Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Review: Superboy #21
Superboy #21 came out last week and continued a trend to re-invent this comic, moving a bit away from the angst-driven early issues to more straight-forward super-heroics with a dash of humor. I, for one, welcome the change.
Writer Justin Jordan has shifted the story of the book from running from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to fighting the more psionic-oriented H.I.V.E. With the complicated nonsense of NOWHERE/Harvest/The Culling/multiple layers of subliminals in the rear view mirror and with a complete lack of acknowledgment of Scott Lobdell's inane genetic history for the character, I really feel like this is a fresh start and a 'bold new direction'.
Suddenly this book feels like a super-hero book again with a young man with powers striving to help people. Great news!
RB Silva and Rob Lean do the bulk of the art and it has been interesting to see their style morph in front of our eyes to the thicker lined murky look he currently sports. It works well with scenes with psionics or tactile telekinesis. However, I miss his cleaner look in the quieter moments of the story. Edgar Salazar pitches in on some pages and his thinner smoother style worked well.
With the threat of HIVE now front and center, Superboy has teamed up with Dr. Psycho to try to bring them down.
I like the contrasting personalities between these two new friends here. Certainly there is a banter here which allows Jordan to bring some humor into this book, something much appreciated. But Superboy wanting to act while Psycho investigates is similar to the friction/friendship between Huntress and Power Girl in Worlds' Finest.
It feels consistent for Superboy to be bored just sitting around, saying it every three minutes.
Psycho's old school corkboard investigation of psionic-like events leads him to a young girl named Sarah who is homeless and on the run. She can't seem to escape from a monster named Decay.
A psionic connected to a being named Decay?? Could this be a new Psi for the New 52?
Unlikely, but I can hope.
Anyways, I liked how Psycho's powers are stronger around Superboy. I wonder if he is leeching off Superboy eventually weakening Kon. It also makes Psycho have another reason other than just being a good guy to stick with Kon. I wonder if that leads him down a path from funny cohort to super-villain.
In another move to bring a bit of whimsy to the book, Jordan has Krypto become Superboy's pet.
As they say, there is no greater friendship than a boy and his dog. I love this addition to the book.
It is funny how Krypto was also part of the Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire Superboy books as well.
This also adds another link to Superman as a Superman Family starts to form in the New 52.
As I said, Superboy hasn't exactly been acting like a pure super-hero in this title. So I thought this scene was touching as he moves towards that role.
When he encounters Sarah, she runs into his arm and shouts Superboy, happy to see him and be able to help her. That look of surprise on his face that someone would be so happy to see him is wonderful. And that casual conversational 'yes' which becomes 'YES' as he takes on the role of protector for this girl. Really nice moment which encapsulates a thematic change in the book.
Despite the more serious story of a young girl in peril, Jordan continues to inject some lighter moments into the book. This scene where a starving Sarah is fed at a diner is funny especially with the quiche discussion.
It really reminds me of the lighter adventures of the original Kon on Hawaii. We lived through the somber Johns/Lemire era (which I liked). We lived through the anti-hero era of Lobdell/DeFalco. Nice to see some of these moments with this character again.
And then we get the 'origin' of Sarah and Decay. She was in the clutches of HIVE, being experimented on, when Decay showed up and slaughtered everyone there but Sarah. In fact, he brought the entire facility down.
That looks like Psycho running on the left. Is this how he escaped?
Nice coloring here. Making this red brings a disturbing feel to this, making this destructive scene feel bloody when it isn't.
Decay arrives at the diner and things become clear. Whenever Sarah feels threatened, she manifests the Decay monster as a separate being. That is her psionic power, to bring this creature into existence to fight for her.
I like how Superboy's first plan is to simply talk down Sarah, to try to show her she isn't in danger. That is what Superman would do ... talk first, then resort to fists.
When talking doesn't work, Superboy defeats Sarah/Decay in a risky but inventive way. He stops the flow of blood to her brain temporarily. In theory, he gives her a stroke ... or more apt would be a transient ischemic attack (TIA). But that seems unbelievably risky to me.
Luckily she survives and ends up being sedated/living in a dream world where things are happier.
So this was another step on the new road this book is on. This felt like a 'one and done' story which also effectively moved the H.I.V.E. story forward. Now we know that these people have big facilities and don't mind experimenting on children. They can't be nice.
It is hard to believe that 3 issues ago I truly disliked this book. Now, I look forward to it. Hope Justin Jordan continues to bring this style of adventuring to the book. I have been very entertained with this book these last 2 months.
Overall grade: B+