Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: Superboy #24

Superboy #24 came out this week, the last issue in the Justin Jordan 'era' of this book. This book has the be the most unstable book in the Superman family of books as it has gone through several creators, several overall thematic changes, and several origins for the title character.

I know longer know who this Superboy is. I don't know if I have ever known who this Superboy is. And now I am starting not to care about who he is either. Is he the 'living weapon' of NOWHERE? Is he grown to kill Superman? Is he the angry bank robber, living a party life? Is he a wisecrack going to high school? Is he the clone of Superman? Superman and Lex? Superman and Lois? Superman and Lois and Superman/Lois? When I don't know who I will be reading month to month, it is hard to get invested. And with Jordan gone and Marv Wolfman coming in, who knows who we will be reading next.

But this is the end of Jordan's run, a run which started with some optimism as a repentant Superboy was going to return the money he stole only to meet Dr. Psycho. Their relationship was fun and funny with snappy banter. But the last issue seemed to back off from a fun-loving Conner. And so we have this issue which wraps up some of the Psi-War elements in this book (although the actual ending to this arc is in another book).

The art, done by fill-in professional Robson Rocha. I will say, his art is improving with each issue I see. In particular, his Psycho Pirate is great, infusing him with flairs of insanity.

Anyways, I am going to try to remain fair in this review. But the change in tone in this book is so jarring. And the Psycho Pirate angle here is odd for a couple of reasons which detracted from the story.

So first off, the last we saw The Psycho Pirate he was crushing Superman psionically, draining the Man of Steel of his power, and gearing up for a face-off with Brainiac. So why exactly with someone with that goal be interested in high school shenanigans? Why boost the fear waves that 'Shift', the nerd in his arms is doing?

So at first I thought this story must take place before the Action Comics one. That would make sense. The Pirate could be testing his powers before facing off.

Instead, Jordan says that the Pirate is concurrently fighting Superman! He isn't even physically in the building! Makes that earlier panel of him holding the 'Shift' student a little difficult to comprehend. I wonder if that wrinkle in the story was a late throw-in.

But it also makes no sense. Why would the Pirate strain himself like this? Why not concentrate on draining one then the other?

Luckily Dr. Psycho regains consciousness and is able to join the fight. But Psycho Pirate says what we have all suspected all along. Dr. Psycho might not be helping Superboy as much as leeching off him. Psycho is draining Superboy's power in hopes of bringing down HIVE himself.

I will say this trick to psionically duplicate himself is a neat trick and adds to the Pirate character. I like my Psycho Pirate to be completely insane and this 'multiple personality', especially with the wild grin on the one closest to us, adds to that.

And the Psycho Pirate is able to fill in some of the blanks of Psycho's history. Psycho was a kid named 'Edgar' who was a natural psionic. HIVE ends up recruiting him by erasing the memory of Edgar from everyone who knew him. Alone, he was brought to a HIVE headquarters where he met others like him. He didn't have much to offer though and so was honeycombed like others, drained by the Queen.

I thought this was a good origin, explaining the scars, the isolation, and the youthful appearance.

Interestingly enough, he had enough psionic power to manipulate a young girl named Sarah to use her powers to take down the HIVE site, releasing him.

I was really hoping that this girl was going to be Lena! And maybe she will be. But she is named Sarah. Any Sarah character I might be forgetting who would fit this telepathic bill?

And Psycho Pirate actually knows all of Superboy's 'real' origin. He isn't a weapon, he's a 'living organ bank'.

Arrgghhh ... so is everything we have learned, unlearned, and learned again about Con's origins a lie? Is there yet another origin around the corner??

I might give up if that is true.

And it turns out that the Psycho Pirate isn't exactly magnanimous here. He isn't telling Superboy all this to keep Con free. He is telling Con this because he wants Superboy's powers.

At least the Pirate is being written consistently. He really wants to get juiced up to fight Brainiac.

But I have to say it still doesn't make sense for the Psycho Pirate to 'not' be here. Why fight this battle now? And why did he boost 'Shifts' powers? It seems like DC editorial didn't realize that the Pirate was going to be in several books and as a result things had to jiggered to kind of make sense.

With all the cards on the table, Superboy gets extremely angry and lashes out at Psycho. There is a large battle with Psycho, the Pirate, and Superboy all swinging and bashing things. One thing I did find interesting is that Superboy's psionics (or emotions) are so strong that they actually effect the Psycho Pirate who up until now seemed invulnerable.

When the dust settles, the Dr. Psycho is gone.
And Superboy is powerless, at the mercy of the Pirate.

Okay, that's a decent cliffhanger. But the last chapter is in Teen Titans, a book I don't collect. So who knows how this will end.

But this whole issue felt forced, as if Jordan needed to finish things enough so that the next creative team isn't starting mid-stream. The Pirate story, being in two places at once, seems inane and  I wonder if it was forced on Jordan. And frankly, the idea of another origin, or someone else holding Superboy's true origin over his head (Psycho Pirate drained the info from Dr. Psycho's head), is annoying.

Nice thick-lined art by Robson Rocha does make this a nice book to look at.

But who is Superboy? Will we ever know?

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

I think your suspicions are right, this issue was changed or rewritted or repurposed, presumably to make Psycho fit with Geoff John's desire for him to be all-out bad. As you know, I liked the more amusing, bumbling version previously seen in Superboy, so it's a shame he's been altered. If DC editorial ordered it done, though, credit to Jordan for making the connections seem almost organic.

The HIVE business and Superboy's origins, though, remain a mess, with the latter getting more convoluted and confusing with each issue. Can't DC just give Superboy an origin and stick with it? How about grown in a lab with some Superman DNA and that's it (and if NOWHERE or Cadmus or whoever cam grown a clone quickly, why can't Luthor? Harvest's future tech? Luthor wanting a wholly Kryptonian clone?)?

PRgirl1294 said...

The last chapter isn't gonna be in "Teen Titans". I think that they're gonna continue Superboy's story in Superman #24 'cause that's the last chapter of Psi War and if they don't show how Superboy gets out of this in that issue, they're not gonna show it anywhere else. And I'm sure that if he does show up in that issue, he'll be teaming up with his parents against Psycho Pirate, which would be so cool.

Also, I wouldn't worry too much about his origins. The "organ bank" thing doesn't really change anything about it. In fact, it goes in perfectly with what we already know.

Jay said...

Well hell, the origin may not even matter anymore after the bombshell dropped by Lobdell today about Superboy. Creating a bit of a stir as we speak if he was being genuine in his comments. Seems to be some question still as to whether he was trolling or being serious. If serious, big changes ahead, including for Supergirl. *is nervous*

Anj said...

They spent 2 years trying to figure out this character and continued to flail and fail.

So I am not surprised to see them finally give up. Even they didn't know who Kon/Con/Superboy was ... so why not start fresh.

But the last thing I want to read is a 'Jon Lane Kent' book ... so I might be off this book for good.

Jay said...

Yeah, if true I'm not seeing this particular idea saving the series. Stranger things and all that but I don't know, that's just the initial reaction of one fan. Would I give it a shot? Maybe, I don't know the Jon Lane Kent version yet so maybe he'd be interesting. But buy him as THE Superboy? That'd take a lot of convincing and I don't think I'm alone there.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I missed something here but why's no-one mentioned the second part of the Lobdell announcement, bit *after* Superboy dies... i.e. 'Lobdell also announced that Supergirl "will be leaving the Superman family forever, for another whole set of books in the DC Universe."'

Cdrake said...

Okay so Superman 24 came out, only mentioned Superboy. Superboy 25 is out and he's got his powers back and he's also got them in Action Comics Annual 2 apparently.

So how did he get them back?