Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Superboy #1

When I did my review on Green Lantern we got a write in about how happy someone was to see a positive review of a book that the writer was a fan of before the relaunch. Well, this is going to be interesting to see what they think in this case. Partially, because I am a big Superboy fan. Partially because I've been reading Superboy since he had round glasses and lived on Hawaii. Partially because I was really big into Volume 4 with Luthor's niece and the unexplained kid from the future. And also, partially, because this book was #@$%ing rotten.

This most recent version of Superboy starts off very very closely to how that last one did (may he rest in piece). He's a clone of Superman. He has half human DNA (from a source they haven't named yet, but let's guess). And...that's where the similarities end.

He's in a tube raised by a group named N.O.W.H.E.R.E. which sounds like something out of a bad Abbot and Costello skit.

"Where are you keeping Superboy?"
"Well he's got to be somewhere."
"He is! He's at work."
"Where do you work?"
"Wait, you're unemployeed?"

And it would go on and on like that until your head explodes.

Apparently, N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is a top secret facility that engineers whatnot. It's not really covered too well. But, if I had to guess, I'd guess that they produce the occasional weapon and mass produce speech balloons. No joke. If there was no proof that Scott Lobdell wrote this I would have guessed a drunken Brian Michael Bendis rubbed his almost empty pen all over this thing. Every time a character thinks or talks it reminded me of a dialogue heavy scene from the old Speed Racer cartoons. Just...babbling. Every single character had seven tons of needless exposition. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm a reader, I enjoy reading, but do we need all this on every page?

It's not terribly good writing either. It's rushed. It feels like they were told to make sure that all the origin and intro story is done before Teen Titans #1 comes out. Plus, and this may have just been me, but it feels like the writing was on par with a parent trying to sound hip to their kid.

There's terminology in here stolen straight from medical shows. Technical terms being used very carefully. And probably the best usage I've ever seen of someone taking an Intro to Psychology course.

And whenever they use something they feel "the kids" would know, it's not only awkward but it's in bold. See the picture on the left? It's already awkward but the fact that it's bold is like the writer saying, "hey, I know what you kids like." Though, as a former video game retail clerk, I can honestly tell you that NO ONE got Wii Sports for the golf game. You might say, "but E.N., I got Wii Sports for the golf". To which I would tell you to go look in a mirror, you can't see your own reflection. You know why? Because you don't exist.

The art is alright though. R.B.Silva seemed to put a fair amount of work into everything but sometimes it seems a little over the top. It reminds me of a pseudo-realistic rendition of the works of Jhonen Vasquez. There's wires everywhere in the foreground. Needless technological whatnots and dohickeys. And there's even a moment where a helicopter shows up that looks like a relative of Zim's ship from Invader Zim.

Though, to his credit, I did like how some of the characters looked normal. There were some short characters, some chubby characters, pretty characters and flaws ones as well. The lady who does the majority of the talking (which is an impressive feat in this book) has giant glasses. It's a nice change to see characters actually have physical character traits beyond just their hair. I mean, download a bunch of pictures of Lois Lane and Carol Ferris and try to see how many of your friends can guess who's who. But sometimes the character definition goes overboard and ends up being distracting. For example:

Great Hera looks at all that dialogue. But notice something else? Why is that guy there. You know who. That guy. I'm not even going to describe him. You know exactly who I'm talking about. You know why? Because it's distracting and takes away from the panel. He's practically the focal point.

I know this is starting to sound like an attack. But I want to make it clear, I DO want this book to succeed. I love Superboy. I would love this character to grow. And I think that with what the last page led into, this book has some potential. It has the elements it could use to succeed. And, it had Rose Wilson (right) who I am also a big fan of and was surprised to see. This book could be good. And who knows, the second issue could be amazing.

Like I said earlier, this issue seemed rushed so I won't let this speak for the entire series and I'm still giving it a shot. Maybe I'm bias. I've spent years waiting for Superboy to finally find himself and it seemed like after years and some jerk punching through reality itself, he was finally doing that. Too see him hop right back into the tub was a bit of a let down for me. To put it bluntly, this new character...he may be Superboy, but he is definitely not Connor. In fact, I'll close out by letting this panel from the book itself do all the talking for me.

By Electric Nerd with 3 comments


Man, I thought this book was pretty great. I'm all for compression in comics, and I really appreciated that this was so dense. Lobdell played with a lot of ideas, told a lot of story, and set up some interesting stuff. I think it's a good sci-fi story and a pretty cool take on Superboy, even though, as I told you, I responded more to his portrayal in Adventure Comics #1. Good characters, some nice lines "...deeply pathological, megalomaniacal narcissist the likes of which the world has never known", playing on the reader's expectations. I thought there was a lot to like here. It's really good as an entry point for new readers, but there's cool stuff hidden for old ones. Did you catch Red's identity?

The thing about Bendis dialogue is that nothing happens in it. He's the leader for decompression in comics. No one could argue this is decompressed.

I really liked Silva's art too. It was very cartoony, and I think that really worked for the book. He also played a bit with styles- look at how things are drawn in the VR segment versus the regular pages.

I'd write an alternative review, but I have so much other stuff that needs writing. Maybe sometime if I have some time to kill. ;)

I know I was supposed to know who Red was but I couldn't, for the life of me, figure it out.

I don't know, maybe it was just because I liked Volume 4 so much that I got defensive, maybe the moon was in the right spot, but I just didn't like the book.

But as this was an extremely attacking review I would like to see your thoughts on it.


Jeff Lemire was telling some great stories with Con (and Geoff Johns was too, before him), and it's definitely frustrating seeing that all thrown away. I wrestled with that a lot the first time I read this, subsequent reads were a lot more enjoyable.

One thing that's interesting to me is that it still works as an origin story for the Conner we know, and honestly makes a lot more sense than him coming out of the lab as an embodiment of all things 90's (though you know I loved that age). I'm really curious to see if he'll develop into a character more like the Conner we had before or if they're going to take him in a different direction. Based on solicits I'm pretty sure Miss Martian is joining the cast in #3 and I would not be surprised if the goal here is to make him as much like animated YJ Superboy as possible.

I really do like the strengthening of Superboy's Sci-fi elements. Tactile telekinesis actually making some sense! I was so excited. XD And there's so much I'm interested in seeing more of. Superboy as a mole in the Titans, Lois Lane's investigations of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. (which was also in Doom Patrol, but I think the two are unrelated), the fact that Superboy's tank had a NUMBER 2 on it.

For me, this comic represented a lot of what was good about comics in the 90's. There's so much story here, and Lobdell experiments and throws out all kinds of ideas. I have definitely had some apprehensions about DC bringing in 90's guys* to work on their stuff, but I think if they can bring all of that while leaving behind the XTREME it could be a really good thing.

*I know Lobdell's still been working in comics since the 90's, but with the exception of his awesome Gotham City Sirens issue, I haven't read it, so I still think of him as a 90's guy.

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