Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: Superboy #19

Superboy #19 came out this week, an issue with a lot of surprises, perhaps most importantly that the writer was Scott Lobdell. The book is scheduled to have Justin Jordan take over the book shortly and it seems as if Lobdell needed to stir the pot one last time.

The truth is I have had something of a hard time with Superboy in general because it seems to be a book always in flux. There hasn't exactly been a solid foundation for the character over this first year and a half. First he was a clone for N.O.W.H.E.R.E. being fed Smallville memories to try to get him under control. Then he was a pawn of Harvest being fed subliminal subliminal messages to attack Superman. Then he was a bank-robbing loner who was living it up with the social scene. Then he was the unlikely hero of H'El on Earth, realizing Superman is an inspiration and trying to fall in line. Whew ...

Well, Lobdell has decided to make things even murkier and in some ways even less palatable than the bank-robbing Kon I so disliked earlier in the book. I have decided that Lobdell is something of a provocateur, someone who simply is trying to get a rise out of people. And this issue's 'WTF' reveal that Superboy is the mix of Superman and Lois DNA feels just like that. While it has some short term shock value, there is little long term thought to this.  And given that a lot of on-line criticism of Lobdell has been his treatment of Lois in Superman, this seems like a further needling of that faction of fans. I can imagine him thinking "You don't like how I treat Lois huh ... let me make her son be a killer ... how do you like that??"

The Superman/Luthor genetic mix made sense given the edgier feel of Kon, a sort of nature/nurture tug-of-war. Even last issue's cliffhanger of Luthor being around on an even deeper level of Kon's psyche, made me think that the reveal of Luthor as the half-father was imminent.

The art is split between Diogenes Neves and RB Silva. 

This issue is really as much an origin issue for Harvest as it is another origin issue for Superboy.

The book starts in a dystopian future. In the 30th century, humans have organized to kill all the meta-humans on the planet. And Harvest, then a colonel in the human army, was one of the better killers. He justified his murdering as a way to protect his son Venn.

One night, his son is kidnapped and killed by some metas. And as a result, this colonel decides he must take matters into his own hands. If he cannot stop the metas in his time, he will go back in time to stop them, killing them in their infancy.

Now who wants to bet that we discover later on that the 'kidnapper' isn't a meta? There has to be one more layer of irony upcoming.

Harvest breaks into an early Time Institute and allows his body to be bombarded with 'unstable chronal energy' which allows him to travel back in time. Harvest wants to stop the very first metas and the face of that generation is Superman. And thus he is there when we see this joyous event, Superman and Lois in love, together, and the proud parents of a new baby boy Jon Lane Kent.

Now I will give Lobdell some kudos. Since born on a yellow sun world, the baby develops new powers, things Superman doesn't, including apparently telekinesis. It is, at the very least, a slight explanation for Superboy's tactile TK.

But the baby ends up going comatose, seemingly dead but more in a chrysalis stage.

While Superman and Lois grieve, somehow ... and it isn't really explained ... Harvest is able to abscond with the baby and use his knowledge and technology he has encountered in his travels to save him. And thus, Harvest will use his enemy Superman's son as a weapon against him.

Now my problem with this is how Superman would ever allow his son, placed in a shrine of some sort, to be kidnapped without much of a response.

And doesn't it seem like a move to provoke a response and agitate fandom? Ooohhh ... Superman and Lois' child is a cold-hearted killer!

This being a 'grim and gritty' comic, this original Superboy becomes the perfect killing machine for Harvest. He is raised by Harvest to hate heroes and uses his immense powers to kill as many metas that he can. Ironically, one of the character we see him kill is Steel ... who isn't a metan at all!

While the more classic Superboy costume is a nice Easter egg, I am sick of images like this - the 'hero' maniacally sitting on his throne.

Now I have to assume that this Superboy is simply raised by Harvest at that time meaning that Superman and Lois are probably around. But again, we don't see them.

Unfortunately, the same genetic disturbance that effected this Superboy as a toddler effects him again. Once more he goes comatose. Harvest has somehow developed paternal feelings for this Superboy and decides he must save him. How delicious will it be for his enemy's son to be the ultimate revenge, especially since it was the loss of Harvest's son that started this.

Despite losing more of his body, becoming more monstrous, with each trip through time, Harvest takes the original Superboy back to the first days of Superman. He needs to get DNA from Lois and Superman to recreate an offspring and see if he can stop the genetic instability.

Again, I will give Lobdell kudos when warranted. Superman's blood was free-flowing at this moment in Action Comics so it makes sense that Harvest would head to this moment to get some Kryptonian DNA. We are never told how he gets Lois'.

And that is why 'our' Superboy is created. So Harvest can study him to see if he can learn to help the 'original' Superboy.

Unfortunately, this whole storyline seems to fly in the face of stuff that has been happening since the first issue. Heck, it undoes the cliffhanger from the last issue.

Realizing he has to explain the image of Luthor that Dr. Psycho sees, Harvest gives us some exposition saying that Luthor placed that image there.


Seems to me we were about to learn that Luthor was the other half of Kon's DNA when Lobdell decided to do a switcheroo. 

At least we get a reference to Kon having his DNA unraveled by H'El. Remember this part of that story, that Kon was dying? It hasn't been rectified or explained since the end of that story. How is Kon not dying now? How did he get cured?

Well, we don't get an answer here either. But this attack by H'El has given Harvest the answer he needs to revive the 'original' Superboy. Isn't that convenient.

After all, how else can we get Clark and Lois' killer son alive in the DCnU?

Oooohh ... soooo cooolll ... Superman and Lois' child is a murdering villain! Sigh.

It seems that every time I think there is a glimmer of optimism in this New 52, it is quickly taken away. I was really enjoying the turn that Superboy was making, becoming more of a hero and head out on his own. I even thought that the Luthor reveal was timed perfectly. How ironic that just when Superboy is at his most heroic, he discovers he has villainous Luthor DNA.

That all seems to be swept away. Instead we get this new new new origin and a Superboy made from Superman and Lois DNA. The pulse of this character was that he was edgier and that the Superman/Luthor origin made it interesting. Remember the Geoff Johns' Adventure arc where that Conner writes lists 'what would Superman do?' and 'what would Luthor do?' That worked well. How can I explain the edginess of this character when the DNA is Lois and Clark? I suppose I can ... but it won't have the same juice as the Luthor reveal.

But the bigger thing is that this is one more ripple in the Superboy book. I can't easily explain this book to other people. And just when I thought things had steadied, Lobdell pulls the carpet out from under. I can only hope that the more positive feel of Kon isn't erased because of this plot.

Like many reveals in this DCnU, this one feels like it being done for a short term buzz rather than a long term foundation for a character. A universe can't survive like this.

Overall grade: C


Saranga said...

WTF indeed. And I don't mean that int he woah! cool! sense either.

So am I right in understanding that their are nwo 2 superboys? the first being Lois & Clark's son, stuck in the future somewhere, the second being a clone of the son?

Or is there only one superboy?

I am very glad I dropped this title.

Anonymous said...

Great review Anj,

I agree with almost everything you said. What I don't agree with is that Lex has evil DNA or Clark has good DNA (why does he even have DNA?). Neither of them is magic so I can't swallow that. Superboy has enough of his own baggage to explain his edginess. And we still need an explanation for the third strand of DNA.

This is issue #19 Anj.


tony said...

Anj your objections in your review seem to be rooted almost soley in fanboy age,or thats not the way i wanted it to happen.
It says superman and lois were never seen again,which means after the "death" of their child they left for good.
Harvest might be right about luthors subliminal message or he might not he,maybe lex has a backdoor into kons mind also.
Kon probably wasnt cured he probably is just healing slowly or maybe he is just holding himself together,he has mentioned it in every book that he is in that he isnt doing all that great.
A character can only be edgey if their parents are? I dont think so anj.
Jon was raised by harvest for 10 years,its not lois and clark and having a evil chid,its their child being brainwashed for a decade by a guy who has gone nuts,and that could happen to anyone.
Now anj i want you to go back and read the solicit for issue 1 of this series,that explains exaclty who kon is,that and cloned from the dna of lois and clark,thats your easy explanation.

Anonymous said...

@Tony, I'm going to step in here for a second though I'm sure Anj will reply to you with her usual calm and measured maturity.

Fanboy age? Not the way I wanted it to happen.

First off, I'm not sure what "age" has to do with this. So only 15 year olds are entitled to have opinions or something? I'm 30 years old. Is my opinion somehow not valid for you? Want to take some kind of nasty shot at my age too? Cause I have alot more money to spend on comics now then I ever have before and I will NOT be spending money on THIS comic going forward.

Your comments about Lois and Clark miss the point, Tony.

The reality is that the Lois/Clark relationship is a sensitive, painful subject for alot of fans right now of ALL ages. Young and old.

For many years, fans waited and waited and hoped that maybe DC Comics would allow Lois and Clark to have a baby.

We watched them adopt Chris Kent and become his parents and then we watched DC comics rip that child away from them and leave them broken hearted.

We watched Greg Rucka plant hope in everyone's hearts when he wrote the issue showing the possible future years ago in which Lois and Clark had a daughter. And then DC tore it to pieces.

We just read the wretched Injustice Gods Among Us Book where Lois got pregnant and then she was brutally killed BY CLARK while she was pregnant with their baby.

These are two people who have a HISTORY that means alot to people in the DCU wherein they WANT TO HAVE A CHILD. People have waited for this.

Anj is dead on in all of her points. This comes off like a spiteful blow from Lobdell. Salt in the wound for everyone who longed for Lois and Clark to have a child together.

So now...DC gives them a child...but their child dies and they are heartbroken. They are torn apart as a couple in the new 52. And their son may be used as a weapon for evil.

If you don't understand why this comes across as a intensely crappy thing to do to Lois and Clark in an era that is already pretty darn crappy for both of them....then you really just don't get it.

These things do not live in a vacumn. There is connection.


Anonymous said...

The issue didn't sit right with me at all.

Not only does Lobdell imply here that Lois and Clark's son is going to be raised as a weapon and a killer...but..

He basically just implied that Lois and Clark's child, should they ever get the chance to have one, is going to suffer terribly due to some genetic instability. Which just...what right does HE have to do that? What right does he have to set something like in motion this early in the DCU game?

Yes, I know things can change. All Star Superman presented the idea that there were ways in which Lois and Clark could conceive. There was hope. Lois and Clark have HAD healthy children in various continuties. So yes, I know these things can change. A cure can be found. I know it's not hopeless.

But...just..why? Why do that NOW? It feels spiteful. And then to have Harvest come back and see Superman with Wonder woman and assume that that means that things can change? Change how? Wipe Lois and Clark's marriage and child out of existance?

Haven't the Lois and Clark fans been through ENOUGH with this stupid reboot? What MORE could they do to this couple at this point to further crush and beat up their fans?


tony said...

Ok first i didnt mean to write "age",it was supposed to be "rage",and really if you reread my sentence,age doesnt even fit,typos happen.

Now im pretty sure lobdell was thinking of kon first here,anyone else second,,seeing as though this is a superboy all prove with your comments that you make things about who you care about,not the intended series main character.many different versions of lois and clarks future kids have been good and bad,or killer or live to keep the S family going,this is just one more,and its more a kon thing than a them thing.they can have kids,that is better than some in the past has said,so this version is bad,doesnt mean every version will be,and the whole point of harvest trying to cure jon is to find a way for lois and clark to have healthy this should make you fans happy,not mad,not to mention kons world just got a lot bigger.

Anonymous said...


Of course Lobdell was thinking of Kon. But it's inexcusable to repeatedly throw the lead female of the Superman franchise (because yes, that is Lois) under the bus to add details to build up his story.

Just as it was inappropriate for him to throw Kara under the bus during the last arc in order to build up Kon's story

It's very clear that Lobdell and many of these writers make choices based on what suits the MALE characters and then the female characters are just forced to go along for the ride.

Lastly, please do not tell fans of Lois and Clark what they "should" or "shouldn't" be happy about.

I have always wanted Lois and Clark to have a child. I have NEVER cared if that child was adopted or born of Lois's body because I don't think it matters. I think that adoption is just as beautiful a way to become a mother and father and that Clark's own story is a testament to that.

I love that Lois and Clark can, in theory, stand as a symbol for all the couples in the world who have struggled to conceive and have turned to science and IVF to become parents. Trying to conceive a child and not being able to is heartbreaking and difficult.

So what kind of message does it send to set this kind of story up THIS way where the child is presented as this terrible thing? What kind of message does that send about alternative conception...about IVF...about the way in which loving couples of all sexual orientations try to become parents?

Lois and Clark's relationship didn't deserve to be thrown under the bus to prop up Kon's story. They've already been thrown under the bus ENOUGH in the new 52. They deserve better.


PRgirl1294 said...

@ Certainshades, I think that you're missing the point about what Tony is trying to say. This is a Superboy issue, not a Lois and Clark issue. In other books, they surely would have gotten more focus. And you're ignoring the point that all these horrible things that happened to them happened in an ALTERNATE timeline. None of this ever happened to our Lois and Clark, so you don't have to be mad about them being thrown under the bus.

@ Anj: I wouldn't worry about this new origin being a short-term buzz. This is gonna be addressed in "Superboy #22", with Superboy feeling a connection to Lois and confronting Jon, who is clearly supposed to be a new version of Match or Superboy-Prime. As for Luthor, I'm sure that they're planning for him to be the third donor sometime in the future, so I wouldn't worry about his part in Superboy's origins being pushed aside.

Jay said...

I really like this new origin. I never thought Lex being a donor was as cool as people made it out to be. Frankly Superboy was a better character back when he was just Director Westfield's clone. Losing Lex is no big deal to me at all. And the inclusion of Lois in the mix is much, much more intriguing. Its not "simple", but simple isn't automatically better.

I think there's a lot of potential with the Jon Kent character too. I bet anything he eventually dies, but before then, can Superman and Lois get through to him and undo Harvest's brainwashing, maybe giving a glimpse at who he could have been if raised by his birth parents? Or maybe he ends up not really redeemable causing conflicting emotions in both Lois and Clark. I think there's some fun possibilities here.

Anj said...

Well, I knew this would be a hot-button topic, probably why DC and Lobdell moved forward with it. And I am grateful for all the comments and discussion. I have my opinions but I hope to hear from the opposite side; maybe I missed something.

I don't think I am a 'hater' for disliking this direction for the book.

I think my dislike can be boiled down to a few points.

1) I simply think that a Superman/Lex Superboy opens up broader topics and more stories than Superman/Lois


2) In a time when Superman/Lois is belittled or forgotten by DC, to have their alternate future son become a killer seems like piling on

Will this be the 'final' origin of Superboy ... who knows? But I think this robs Kon of some of his vibrancy and uniqueness.

And I lay this and a lot of my other problems with the Superman line right now at the feet of Lobdell and Berganza.

Jay said...

The thing about Jon being a killer though...its not like its not without good reason. I mean when you're taken at 4 years old and purposely brainwashed, I think that's a sympathetic character, not an out and out villain.

Maybe there were some more cool stories to tell with Lex as a donor, but it just never did much for me. I just saw a lot of unneeded angst from an originally fun character. As a fan of Johns, I actually felt he basically ruined Superboy when he took over. To his personality right down to his look, I never liked the changes.

tony said...

Lois and clark thats all i hear about from you guys who dislike this,guess what this is a superboy book,and this storyline was made for superboy,not for lois and clark.

Lex could have been great as a donor,but he could still be great as just a adversary,dna doesnt make you evil,its enviroment and how you were raised that does it.

Anj said...

Interesting point about the Lex piece cranking up the angst factor. I also loved the early Hawaii adventures when things were fun and easy.

But you can see why this new origin is going in that direction either.

Anj said...

I agree this is a Superboy story. And I have been liking the character more and more recently.

But I just don't agree that this is a good direction. Not good for Lois and Superman. But not good (in my opinion) for Kon either.

I guess we have to disagree.

PRgirl1294 said...

@ Anj:

1. Again, there's always a chance of Lex being a part of Superboy's DNA, even with Lois and Clark being his donors. It never says anything in this issue against it. And if you think about it, Lois being revealed to be Superboy's mother is just like the revelation of Zeus being Wonder Woman's father, which, to me, makes both characters more relatable and interesting. Not to mention that if Superman, Lois, and/or Superboy ever find out about the connection, there's likely gonna be some awkwardness between them that could make for some interesting storytelling and maybe even bring Lois and Superman together in some way.

2. Again, the whole thing about Jon turning into a killer happened in an ALTERNATE timeline. He's no more of a part of this continuity than Superboy-Prime was a part of the previous continuity. And like Jay said, it's because he was taken by Harvest at almost 4 years old and brainwashed. It has nothing to do with his DNA, however messed up it may be. And if Lois gets together with Superman and gets pregnant in THIS timeline, they, Conner, and their allies can work together to prepare a better future for Jon or whoever the baby is.

tony said...

Well tell me how its bad for kon?

Martin Gray said...

This was indeed a horrendous story. Awful as last week's Stormwatch was, given it rebooted the entire DCU (again!) I'd love to see a time wave ripple out this entire run and have the post- Crisis Kon-El return - the kid who wanted to honour Superman's legacy from Day One.

Martin Gray said...

I'm kinda with Jay - I preferred Kon being Westfield's clone rather than Luthor's, that idea that Luthor DNA would automatically give him a nutty side, as has been said, doesn't really stand up, even in a sci-fi-pseudo world.

And yes, Geoff Johns bungled Superboy almost as badly as he wrecked Impulse - he has a bit of a John Byrne thing going on with his habit of revamping the fundamentals of characters to match his vision

But I still abhor the new origin!

And another thing, we already have the 'hero's child stolen and raised by a villain' bit with the new Fury in Earth 2. Hey, maybe Diana is the third donor ...

tony said...

Martin tell me how this origin reboots the new 52 reboot?

SUPERBOY #1Written by SCOTT LOBDELLArt by RB SILVA and ROB LEANCover by ERIC CANETEOn sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED TThey thought he was just an experiment – and a failed one at that! Grown from a combination of Kryptonian and human DNA, the Clone was no more than a set of data to the scientists of Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. But when the scope of his stunning powers was revealed, he became a deadly weapon! Now the question is: Can a clone develop a conscience? 

This is the solicit for issue 1,sound familiar? Yeah it does,besides saying kons dna is from clark and lois and that he has TTK,not kryptonian powers,that solicit explains his origin in a nutshell.

Just cause you liked a older, rebooted,or twice removed reboot,doesnt mean this is bad.

Oh and we already have a guy who flys and lifts bldg.s,but that doesnt stop comic companies from having more of them.

All i see is fanboy rage=which means " i dont like it,and im gonna complain about it,because its not what i wanted"

This wasnt my first choice,same for the other four origins for the character,but i learned to enjoy them..all.

Anonymous said...

@Tony, I'm a woman. Not a "fanboy". Either engage in a real discussion where you really listen or don't. You don't have to agree but claiming that those of us who are unhappy are having "fanboy rage" (ESP when we are women) is just immature.

@PRgirl. No I understand Tony's points well. I just think he's wrong. ::shrugs::

I understand this is a Superboy issue. I don't think Lois needed to be dragged through this at all. This feels like DC trying to capitalize on the lingering emotion, anger and attachment that so many people have for the Supermarriage and then dragging it through the mud for a male's story.

And yes, I get that this is an AU. But it's an AU that is interfering with our real universe. So it's basically just another universe ( along with the main one) dragging Lois further into misery. It wasn't necessary.

We don't need an AU where Lois and Clark have a baby who is dying and then raised to be a killer when we have a main universe where their entire connection has been systematically marginalized for 18 months.

Now, I respect you don't care about this. Please respect that I and others do. It's called a different perspective.


Gear said...

Tony, it's bad for Kon-El because it's producing yet another group of fans who don't want to read Superboy stories, or stories written by this writer, because they know the character they like is going to be jobbed out, shown in a negative light, or otherwise misused in order to make another story point for Kon.

During early issues of the last run of Supergirl a lot of Teen Titans fans were unhappy with how their characters were used in Supergirl, and the result was a lot of them stopped reading Supergirl. That hurt sales, and eliminated a group of readers who should have been prime targets for being part of the readership of a book about a teenage superhero. Fans of other characters in the Superman family should be the target audience of Superboy, and instead they're feeling as if the character is a boat anchor they don't want to see their character tied to. Fair or not, a lot of Legion Lost fans see the Superboy crossover as the thing that prevented a Legion story actually developing and helped kill the book.

I'm saying this as a big Superboy fan. I've followed one version of Superboy or another since the 50's, and rooted for each one. They've all been fun, even when brought back to life or rebooted. Superboy is a book that sells in the mid-20K range, and loses 5-10% of it's readership per month. What it needs is to leverage the fan-base of other books, make them *want* to read Superboy, if it's going survive. This stuff doesn't help at all.

tony said...

Im not going to be politically correct on here,when i dont even know what everyones sex is on here,so you didnt need to add that.

You know DC could be conscious of the fact that lois and clark should be together,and that thats a actual plot point in the many time and reality altering effects have effected supermans world just since the beginning of the new 52? Maybe we will have Pandora show up in the background in a superman book stating that lois and clark should be together ,but are not ,because of outside evil forces.think of the story potential in the long term before you have a gut reaction.

Oh and having lex as kons donor didnt stop lex from doing anything pre 52, he thrived,just like lois will.

Kon is a character directly related to the superman mythos,even if he started off being a side character in the superman universe,he should be right in the middle of if,not pushed to the side.

tony said...

More pll are talking about kon this week than i have ever seen before,so if any of that relates to sales it can only help.

Legion lost and the ravagers were actually holding the superboy book down,both were doomed from the start,and dragged kons book down with them.

I have been a SB fan since 1993, thats when MY SB showed up,and ill tell ya ive been through 3 origins and 2 more on the tv,so i know change happens,i handle it pretty well when it happens.

Oh and before this we thought lois and clark wouldnt be together and that if they could never have a kid,but now we know they were supposed to be together ,and that they can have kids,and already have two to boot now,i see that as a positive.

Anj said...

This certainly is an interesting discussion. I am happy that this place is a forum for this sort of discussion.

Tony, I think it is great that you are such a huge Superboy fan, willing to accept anything about the character.

And I know what it feels like to enjoy a version of an iconic character which breaks away from the mold. Remember, I loved Peter David's Angel of Justice Supergirl.

But I don't think my dislike of this reboot is simple 'fanboy rage'. I try to take a long view on these things. And I try to see the good and bad in comics, as much as I can.

This change felt (as Mart said) like 'change for change's sake'. I just don't know if the addition of Lois as part of Kon's origin adds enough to his story to warrant the downside.

And while this shows a possible future of Lois/Clark, it still makes their son a brainwashed killer. That is going to naturally upset fans of Superman as much as Lois.

And, by removing Lex (and I guess not everyone is in the Lex camp) I think you remove some interesting storylines from Kon's future.

Yes, lots of people are talking about this issue and that is publicity. So I guess we'll have to watch sales to see if it equals increased interest.

Again, I thank everyone for posting. Clearly Lobdell succeeded in touching a nerve.

PRgirl1294 said...

Again, who said anything about them removing Lex? That part has not been denied in this issue. It could still revealed to be so in a later issue. Harvest could have taken his DNA without Lex even knowing it.

tony said...

I wouldnt mind finding out lex outsmarted harvest,the guy who knows it all.

This origin has been compared to cable and stryfe,which has a lot of things that are similar,but i wpuld say when you think of cables origin,stryfe isnt a part of it,and he still is more than just stryfes doubleganger.

Speaking of comparisons
Jon sitting on his throne was like black zero on his
Jon and harvest remind me a lil of superboy prime and alender luthor.

I think the story potential is enormous here with jon,harvest,lois and clark,but it doesnt close the door on a new Match or lex making waves in kons life.