kon? Could he achieve his goal of vengeance by keeping Kryptonians out of the stars, thus making them bound to the planet as it explodes around them?
One thing I don't have a clear sense of is when this happened in Kryptonian history. Is this shortly before the planet's destruction? Is this cult around to thwart Jor-El's efforts (I assume yes given what Scott Lobdell has shared about Superman #0)? Or does this failed coup happen centuries before Kal is rocketed to Earth? I don't know.
Now this background about the Kryptonian Kon would have been interesting enough to make this a winner issue for me.
But there is more.
In another twist from Superboy #1, we find out that Harvest has been trying to warp Superboy's psyche from the beginning. While Fairchild was running VR Smallville scenarios, Harvest was running deeper scenarios of Superman rejecting, hating, and pummeling Superman.
So this brainwashing explains why Superboy seems so distrustful of Superman. And Harvest is doing this only to sow the seeds of chaos, hoping Superboy will snap and revolt just like Kon did. I might not like it but at least now I understand why Superboy is keeping his distance.
In the end, Harvest hopes that Superboy will become his ultimate weapon, fighting all the heroes he can. Nice action pose of Kara here.
So, maybe H'El is the pod #01 occupant? Could Harvest somehow be connected to Kon or Krypton? Could Supergirl be traveling back in time to fight Kon? And can Superboy be deprogrammed so he can become the hero I hope he will be?
As usual, artist RB Silva and inker Rob Lean do a solid job here, bringing the right energy to the war pages and the more exposition driven panels.
And I know feel I have a better foundation of who this Superboy is. He certainly is damaged goods, created in a pod, fed negative and extremely negative images and information, and let loose into a world he doesn't understand. Add to that a volatile genetic makeup and I suppose I could understand why he would do what he is doing. I can only hope that he is able to overcome this history and be the right hero to wear the S-shield.
But kudos again to Tom DeFalco. I was losing interest and not caring about this character the last couple of months. At least not I am curious about where this is all heading.