Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: Superboy #20

Superboy #20 came out this week, the first of what feels like many books sporting someone new in the creator column. Less than two years in, Superboy has his third writer. Welcome Justin Jordan.

There is a lot for Jordan to wrap his head around. Over these 2 years, Superboy as a title has felt uneven to me. His origin certainly isn't easy to recite. And last issue's knuckleball of a genetic reveal hasn't helped, at least for me. On top of that, I am still trying to understand just who Kon is. Is he a hero? An anti-hero? A brainwashed dupe? A player, sitting in his plush apartment surrounded by cash? What are his motivations?

If I have one hope of Jordan, it is that he solidifies what Kon thinks of himself and why he does what he does. After reading this issue, I think we are off to a good start. And the injection of humor in the form of Dr. Psycho is completely appreciated given the dour feel of this book so far.

The art on the issue is split in thirds between usual artists RB Silva and Rob Lean, Kenneth Rocafort, and Chris Cross. The art is well done, but their styles are very different and very distinctive, so the changes did distract from the story a bit.

And I don't quite know what the cover has to do with the story on the inside. Again, this feels like a feint by DC. This cover makes Superboy seem like a dark character, grim and gritty. And maybe that is how DC wants to market him. But the story doesn't bare that out.

I have had my issues with the book and I certainly haven't been quiet about them. One of my biggest problems with Superboy was the bank-robbing issue. It is hard to root for a thief who thinks he is above the law and flaunts it.

One of the rare positive things which seemed to come out of H'El on Earth was a realignment in priorities in Kon. Suddenly he seemed more heroic and more interested in doing what was right. A couple of issues ago he tried to return the bulk of the money he stole.

Jordan starts the book out with Superboy preparing to turn himself in to the police for the portion of the money he spent. It is a nice showing of how Superboy has grown. Hurrah!

But before Kon can do that, Dr. Psycho approaches him and tells him to wait. To Psycho it doesn't seem fair that Kon is doing this. More importantly, he can help Kon. He knows where Superboy really comes from.

It is true that Psycho was in Kon's mind. So how much does he know? Does he know about N.O.W.H.E.R.E.? Does he know about Clark/Lois/Jon? Does he know about the layer upon layer upon layer of subliminals we know Kon has been subjected to?

Now Kon's origin is something of a sore point for him. And to have a stranger come up like this must be irritating. He lashes out.

Before Superboy can question him more, the two are attacked by a Dreadnaught, something Psycho recognizes. This things is here to retrieve Psycho and return him to H.I.V.E.

The Dreadnaught calls Psycho a drone which is intriguing. I wonder just how many Psychos we will see when we eventually get to H.I.V.E.

What is refreshing is Psycho's matter-of-fact style of speaking. There is a nice little twinge of sarcasm in him. He has some great lines here, lines that made me chuckle. As I said ... refreshing.

Kenneth Rocafort takes over on art here. I like how young Rocafort makes Superboy look.

Psycho knows that Dreadnaughts are paired with Psiphons, psionic vampires who drain energy from people and gives that power to the Dreadnaught. He goes off to find the power source.

Psycho also lets Superboy know about the existence of H.I.V.E. for the first time. I love the line about Psycho punctuating the word H.I.V.E. telepathically. These acronyms are becoming somewhat ludicrous. I chuckled out loud with that line.

As physically unimposing as Psycho is, the Psiphon is even weaker. Weak to the point that Psycho decides to engage in fisticuffs. This is a character that we have seen cringing behind trash bags and trying to talk his way out of any physical confrontation.

At first I thought this felt a bit off. But then I thought it must mean Psycho is absolutely sure he can overpower this thing. I also think it shows just how desperate Psycho is not to be brought back.

And the ending of the fight is just as amusing. The give-and-take in Superboy and Psycho's dialogue works well throughout the book. It is snappy without feeling forced. And if Psycho can beat up Psiphon, a simple finger flick by Superboy can do the job.

And here is the bold new direction of the book, the underlying story that will carry the book moving forward.

HIVE is a group that deals with psionics and beings with psionic powers. HIVE now knows that Superboy so they will probably be gunning for him as much as they are Psycho. Psycho thinks an alliance to bring them down makes sense.

Is it a little fast for Superboy to trust someone this much? To uproot his life to take on an organization he hardly knows? Maybe. But I also get the sense that Kon is looking for something in his life, some reason to be. So maybe he is a bit more willing to jump in with both feet.

To be honest, I had forgotten that Jocelyn Lure, the SciPo officer from the future, was still in this book.

The book ends with here in her headquarters, tinkering with her devices when suddenly some of them start to fade away. Clearly this is some time travel paradox. Something has changed in the future such that these things either weren't invented or weren't packed or something else. Time travel paradoxes give me a headache. If she never packed them, how could she know they have disappeared?

Anyways, beyond that, I don't know why she immediately jumps to questioning what Superboy did to cause this.

So overall, this is a good first issue that has something of a different feel for this book. I have to say, there was a lighter feel to this issue, especially after last month's morose and disappointing origin story. I like the chemistry we have seen between Psycho and Superboy already. This felt like a more classic Conner story, a brash young hero and a story infused with some humor.

I do hope that the art on the book stabilizes.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Very nice review Anj, nothing to disagree with. I think I know what's going on with the cover ... see my own ramblings over at my blog.

Anj said...

As usual Mart, we are in synch on our thoughts!

Nice pick up on the cover and old solicit.

I like the banter between Psycho and Kon as it gives this book some much needed humor.

mathematicscore said...

I just read the issue that debuted Psiphon and Dreadnaught. Awesome!