Superboy #24 came out this week, the last issue in the Justin Jordan 'era' of this book. This book has the be the most unstable book in the Superman family of books as it has gone through several creators, several overall thematic changes, and several origins for the title character.
I know longer know who this Superboy is. I don't know if I have ever known who this Superboy is. And now I am starting not to care about who he is either. Is he the 'living weapon' of NOWHERE? Is he grown to kill Superman? Is he the angry bank robber, living a party life? Is he a wisecrack going to high school? Is he the clone of Superman? Superman and Lex? Superman and Lois? Superman and Lois and Superman/Lois? When I don't know who I will be reading month to month, it is hard to get invested. And with Jordan gone and Marv Wolfman coming in, who knows who we will be reading next.
But this is the end of Jordan's run, a run which started with some optimism as a repentant Superboy was going to return the money he stole only to meet Dr. Psycho. Their relationship was fun and funny with snappy banter. But the last issue seemed to back off from a fun-loving Conner. And so we have this issue which wraps up some of the Psi-War elements in this book (although the actual ending to this arc is in another book).
The art, done by fill-in professional Robson Rocha. I will say, his art is improving with each issue I see. In particular, his Psycho Pirate is great, infusing him with flairs of insanity.
Anyways, I am going to try to remain fair in this review. But the change in tone in this book is so jarring. And the Psycho Pirate angle here is odd for a couple of reasons which detracted from the story.
So first off, the last we saw The Psycho Pirate he was crushing Superman psionically, draining the Man of Steel of his power, and gearing up for a face-off with Brainiac. So why exactly with someone with that goal be interested in high school shenanigans? Why boost the fear waves that 'Shift', the nerd in his arms is doing?
So at first I thought this story must take place before the Action Comics one. That would make sense. The Pirate could be testing his powers before facing off.
Instead, Jordan says that the Pirate is concurrently fighting Superman! He isn't even physically in the building! Makes that earlier panel of him holding the 'Shift' student a little difficult to comprehend. I wonder if that wrinkle in the story was a late throw-in.
But it also makes no sense. Why would the Pirate strain himself like this? Why not concentrate on draining one then the other?
Luckily Dr. Psycho regains consciousness and is able to join the fight. But Psycho Pirate says what we have all suspected all along. Dr. Psycho might not be helping Superboy as much as leeching off him. Psycho is draining Superboy's power in hopes of bringing down HIVE himself.
I will say this trick to psionically duplicate himself is a neat trick and adds to the Pirate character. I like my Psycho Pirate to be completely insane and this 'multiple personality', especially with the wild grin on the one closest to us, adds to that.
And the Psycho Pirate is able to fill in some of the blanks of Psycho's history. Psycho was a kid named 'Edgar' who was a natural psionic. HIVE ends up recruiting him by erasing the memory of Edgar from everyone who knew him. Alone, he was brought to a HIVE headquarters where he met others like him. He didn't have much to offer though and so was honeycombed like others, drained by the Queen.
I thought this was a good origin, explaining the scars, the isolation, and the youthful appearance.
Interestingly enough, he had enough psionic power to manipulate a young girl named Sarah to use her powers to take down the HIVE site, releasing him.
I was really hoping that this girl was going to be Lena! And maybe she will be. But she is named Sarah. Any Sarah character I might be forgetting who would fit this telepathic bill?
And Psycho Pirate actually knows all of Superboy's 'real' origin. He isn't a weapon, he's a 'living organ bank'.
Arrgghhh ... so is everything we have learned, unlearned, and learned again about Con's origins a lie? Is there yet another origin around the corner??
I might give up if that is true.
And it turns out that the Psycho Pirate isn't exactly magnanimous here. He isn't telling Superboy all this to keep Con free. He is telling Con this because he wants Superboy's powers.
At least the Pirate is being written consistently. He really wants to get juiced up to fight Brainiac.
But I have to say it still doesn't make sense for the Psycho Pirate to 'not' be here. Why fight this battle now? And why did he boost 'Shifts' powers? It seems like DC editorial didn't realize that the Pirate was going to be in several books and as a result things had to jiggered to kind of make sense.
With all the cards on the table, Superboy gets extremely angry and lashes out at Psycho. There is a large battle with Psycho, the Pirate, and Superboy all swinging and bashing things. One thing I did find interesting is that Superboy's psionics (or emotions) are so strong that they actually effect the Psycho Pirate who up until now seemed invulnerable.
When the dust settles, the Dr. Psycho is gone.
And Superboy is powerless, at the mercy of the Pirate.
Okay, that's a decent cliffhanger. But the last chapter is in Teen Titans, a book I don't collect. So who knows how this will end.
But this whole issue felt forced, as if Jordan needed to finish things enough so that the next creative team isn't starting mid-stream. The Pirate story, being in two places at once, seems inane and I wonder if it was forced on Jordan. And frankly, the idea of another origin, or someone else holding Superboy's true origin over his head (Psycho Pirate drained the info from Dr. Psycho's head), is annoying.
Nice thick-lined art by Robson Rocha does make this a nice book to look at.