Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: Superboy #18

Superboy #18 came out last week, the first issue post-H'El on Earth. Of all the characters in that arc, Superboy came out the best. Over the course of the story, he recognizes Superman for the hero he is, joins the fight against H'El, refuses to give up when Supergirl pounds him, and is crucial to H'El's 'defeat'. On top of this, much of his heroics occur when he is clinging to life after H'El devastated him on a genetic level. It was refreshing to see him take such a step forward, even while I sadly watched Kara take two steps back.

With H'El behind us and a fresh persecptive from Kon, as well as maybe new readers on board, and new writer Justin Jordan a couple of issues away, Superboy #18 seemed like as a good an issue as any to recalibrate the book. And this issue does just that, even if most of the story is told by the villain rather than from Superboy himself. It is an outsider learning about Kon and that works well here ... after all, we are outsiders too. Scott Lobdell comes back on the title as writer here continuing his efforts with the character from Superman.

I usually applaud RB Silva's art on the book. But this issue looked a bit rushed and not as polished as I am used to. I liked the clean crisp look of the earlier issues. Iban Coello chips in on a handful of pages.

Now you might remember a few months back that I blasted this book for having Superboy become a bank robber. As much as the writers tried to convince me, this wasn't a victimless crime, it is a major crime, and this wasn't ignorance of the law since he went out of his way to elude capture.

I want my heroes stopping bank robbers not being bank robbers.

Well, someone in DC must have felt the same thing. Because here, on the opening page, is Superboy realizing that what he did was wrong and returning whatever money he has left. And he feels remorse. Despite the standard 'I am a living weapon' opening comments, he clearly is growing more human, manifesting a conscience. And I, for one, am glad. Because there is only so far you can go with the 'angry bitter clone doing what he wants to do when he wants to and not caring about anyone else' path. It pretty much is a literary dead end. So kudos to editorial or Lobdell or DeFalco for moving Kon back onto the hero's path.

You know what did confuse me though? Kon himself looking so spry! What exactly happened with the 'I'm dying, my genes have been ripped apart' plot point? Like so much of H'El on Earth, it seems to have been ignored or forgotten. That annoys me as a reader.

Of course, this is comics and crazy coincidences are bound to happen.

So it turns out the night that Superboy is returning the money he stole, Plasmus is going to rob the bank. That's crazy! It is an easy way to explain away the missing thousands and shift the blame away from Superboy.

It also allows us to see Superboy's growth once again. Here he tries to stop Plasmus from performing the very same 'victimless crime' he commited just a couple of months ago. It is an interesting turn of events, flipping Kon's recent decisions on their heads.

Also, Kon quips his way through the fight, putting him more in line with the last rendition of the Superboy character. I wonder if this is a super-super-super-soft reboot, tweaking the character just a bit.

We are then introduced to the DCnU version of Dr. Psycho. He is nearby, acting as a psychic, and fleecing some folks desperate to hear from the hereafter.

When we first meet him, he is spouting vague statements trying to convince this woman he is contact with the dead. But during this phony reading, he is using telepathic powers to learn ATM pin numbers, account numbers, etc. He is going to rob her blind. So ... if he is a decent enough telepath that he can learn codes, he can't skim her for memories from her past to convince her he can talk to the dead?

He has escaped from H.I.V.E. and is on the run. That lower panel was confusing at first. It took a while for me to realize that was a flashback of him hiding and not him talking to someone else in the room.

And is it just me or is there a whiff of the old Legion reservist Kid Psycho in his look.

Much like with H'El, I don't quite know what Psycho's powers are. He definitely is a telepath. He is drawn to Superboy's power and states he will 'drain' him of that power. And then, a surprise to even Psycho himself, he astral projects, leaving his physical body and entering Superboy's mind.

Now these are my favorite pages in the book, a look into Superboy's mind. Here, in the rec room of his mind Fairchild is doing the watusi with Red Robin, his neighbor Dallas is playing twister with Psyblade, Ridge is kicking back with a beer. There is even a battle in the background. And yet, despite that frivolity and action, Superboy still feels himself to be 'other', still a thing in a nutrient tube, still separate. That isn't explained ... it is just shown. And that is powerful. Internally, he still has a self-image of 'it'.

While all of that is happening, Superboy is basically trading blows with Plasmus. One blow is jarring enough to throw Psycho's astral self out of Superboy and back into his body.

It is clear that Psycho isn't too confident with his powers or his ability to defend himself. That is a pretty empty 'kneel before' statement.

Plasmus and Superboy re-engage leaving Dr. Psycho to figure out his next move.

So after being surprised that he can astrally project a couple of pages ago, Psycho decides to jump again, try to drain Superboy of his power, or (even better) possess him and take control of his body.

Just a couple of minor gripes here. Nothing major. But it seems off that Psycho is so confident in being able to do this when a couple of pages ago he didn't know how he jumped and was basically 'trapped' in that tube.

But more importantly, we know very little about Psycho but one thing we do know is he wants desperately to protect and shield himself from harm. So it seems odd that he would leave his physical body, which is defenseless while he is 'out of body', in the middle of this Plasmus/Superboy war zone. At least find a corner to hide in before doing this.

Again, minor gripes.

Ah, but what a cliffhanger. Inside Superboy's mind, Psycho runs into Lex Luthor who has been waiting for 'him'. My guess is this is some pre-recorded message deep in Superboy's mind from his other 'daddy' Luthor. Psycho was basically the first to plumb those depths, even before Superboy himself.

It isn't much of a surprise to hear that Luthor is part of Superboy's DNA given the prior incarnation. But I am glad that piece of his history has carried forward. I also think it is interesting that this is yet another layer in Superboy's mind. There is reality. There are N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s subliminals where he courted Rose in Smallville. There are Harvest's subliminal subliminals where he is brainwashing Kon to hate Superman. And now there is the Luthor zone of his mind.

That's a lot of layers. Will it be more parfait than onion?

I have to say that I liked this issue more than most of the last half-year of this book. Superboy seems to be on the right path again. While I am sure there will be speed bumps at least he seems to have a better concept of right and wrong. The panels showing how he imagines himself was very interesting, a nice look inside. And Lex as daddy! All good.

I don't know enough about this Dr. Psycho to have a clear leaning. I loved to hate the old Wonder Woman villain so this guy might suffer in comparison.

And RB Silva's art just seemed rougher than usual, which was just a bit distracting.

Still overall, a nice step in the right direction.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

I really enjoyed the main story, the new take on Dr Pyscho is a lot of fun - actual fun in a DC New 52 comic! Nice one, writers - I'd like more Tony Lee, please. And while he's always been a Wonder Woman villain, I can't see the current run using him in any way, unless he suddenly grows god connections. The towel mummy look is a hoot, and I like that his personality seems to be a one-off (notice how, at the same time as he stole her codes, 'Dr Psychico' seemed happy to have comforted her).

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the return of the money is in part down to our protests - sometimes the comics folk do listen, and the original plot point widely went down about as well as a bag of sick. I'm surprised there wasn't a line of thought from Kon in which he acknowledged that he'd been no better than Plasmus who, like him, is rationalising a crime. Too obvious?

I wish the back-up had been integrated into the lead story, I began reading it, assuming it to be an Action comics preview.

Did the two pars under the pic of Plasmus frying Superboy get flipped, Anj? Anyway, I don't see how Plasmus could be blamed for Superboy's cash grab of weeks (?) ago.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comment Mart.

I meant to mean that Plasmus might explain away the 'missing thousands'. The money suddenly reappears but the amount missing will be blamed on the obvious villain.

And yes, Psycho has a bit of humor about him. And Superboy's Parker-like quips all made this a fun issue. As you say, that is lacking in the DCnU.

I forgot to comment on the backup!

Dante said...

Fun...FUN,in a Super title other than Supergirl's?Didn't expect that,between the epic portrayl's of Jurgen and Morisson's Superman and the gritty Lodbell feel of Titans and Superboy.

So...Superboy is on his way to becoming the Peter Parker of the Super family...because if that's the case,then that's the best step for the character,to become the 90's loving guy he started as.

At least for me that is.If things are to continue like that I wouldn't mind watching the two young cousins in a joint title taking out crime in their own ways,not unlike the Superman Family Adventures book.

Also..Luthor's again the dad...ok,it was expected as hell,who else can look so awesome with a bald head in the DC universe?

This has quite the potential though,with Psycho seeing the message first or even with Psycho seeing the message,period,thus the message never plays for Kon and thus he is free from Luthor's sub layer of thoughts and hate.Good god,the potential with that literaly psychic warfare.

PRgirl1294 said...

This issue was good, although it was disappointing in that it defied almost everything in the solicits and it didn't feature as much of Superboy's point of view as it should have. But hopefully that won't be the case in the next issue. And considering that from how Dr. Psycho is running from the H.I.V.E. and how the H.I.V.E. is mentioned in the solicits for "Superboy #21", it looks like Superboy and Superman will be meeting again in the next few issues. Hopefully after that, Superman will take Superboy in as "Conner Kent".