Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: Superboy #22

There was a feel of momentum building with the Superboy comic in the last couple of months and I was enjoying this book more than I had in quite some time. With the over-arching and overbearing Harvest/Culling storyline in the past and by purposefully forgetting about the Jon Lane Kent debacle, as well as enjoying writer Justin Jordan's less grim and often humorous stories, I thought this book was turning something of a corner. Unfortunately, it was recently announced that Justin Jordan was leaving the book. (I shouldn't be surprised about creative turnover at DC.)

Superboy #22 came this week and the issue felt sort of flat. Maybe it was because I knew that Jordan's time was limited, or maybe it was because the art by Gui Balbi was rather rough, or maybe it was because the plot (Superboy going undercover in high school) seemed to be more forced or cliched than I have been used to, but this issue fell a bit short of the recent mark.

To add to that, I have to say I am getting pretty bored with blood-soaked and grim covers on this book. Sure, maybe there isn't any blood here. But do I need to hear that Superboy might have to KILL PEOPLE! Sigh. Enough DC. Not every book needs to be an ultra-violent gore fest. 

The underlying story of Superboy teaming up with Dr. Psycho to undermine H.I.V.E.'s efforts continues here.

But first we are reminded of one Jocelyn Lure, the Science Police Officer from the future, thinks that somehow Superboy has altered the timeline such that things are changing before her eyes.But when she breaks into Superboy's apartment, she finds everything draped and packed. He isn't there.

It's funny, even though this particular storyline was started by Jordan, it feels passe. It feels like part of the earlier stories. And the Dr. Psycho/H.I.V.E. arc feels more and more like a soft reboot. To be honest, I had completely forgotten this plotline was happening.

Superboy isn't there because he has gone undercover in high school. Psycho has felt a psionic disturbance there, something big enough to attract H.I.V.E.'s attention. In the recent past, several students have gone psychotic without a clear reason.

There is some fun stuff here. The school is McDuffie High School, a nice nod to the late great Dwayne McDuffie. And it is nice to see Superboy called Conner Kent ... or is it Connor Kent? Two spellings in one panel?? And how did he get the Kent last name?

But Jordan then has the school sort of boil down to stereotypes. There is the preppy girl, the punk girl Eliza, the enraged jock. And while everyone initially flocks to Conner because of his good looks, they just as quickly ostracize him when he confronts the popular boy in school. Jordan really makes high school seem like a crucible, something to survive, something horrible.

Again, there are some nice bits sprinkled throughout. I like Conner's discussion of his prior schooling. He has never been to 'school'. He was 'home schooled'. He has no parents. All true given his creation. He questions what the teachers are teaching, working his way up the discipline ladder from guidance counselor to principal to superintendent. While amusing, it is hard to imagine the school dealing with just him and not some sort of guardian.

Anyways, I have read comics enough to know that this nameless girl who is smiling in the first panel and then depressed in the next is going to have some role in this story. She is probably the psionic, someone who feels so alone she lashes out. Why have her star in this panel otherwise.

Early on in the book, Conner looks at other students and sees monsters in their place, presumably the psionic attack. Now the popular kid from earlier in the book seems to suffer the same attack, lashing out at everyone in fear.

Conner ends his attacks by knocking him out. Surprisingly, even though he just 'saved' people, Conner is labeled a 'freak' and falls further down the high school pecking order. And is he wearing a S-shield shirt? Hide in plain sight?

Eliza, Conner's one friend, really voices the downbeat sentiment about high school. She seems to dislike everyone and hates the whole social experience. She would seem to be the obvious choice for the embedded psionic. But I know better.

Now Dr. Psycho and Krypto are around for the ride, hiding in the school storage shed and ready to help.

When the popular boy is carted away, Superboy and Psycho spell out the situation. Psycho can't figure out who is behind the attacks, but it is powerful. H.I.V.E. will be closing in soon unless they stop the attacker.

One of the things I have liked in the last few issues is the banter between Psycho and Superboy. There simply wasn't enough of that in this issue as Psycho only appears in a handful of panels.

Eliza continues her rant against humanity. She has no compassion for those who have been carted away. She says 'either you're a cool kid, a weird kid, or just one of the kids no one sees. Kids are monsters, including you. Including me.'

And after that rant, Superboy seems to be attacked, suddenly seeing everyone in the school as monsters. Hmmm, maybe Eliza IS the psionic. Superboy touches her shoulder right before this splash.

I don't know. Maybe I am too far removed from High School to remember whether it was that horrific. I certainly wasn't popular ... but I had friends. I didn't think everyone was awful.

It looks as if everyone is effected. Even Krypto. Of course, nothing is as it seems with psionic attacks. This all has to be an illusion, a way to make Superboy unwittingly attack everyone thinking they are creatures. This isn't real.

I suppose if you are one of the disenfranchised, if you feel that you are alone and everyone else is horrible, and if you have super-powers, then you might blast into everyone's mind and have them see the world as you do.

But after a couple of lighter issues in this title, this issue felt relentlessly depressing. Add to that some pedestrian art and this issue felt like a baby step backwards.

Overall grade: C+/B


Dave Mullen said...

They have no idea what to do with this book. None. Is it the lack of a solid plausible origin for Superboy? His lack of a coherent relationship with Superman? His wooden characterisation? Is there a point to his existence? Would anyone seriously miss him if he disappeared tomorrow....?

tony said...

I would miss him,and this is by far the best of Justin Jordan's issues so far,how this issue was the disappointment,and not others escapes me.

ConnOr or connEr
Real personality
Actual supporting characters
Kon seeing through illusions,and seeing astral forms
The humor
Even the sloppiness of the art carried over well to sloppy teenagers.

Anj said...

It is true that every time I start to care about this character a little, the book goes awry.

If it got canceled, I don't think I would miss it.

Martin Gray said...

Yeah, not a great issue, I get so bored with the high school cliches.

And what's with naming two characters Eliza(Beth)? And one of them is sorta Betty Cooper - where's Jughead?

Was Eliza changing clothes mid-scene a clue?

And he's at the school three days? It all seems a bit complicated - if Psycho can sense a disturbance from a distance, surely he could home in on the cause when he's closer?

Highlight of the issue? Superboy's meta-comment about his history being so complicated it takes two books to explain it.

tony said...

Anj and Martin ,I see you both have many issues with this issue,which there was plenty,but how was the last two Jordan issues better than this one? They were generic,and stuck in the same ol Lobdell/defalco play book,while this issue was fun,and we got some actual character from the lead character.the art was "I think" supposed to be sloppy looking,have you guys seen teenage boys these days? Sure kon wasn't in his supersuit,and he wasn't fighting a big dangerous threat here,but I thought it was cool him using his old DCU name,meeting and interacting with ppl,using his intelligent and very snarky humor,plus seeing through illusions and also seeing astral forms,that's huge.

I say it was one of the best reads for this title for awhile now.

PRgirl1294 said...

Three things that I have to say here:

1. I don't think that they're gonna cancel the "Superboy" book anytime soon. He's too popular a character and too important a Superman family member.

2. High school may have not been as bad for you back then, but nowadays, for the most part, it really is that bad. Take this from someone who's mom was a social worker at a high school for almost twenty years.

3. I have a theory about what's going on with Jocelyn Lure. I think that the changes in the timeline that she's worried about aren't being caused by Superboy's actions in the present, but by H'el's meddling with the past back on Krypton. What do you think?

tony said...

They have cancelled his books before,so It could happen again.wish he could get ONE writer,that was good,and ONE artist that was good on this book,this character would thrive easily if it was taken care of better.i look at previews for all these indie books,and wish their creative team could be on this book,it's nerve racking when you get subpar work done on a book that should get atleast b level work on it.

High school can be terrible for some kids,I'm glad you guys thought it was a great,fun,experience,but for some all they want to do is survive minute to minute,and get out as soon as possible.

The changes could be from H'El or from harvest and Jon being in the present.either way I hope they give us a curve ball,and say Harvest is nuts,not from the future,and not the one who made kon.lex and Sam lane should be the ones who made him,and lex has experience making Bizzaro and the hybrid from action comics from supermans dna.hell superboy could be a clone of Wraith and not superman.

Martin Gray said...

Tony, where did I say school was a blast for me? It was often pretty crappy - I couldn't actually imagine life after school because it felt like it would never end - and I don't doubt that's how it is for most people. But every time it's presented in fiction it's the same old types - popular kids, jocks, heathers, outcasts; surely someone could try something differentt?

Anj said...

Hmm ... unathletic comic book reader on the Math team. Trust me, high school was hardly a breeze for me.

But as I and other said, this seemed pretty stale to me.

And I really feel it broke the momentum the book was building.

I want to like this character and this book but after 2 years, I still don't know where this book is going.

Anj said...

And great pick up on that meta-text comment Mart. I didn't register that!

PRgirl1294 said...

1. I didn't say that it wouldn't be canceled; I said that it wouldn't be canceled anytime soon. It's bound to end sometime, but I doubt that it'll happen for a long time. The only reason that it got canceled early last time was because of the relaunch, which I doubt is gonna happen again for a long time.

2. I agree with you here.

3. No, if it was from Harvest and Jon being in the present, it would have started happening long before Superboy was created.