Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Superboy #11

The current Superboy title came to an end this week with the release of Superboy #11

In under a year, the creative team of Jeff Lemire and artist Pier Gallo made me care for Conner more than I have since he initially hit the scene in Reign of the Supermen. As I have said many times in reviews for this book, it was an interesting mishmash of Twin Peaks weirdness and Silver Age sci-fi with some classic Superman plots folded into Conner's life. If anything, I really felt like Lemire was world building here, creating a feeling to Smallville that there was danger lurking underneath it's country home exterior.

But with the relaunch and the DCnU, this tapestry of plot threads needs to be tied off in one big knot. As such, this issue and this book seems to rush to its ending. There are easy solutions to big problems here. Some plots will not continue to their conclusions. It is something of a let-down mostly because I have really enjoyed this series and I know I'm not going to get anymore as well as wondering how this would have read if things didn't need to be wrapped up in 20 pages. And, as I feared when I reviewed last issue, it made me question the make-up of Superboy #10. While it was great to see Tannarak's prior efforts, those pages could have been used to beef up this closing chapter.

I would love to run into Jeff Lemire at a convention and hear what he had planned for this book if it was not swept away in the tsunami of the DCnU.

The homage cover, harkening back to Superboy #1 but now showing the supporting cast, was inspired especially given the ending of this book.

But as I said, some of the threats get eliminated quickly. The Parasite gets defeated when Lori blasts him with Simon's death ray visor.

The Phantom Stranger is freed from Tannarak's spell when Superboy tosses a magical totem.

It turns out that the Stranger was able to possess the town whittler with an aspect of his power. So the Smallville citizen who spoke to Superboy of the town's history was actually the Stranger's mouthpiece. And the tiny statue he carved with his pocket knife was a sort of dispel magic bomb. Okay, a little too easy but at least it was set up a couple of issues ago.

Krypto is able to easily destroy Tannarak's soul transference machine.

While Superboy is able to help out by smashing the machine on his end.

Meanwhile, Lori is able to melt the existing hollow men into the mud they are made of with another one of Simon's devices. This Simon guy has a lot of uses.

I did like the symmetry in Con's and Lori's attempts.

And just like that Tannarak's centuries-long plot is finished. I was hoping there would be more to it than that.

Well, it's almost done. The soul transference was half done. With a little power boost from the Stranger, Psionic Lad is able to send the souls of Smallville back to where they belong.

Okay, now Tannarak's plot is done.

So the thing is this all wraps up soooo swiftly and so easily (basically smashing the machines). The build-up for this story was so very good, I just expected more.

This was my favorite moment in the book. With the souls back in the living, what should be done with these fully grown Superboy clones. Are they really alive? What defines life? A beating heart? Working organs? Self-awareness? A soul?

It is enough to cause a little existential crisis in Conner. Is he no better than these automatons?

There are some major Pinocchio vibes here but Lori is able to convince him that he is a real boy. I am still a bit weirded out by the potential Lori/Con romance.

And the whole Prime Hunter, Simon as evil future dictator, Psionic lads assassination mission gets swept under the rug. Psion was having some doubts about his mission already, wondering how the Simon he knows could end up as a villain, wondering if befriending him might change the timeline.

We'll never know what Lemire was planning. Was Psionic Lad going to try to complete his mission in a future arc?

And what of Simon. His dark side has been hinted at throughout the title. Would be become the next Lex? Or would this version of the Clark/Lex story have a different ending?

We'll never know.

Instead we get a little super-powered Dawson's Creek ending.

We get a replay of the opening of Superboy #1, the same kid playing superhero in the corn field. But instead of Con sitting alone on the water tower, he is surrounded by friends. Maybe he is 'normal' after all. Sort of a sticky sweet ending for such a darker look at a small town.

But can I fault Lemire for having to truncate his run and putting in some sort of ending? Or do I commend him for the book, one I have enjoyed far more than I thought I would. It has to be the latter. This was a different sort of Super-book. I'll miss the layers, the Lynch-ian underbelly of the town, the innovative page layouts. And I'll miss the friction between Con and Simon as I wonder which way that story would go.

Once again, I have to wonder what might have been.

Overall grade (issue): B
Overall grade (series): B+/A

No comments: