Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Superboy #10

Next month we get the DC Relaunch, the DCnU, and the 'new' Conner. That means I have to enjoy the nuanced and eerie Jeff Lemire Superboy while I still can.

Superboy #9 is the first of 2 issues to ship this month so that Lemire can finish this first arc. But I still wonder just how many Superboy stories were kicking around Lemire's head. One of the things I liked about this book was the sense that Lemire was building something here, a feeling, a tone. And again, he had that mix of horror, sci-fi, Silver Age, and romance all sort of frappe'd in this book. My guess is some of these threads would be smoldering in the background rather than flaming to their conclusion in one month. I guess these are all 'what might have been' in this book.

One thing I think is a bold move, especially given the shortened life of the book, is the story in this issue. Superboy is only on a couple of pages at the end of the book. Instead we get to see the origins of Tannarak's plot through the ages. It does give his plan the weight of time and makes you appreciate (if that is the right word) Tannarak's patience. And we get to see some of the lesser known characters in DC Universe shine as they battle those plans. Suprisingly, for someone like me, always grousing about a more economical use of pages to tell a story, I really liked this issue. Sure, this whole issue could have been told in a truncated, flashback-laden page of 7-8 panels. But that would minimize the 'passing of time' feeling we get there. Now if next issue's conclusion seems rushed, I might revisit the utility of this issue. But for now, I am happy being entertained.

But even better than that is the 'box of chocolates' this issue is art-wise. We get pages from Pete Woods, CAFU, Paolo Siqueira, and Pier Gallo. That is a great lineup.

The opening pages of the book show Tannarak trying to storm ancient Atlantis with an army of what looks like Tannarak clones. But his clones are weak automatons ... 'hollow men' is what Phantom Stranger calls them ... and easily destroyed.

But how great was it to see Lady Chian, Wynnde, and Arion swinging swords and firing magic bolts again. I wonder if anyone pitched a Arion book for the DCnU relaunch. Pete Woods does his usual superb stuff here.

Thousands of years later, Tannarak has wormed his way into the life of old Brave & Bold star The Viking Prince.

Once again, Tannarak has created an army of clones to do his dirty work, this time choosing a stronger template in Prince Jon. But again, these are again empty vessels. Before being 'activated', The Phantom Stranger and the Viking crew burn the army to ashes.

The Viking Prince pages are done by CAFU and man they are slick!

And so we flash forward to Smallville in the mid 1800s. Man, this Tannarak guy is like a bad penny!

Now one thing I find interesting is that Tannarak would look to someone like Eben Took for help. I guess you look for evil minions where you can. Or you look for people when they are at their most vulnerable to sway them to your cause.

Took has just lost his newborn son. He thinks strength can only be found in familial numbers, building a clan. He didn't have a chance against Tannarak's slick words.

But really? Tannarak somehow thought a dirt farmer from Smallville would be a good ally?

Well, it turns out he might be. Because when some of Tannarak's dark ceremonies aren't successful in bringing back Baby Took, Eben jumps in with both feet, drinking Tannarak's blood and becoming a dark acolyte. Again, the concept of familial power is the hook that ensnares Took.

Paolo Siqueira's stuff is a sort of mix of Woods and Pier Gallo and so fits the feel of the book nicely.

And this time the hollow men plan might actually work. After prior failures, Tannarak recognized two crucial flaws. One, he shouldn't leave the Phantom Stranger loose to stop him. Two, he needs a stronger template for his army than even the strongest human warrior.

Lessons learned, this time Tannarak has the Stranger magically shackled and has created an army of Superboy clones.

But even more interesting is that it sounds like Tannarak is going to 'fill' these hollow men with the souls of Smallville, making the innocents become his Connor super-army. A bit more chilling there.

And Pier Gallo does his usual solid stuff here.

Of course, Superboy isn't alone. Psionic Lad and Simon are still out there as is Lori. Hmmm ... I'm going to bet that Psionic Lad sacrifices himself to save Simon, telling Simon about his destiny as the Prime Hunter. And Simon with the help of Superboy foils the plans.

But will there be some sort of closure to the whole Simon vibe? Or is that simply dust to be swept under the rug of the DCnU?

Still, I like that this issue mostly of cameos and plot build-up happened. It fills in enough about Tannarak's plot to let us sense the scope of it. But rather than tell us Tannarak's plan, Lemire shows it to us throughout the ages. And the art in this book is just spectacular.

I have said it before, I am going to miss this Superboy. I am not automatically sold on Superboy books. A Conner book really needs to grab me and this one has. I'll use the Twin Peaks analogy again, the idea of a weird underbelly of a small town; it just worked here. But that was only part of this book which mingled other genres in as well. And even something like this issue, an unconventional non-Superboy way of telling a Superboy story, shows how original this book was.

Add to that Arion, the Viking Prince and the quartet of artists here and this issue worked.

Overall grade: B+


Heath Edwards said...

*smile* glad you've been enjoying this book, anj, and i do wish for your sake that the stories and characters continued on in some way, but... i haven't been able to pick up this book, and alas i don't think i would if i were able. perhaps your love of the mix of supernatural and super-heroing from PAD's supergirl help you to enjoy this, but its just not the superboy story i'd like to read. though i missed out on many of the previous superboy series' stories, those were the stories i equate with superboy and kon-el...
though, maybe a stronger focus on the supporting cast, and less phantom stranger & the evils of smallville, would have brought me onboard...
either way, i hope for a strong finale, and look forward (mildly) to the next go-'round...

Dave Mullen said...

though, maybe a stronger focus on the supporting cast, and less phantom stranger & the evils of smallville, would have brought me onboard...

I disagree, I think the biggest problem with a Superboy book (or any book) is finding a direction for it to head into and a treatment that is actually compelling and unusual enough to hook an audience.
Lumiere and Co succeeded for the most part as the tone and mood of this book was very effective, particularly the colorists choices in the design, and the only sin I can lay on it is the fact the plots momentum was ruined by not just the September wrap-up but the shoe horned in 'Reign of Doomsday' and Kid Flash race. Lumiere obviously had a longterm vision for the book that was pretty much drowned at birth.... Just TEN issues in. It never got started really.
So I'm dissapointed all in all, but that goes for other books that have had their momentum killed by the September relaunch - Secret Six. LSH. Supergirl...