Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Superboy #6

Superboy as a whole has been a pretty enjoyable comic for me, as this version of Conner struggles trying to figure out just who he is.

Superboy #6, which came out this week, continues that Superboy's slow march towards self-realization and independence. Each issue, he takes a tiny step closer to being a 'good guy' rather than a weapon or a tool for someone else to use. Unfortunately, those baby steps occasionally seem to be going in the wrong direction as we see him have moments of epiphany offset by his lashing out physically. Okay, I get it ... he's confused and doesn't know where he fits into this world.

This issue guest stars Supergirl making it the first time these versions of the characters have met. Supergirl is confused and doesn't know where she fits into the world. She also is making strides in getting her bearings, closer to being a hero, and while she has moments of epiphany she still lashes out physically too quickly.

To be honest, with both characters in the same boat, it felt a little too early for them to be crossing over. How are these two going to interact in any meaningful way when they aren't sure of anything? Writers Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco make the most of the interaction, moving both characters stories forward ... baby steps of course. Still, I can't wait for the characters to be settled and maybe truly team up.

As always, RB Silva's art is just slick and ratchets the book up a couple of notches. There are some nice art flourishes in this issue that complement the story perfectly as well as some splash pages and big panels. Despite that big art, the story seems full enough.

The book opens up after the events of Teen Titans #5, in which Superboy demolishes the Titans in the name of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. His mission was to bring in Wonder Girl. But after throttling most of the team, he suddenly has second thoughts.

It helps that Solstice, a Titan I don't know, is also an escaped N.O.W.H.E.R.E. agent and clues Superboy into the upcoming Culling event. She knows there will be blood and that Superboy will be part of the mayhem if he sticks with N.O.W.H.E.R.E.

Somehow he senses she is telling the truth and decides to leave the Titans free and go quit N.O.W.H.E.R.E. completely. See, that's a step forward. He realizes he is playing for the wrong side. But then, as he leaves, he head butts Solstice knocking her out. Why? Couldn't he have just left? Baby step back.

He flies to his N.O.W.H.E.R.E. pick-up squad and tells them he is done working for them once and for all. And that his handler Zaniel Templar should expect him to come home for a nice chat, for some answers.

And then, he goes and sulks a bit. He realizes he's alone. He has no one, unlike the Titans who have each other. He doesn't like hurting people. Is he finally getting a sense of ethics? Of morals? Is he finally not simply a blank slate for N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to scrawl on?

It's a nice moment, made nicer when he calls himself a sort of Pinocchio hoping to become a real boy. Very nice moment here.

Except that his angst for hurting the Titans is offset by the Solstice headbutt a little.

While he is brooding, Supergirl suddenly arrives. She just happened to be scanning, saw the S-shield on his uniform, and thought she would investigate. Seems a bit random. And I hope she isn't investigating all the people sporting Superman t-shirts on Earth. (Of course, his being on top of a bridge probably distinguishes him a bit.)

I do like that he calls Supergirl an angel. And that is driven home a bit by the composition of the panel, our point of view looking up at Kara, her arms out. Nice. That said, if even Mahmud Asrar and RB Silva can't make the corners of the red groin area look good, it is time to redesign. Just get rid of the corners and make it smoothly transition to the blue area and it will look a lot better.

I also have to wonder just when in Kara's story this takes place. This has to be post-Reign, right?

Initially the two can't communicate as Kara is still only speaking Kryptonian and Superboy doesn't understand it. Still with some smiles and gesticulations, the Superboy is able to show Kara his feelings.

Supergirl seems to sense his sadness, his feelings of being abandoned like she is. Maybe that is more super-intuition?? Regardless, I love how the 'alone, abandoned' feeling is echoed with the lack of background here. Art and words complementing each other. And Supergirl looks very much like a teenage girl here, always nice.

When Supergirl touches Superboy, however, it floods his mind with information about Krypton. He sees a world at war, clones fighting for their lives, devastation. This very much echoes back to old school Krypton, and most recently John Byrne's notion of cloning causing unrest on the planet.

Again, this splash works best because of the way it is set up. By having all of Superboy in the panel, you get the sense that he is engulfed by all this knowledge. It also allows Silva to show the planetary devastation writ large. I think this works better than, let's say, just Superboy's head being in the middle of all this information. This is a lot of information so keeping him intact and small echoes that.

Overwhelmed by the information, he blasts Supergirl away. But know he can speak Kryptonian. And he tells Supergirl that he is half-clone.

That knowledge impacts Supergirl in a strong way, making her punch Superboy into orbit as she calls him Kon-El. Like blog friend Mart Gray, this was the first time I realized that 'Kon-El' is 'clone' spelled phonetically sideways. How could I go this long without realizing that?

But, again, this is sort of a step backwards for Supergirl. Why so quick with the punch? Clearly he isn't Kryptonian so why assume he is a Kon-El (whatever that is).

After a brief skirmish, the two begin to just talk, Kara calling him an abomination to the house of El, a clone who will eventually become a mindless killing machine. So lots to mull over here.

Is the House of El responsible for cloning technology on Krypton thus making all clones an abomination for them? Is that why they are called Kon-EL?  Or is it just that Superboy is wearing their shield that does it?

Did all clones become bizarro-like beings on Krypton? (Remember in the Silver Age, General Zod tried to take over Krypton with an army of Bizarro-Zods. Is this playing on that?). I just hope that all the Super-titles are on board with one history of the culture.

Still, it was nice to see Supergirl calm down reasonably quickly. Of course, you could also argue that if Superboy is destined to become a killing machine, she shouldn't calm down at all. Or that she shouldn't have punched him in the first place.

Their fight brings the locals who fire on the two of them without warning. Not very nice.

I did like that Supergirl's immediate response is to protect Superboy. I think, more and more, we are starting to see the heroic elements of Kara's personality surge forward.

And see how much better the lower costume looks here when the blue and red nearly blend. Those deep corners have to go.

Superboy pushes the police copter away with his TK and Supergirl takes the opportunity to run away. Funny, but his power seems more straight forward TK than tactile telekinesis. He didn't touch the copter, he just 'Force-shoved' it.

From a distance Supergirl wonders why everyone on this planet seems to want to attack her. Just like Superboy wonders why everyone attacks him. Just like the two of them are always attacking people. Hmmm, I am seeing a pattern here.

I am at least glad to see that this time Supergirl threw her punch only after she thought Superboy was a killing machine and not simply on sight.

But it is strange that clones seem to have such an ominous reaction from her, sort of on the level of the 'world killers' in her own title. When she says here that she knows what 'must be done', the implication is that Superboy must be put down. Then why stop the copter's bullets or call off her attack?

I will say, overall, I was pretty happy with Supergirl's appearance here as she initially reaches out to Superboy and then tries to protect him. But I will be much much much happier when she and Superboy are out of this 'origin' phase of their stories, start reacting immediately with their fists, and start acting like heroes. And I hope that eventually we'll get a Super-family that aren't at each other's throats.

Superboy fulfills his promise to go back to N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to get some answers. But he is immediately met by Rose who is looking for a fight. More fisticuffs!

So overall we get some character progress from both Superboy and Supergirl here. But I think I need to have things move forward a little faster here. I mean, we are six issues in ... a half a year ... and we are still just scraping the surface of who this Superboy is and what he wants to be. We have had baby steps of Superboy realizing he has feelings, isn't a weapon, and wants to be independent. How about a big step and get there? I still think this was a decent issue. But this feels like a slow simmer of an opening arc.

Moreover, I am very worried that this title is going to be inextricably linked to Teen Titans and The Ravagers, two titles I don't think I want to read. If I can't understand this book without those, this book might lose me.

No complaints about the art though.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

Almost every single one of SG's encounters with humans or Kryptonians to date has ended in some sort of a fight.
Just saying...


Martin Gray said...

Excellent review, I see we're on the same page about the 'who am I?' business dragging.

And thank you for the link!

Anj said...

Almost every single one of SG's encounters with humans or Kryptonians to date has ended in some sort of a fight.
Just saying...


That's why I keep hoping the 'origin' REALLY lost girl story ends soon. Then we can have a hero discovering herself in this world stories take over.

Anonymous said...

To your statement that Superboy's character is developing too slow, that's kind of what the writer wants. He wants to start out with a blank slate and take his time in developing him. I'd be patient. Although it seems that he takes a big step in Teen Titans #7, when he finally joins the Titans. What I was disappointed about in this issue was that he didn't find out about Superman in this issue like they said he would. I guess that'll have to wait until they meet.