Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review: Superboy #2

Superboy #2 came out this week and I thought this was a pretty entertaining read. The thing is, it wasn't necessarily an interesting Superboy read. There is a lot of good characterization here ... but more about the supporting cast rather than the title character.

We are still learning about this Superboy, who he is, what he can do, how he was made. But this issue made him feel more like a member of a team book rather than a headliner. As a result, we don't learn too much more about Superboy here ... although we do see the limits of his powers.

Despite this, the issue was a fun read because Caitlin 'Red' Fairchild and Rose Wilson really shine in the spotlight that they are given.

Writer Scott Lobdell paces the issue nicely, first taking us back to the first time Superboy escaped his test tube, and then catching us up to current time. That allows Lobdell to get Superboy and N.O.W.H.E.R.E. into some action while revealing some of his origins.

And RB Silva continues to shine here with a smooth organic look. His action scenes flow smoothly and his panel construction helps tell the story as well. Silva is definitely a talent and I am glad he is working at DC.

As I said, Lobdell starts this issue near where the first issue started. Superboy has just burst from his test tube prison, thwarting N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s attempt to euthanize and dissect him.

It looks like this version of Conner has telekinesis, tactile or otherwise. He also seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder, a bit of anger in him for his life as an experiment. In some ways, it mimics the 'tabula rasa' anger seen in the Young Justice cartoon Superboy. Here he lashes out at the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. troops who try to subdue him, choking them in the air. There is something chilling about his almost callous lack of respect for these guys as he discusses setting limits.

In one of the great reveals of the book, 'Red' knocks Superboy unconscious, tossing him around the lab like a ragdoll. It is clear that she morphs a bit into a 'stronger' Caitlin to accomplish that. Look at how taller she looks, glasses off, suit torn since she is bigger than she normally is.

So if she is Fairchild, she is certainly a version different than the one in Gen13. Certainly this one looks markedly different than the curvaceous J. Scott Campbell original version. I really hope that the people who are complaining about Starfire in Red Hood and Selena in Catwoman read this book. Silva draws women in a much more realistic manner and deserves some kudos.

But the real star of this issue is Rose Wilson. She is the most realized character here so far. We learn a lot about who she is and what she thinks. She seems to look at the world through a jaundiced and hardened eye. She thinks Superboy is a killer despite Red's heroic aspirations for him. She is willing to put him down. She knows that he is just like her, even if she (and Caitlin) were born with their powers rather than being created.

Rose is almost a force of nature here, dominating every scene she is in. And Lobdell and/or Silva must sense it. Even on the page she is bigger than life, often appearing outside of or bursting through panel borders. She is big personality and a physical force and can't be restrained even on the page.

After that beginning we are brought up to 'current time', the end of the first issue. Superboy has now been released by the new leader of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Zaniel Templar. Superboy will now work for N.O.W.H.E.R.E., helping them do whatever it is they do.Conner reluctantly agrees only because he needs to know more about who he is and what the company is about before he can truly be free.

Conner's first mission is to suppress a riot at Pen 51, a prison for aliens. Rose is joining in to help. As always, Rose has the best lines, basically daring Conner to throw down with her to prove who is the big dog in this outfit. Despite Superboy's attempts to intimidate her, she doesn't back down.

So I don't know if I like the 'Sark from Tron' costume on Superboy in the DCnU. Maybe he only sports this look while he works for N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Maybe once he is 'free', he is able to pick his own look.

I love Conner's assessment of Rose. Either she is very brave, very stupid, or has a death wish. I was a big fan of Ravager in the old DCU, someone struggling with her family legacy, struggling with her violent tendencies, all as she tried to do some good. And I think I am going to like the DCnU Rose as well.

But it is clear, this Rose has no problem with killing if that is what it takes. I loved her line from the first issue where she says killing someone without being paid for it is 'bad business. Here, she is ready to kill the rioting prisoners if she has to.

This is clearly a warm up mission for Superboy. It turns out that this is actually a NOWHERE site that Templar has sacrificed to see what Superboy can do.

I do like the way Conner's telekinesis is displayed in the book, like rippling tendrils of red energy. And Conner clearly is powerful.

One thing we do learn here is that while strong, Superboy is not invulnerable. So when three giant 'Killer Shark' style villains come out, they are able to swarm Conner and bash him.

I know I am gushing about Rose in this issue. But there is a great splash page with different pieces of her battle with one of the prisoners. She dispatches him by shooting him in the mouth. But again, she is not bound by panels here, she is seen multiple places over the page, ending with that great 'stick the dismount' pose over her slain foe.

Wonderful stuff here, especially from Silva.

As for Superboy, buried beneath the blows of the Shark-men, he lashes out instinctively. While N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s monitors show him to be unconscious, his powers seem to spike and he brings the prison down around him. I don't know if the old Conner could pull off that stunt.

So overall I really enjoyed this issue. But it was the Caitlin and Rose parts of the book that really stood out. Yes, we hear Conner talk about working for NOWHERE while he plots his escape, and we learn he isn't invulnerable. But otherwise, Conner seemed to be more in the background of the book. I am not complaining necessarily. It was a good issue. But the star of the book shouldn't feel like supporting cast.

Silva's stuff crackles throughout the book. I definitely would love a Supergirl commission from him.

Overall grade: B+


Gene said...

Anj wrote:
"It is clear that she morphs a bit into a 'stronger' Caitlin to accomplish that. Look at how taller she looks, glasses off, suit torn since she is bigger than she normally is."

Sorta like She-Hulk (or better yet, Lyra) without the green skin.

I'm beginning to like this Caitlin character...

tony said...

You can totally tell you love rose,and i would love to have caitlin be DC's she-hulk.superboy is way powerful,even if he doesnt know what he is doing,but we know he is willing to do anything,and his luthor genes are showing a lil.

Gene said...

Just had another thought.

It may not make sense timeline wise, but maybe Caitlin is the daughter of Giganta and Ryan Choi? She has both their scientific geniuses along with her red hair, limited growth ability, and strength from her mother and her sense of decency from her father.


Dante said...

I agree with you Anj,that for two issues straight,our main character is treated quite like the sideshow...or to be precise,the viewer and sometimes narrator with limited action.Still a lot better than having a random start and random flashbacks during the story explaining his so convulted Supergirl 5 years ago.Better to start like he already has.But I[and many more,I bet]believe if not demand that SB is finally getting the spotlight next issue,finally,virtually escaping N.O.W.H.E.R.E.

Love his TTK powers and how they are drawn[thanks for pointing it out].Personally,I hope that this time the writters and editors stick with just his was one of the most excellent things that made SB...SB,especially during the Kesell-Pitarese run.

Rose,looks gorgeous here...hope Lobdell adds her to the Titans.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments. I think that the Caitlin storyline will be slowly revealed as it adds some mystery as long time fans try to figure out how much of the 'old' Fairchild is in this new version.

The solicit for January hints at an escape from NOWHERE which would (I think) let Superboy take control of his title. I wonder if keeping SB in the background a bit is a simple way to stoke the fire of the mystery of his origin.

And nice comment of how his 'setting limits' moment was a bit of his Luthor side coming to the surface.