- Written by Niam Suggitt, Kelly Symmonds, Brad Thomson and Sakie on Sunday, October 09 2011 and posted in Reviews
I think he's a clone, now. Granted, he was a clone, then. Either way, is it worth it?
Welcome to 52apolooza, the Outhouse feature focusing on DC's September Relaunch. All of DC's 52 titles will be reviewed by our pool of reviewers to point out the best and worst that DC's new comic book line has to offer. To see how this book ranks among the other new DC titles, be sure to check out our 52apolooza Rankings!
Scott Lobdell returns to comics and here's your chance to see his first new DC work... but DOES it work? Let's see what the 52apolooza team thinks of Superboy.
Marvel Reviewer: Niam Suggitt
When this whole DC relaunch thing was announced, one of the most surprising and controversial aspects of it was the return of Scott Lobdell and the number of books he would be writing. Having been central to the X-Men during their 90s heyday, Lobdell had kind of dropped off the face of the Earth, but had returned to write not one, not two, but three new books for DC. Fans were shocked and confused, and conspiracy theories ran amok that he was only getting work because he was chummy with Bob Harras. But on the basis of Superboy #1, it looks like he's getting work because he's actually quite a good writer, come on, who didn't love Operation: Zero Tolerance back in the day?
Lobdell's take on Superboy is familiar yet different, and he seems to be taking his cues from the Young Justice cartoon series, where everybody's favourite clone isn't a wise-cracker with a terrible haircut or a mini-version of Superman, but a rather more alien, and a rather more angry character. Lobdell uses a lot of interior narration in this book, and it works, Superboy has a rather unique perspective, and Lobdell contributes some interesting new ideas about his physiology, like the fact that his consciousness exists beyond his brain, and is in his whole body. We see Superboy floating in a tube, and we see him interact in a virtual-reality environment, and there's something not quite right with him, and it's fascinating to see.
One thing I liked was how subtle Lobdell layers in the back-story and history, and how he doesn't make things too obvious. Superboy's virtual reality haven is a small town in Kansas, which baffles the scientists looking after him, why does he like Kansas so much? But we as readers know that he loves the place because it's where Clark Kent, his 'dad' is from. The fact that Superboy has a human element is subtly teased too, I think we can guess it's still Lex Luthor, but Lobdell keeps it vague, with Doctor 'Red' speculating that unless the human donor is a 'deeply pathological, megalomaniacal narcissist, the likes of which the world has never known' then something's gone wrong with the clone, it's a nice touch, and it certainly brings to mind a certain baldy.
There's more going on here than just Superboy being emo though, as Lobdell sets up Project NOWHERE and it's ties to the wider DC Universe, the character of Templar is interesting, and the last page looks to be setting up another Lobdell book, Teen Titans, and this issue actually made me consider picking that one up, despite that terrible Spider-Thing that's going to be in it. Lobdell also throws in some other well-known characters into the mix, including Caitlin Fairchild from Gen13 (that it's her is not said out-right, but it is her) and Rose Wilson, AKA Ravager. Lobdell doesn't go into great detail about who these characters are, which makes them work not only for new readers, but also bonuses for older fans. I will say that I didn't like it when the interior monologue switched from Superboy to a scientist, I think it muddles things up, I think it should be a rule that each individual issue should only have one narrator.
The artwork in this issue comes from RB Silva, who has previous in the world of Superman comics, as he was the artist for Nick Spencer's wonderful Jimmy Olsen stories. He does the same strong job here as he did there, his work reminds me of a kind of mash-up between Clayton Henry and Stuart Immonen, it's cartoony, but also really detailed. Bald Superboy in his speedos did look kind of dumb though.
Overall, this was a good first issue, much has changed about Superboy, but much has also stayed the same, this is a more contemplative, more scientific approach to the character, and it works in this first issue. I'm not sure how much the character will develop once he's out in the wider world, but this issue itself was strong. Bringing back Lobdell? Not such a bad idea as it turns out.
Accesibility: 17/25 (I think someone who is familiar with Superboy and Ravager and Gen13 might get more out of this, but I think it does enough that new readers won't be lost.
Total Score: 81/100
New Reader Reviewer: Kelly Symmonds
Writing- I've seen a lot of anti-Lobdell chat on the forum lately, but I thought he a good job with Superboy #1. The writing is enjoyable to read without being confusing or overly saturated with poorly chosen jokes. I particularly enjoyed the death of the Dr. *SPLAT*... R.I.P. we hardly knew thee. Superboy's character feels very much like his Young Justice counterpart which I believe is a wise choice on DCs part. 18/25.
Art- All parties did a fine job on this issue. It looks like an average art job, but for some reason this art really struck a chord for me. I really enjoyed examining all the panels. I did spot the Hooded Woman too. 19/25.
Accessibility- This may have been one of the easiest reads of the new 52 so far. It introduces Superboy, the doctors and scientist handling him and even hints at the Teen Titans whom he will soon be encountering. No crazy background to cover. Just a boy clone of Superman and the foundations of a interesting story arc. 19/25.
Enjoyability- I would say I liked this issue, but I am torn if I'll be shelling out for the #2. I've never really been the biggest fan of Superboy (unless it's followed by "Prime"). I would recommend anybody looking for a fun first DC 52 to read, Superboy is a good starting place to jump in. 18/25.
Grab Bag Reviewer: Brad Thomson
Opening Text: "They call me Superboy."
Scott Lobdell gives us a Superboy that could very well be the next great villain of the new DC universe. Right from the start of the book he gives you a detached and somewhat sinister, calculating characterization we have not seen portrayed before in comics...at least not by a protagonist at least. Then again, when your entire lifespan entailed three months, sixteen days, four hours and fifty-three seconds stuck inside an oversized test-tube, I guess one could understand the personality that developed. Lobdell also does a very solid job giving enough characterization and depth to the supporting cast to move the story along without writing cookie cutter stand-ins because he's focusing all his energy on Superboy. I always liked Scott Lobdell and I never quit understood his dislike among comic fans. He is a solid writer who can tell a story while entertaining readers and he is certainly one of the better writers in DC stable.
Once freed from containment, Superboy's life is still not his own. N.O.W.H.E.R.E places the Boy of Steel into a virtual reality simulator to test the boy's reaction to various events. N.O.W.H.E.R.E's subjects Superboy to scenario after scenario, not to acclimate him to the world but rather to learn more about the Kryptonian side of his genetic makeup. Superboy leaves one test tube only to be turned into another. To what end N.O.W.H.E.R.E's will take this knowledge is not told but there is a sense of urgency to know all they can about Superman though this clone.
Lobdell ends the issue by taking him out of the lab to deal with the Teen Titans, which is where the narrative takes a surprising and confusing turn. The change in pace from the opening two acts to the finale was abrupt and unnecessary. I had hoped to see more of Superboy's time in N.O.W.H.E.R.E and let the character continue to develop his unique personality. Instead, I guess Lobdell and DC wants to get him ready and right into the pages of Teen Titans.
One element that carried over from the previous incarnation of Superboy is that Superboy is part human as well. While Lobdell hints at the answer at the start the issue, he creates a bit of a mystery by killing off the only character that knows who the human donor is. Of course, that human's personality starts to come out with Superboy, leading me to believe that we will be seeing Superboy as a villain, at least for a little while. While I have not seen much of Lex Luthor in the new DC universe, it will be interesting to see if DC continues to have him serve as the source of Superboy's human DNA. Unlike Conner's last incarnation in the DCU, this Superboy seems to be more of a thinker seems like he could be more like Lex Luthor than Superman. However, it's a little tantalizing to see the mystery play out and see whether DC goes in another direction.
Art wise, R.B Silva does a wonderful job portraying the blank emotion of Superboy, the determination of the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. scientists and the virtual reality environment of a Kansas town. The art was a perfect match to Lobdell's story and I look forward to seeing more from Silva.
I liked Superboy because it features a character that does not know who he is and what he can do. His personality is defined mostly by the actions that have happened within his short so-called life spent within a containment tube. This issue gave the readers a great introduction of Superboy and provides some interesting hints at what type of personality he could develop. I hope that future issues focus on trying to find his identity and not about his fight against the Teen Titans. The first issue was an engaging and worthwhile tale that makes me want to know more about Superboy.
Total Score: 94/100
DC Reviewer: Sakie
One of the biggest arguments in this whole DCnU debate seems to revolve around the speculation of how certain pieces of DC's past can remain unchanged while others are completely rebooted. How can "Event A" have happened if "Character W" was never killed during "Event B?" and so on and so forth. DCnU's Superboy #1 is an interesting look into the philosophy that some events still happened but they may not have happened the way that we, the reader, remember them. This version of Superboy is still a partial clone of Superman, splicing his kryptonian DNA with human DNA. Prior to the relaunch it was common knowledge that the donor of the human DNA was none other than Superman's arch-nemesis himself, Lex Luthor, however, this may no longer be the case. Instead of being created by Cadmus, Superboy is now created by the equally mysterious Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E.
Superboy #1 is told from the perspective of Superboy and briefly from the perspective of a biophysicist named "Umber," while concentrating on the going ons around them. The opening of the story finds Superboy becoming "aware" within the confines of his test tube. While other scientists speculate that he is only a thing and not alive, Dr. Caitlin Fairchild speculates that since he is partially alien his body functions may be operating at levels that we can not begin to fathom. It is clear that while the other researchers at N.O.W.H.E.R.E. treat Superboy as nothing more than an object, Fairchild cares for his well being. When they attempt to terminate the project, Superboy violently breaks free laying waste to the laboratory in the process.
One month later, Superboy is enrolled in high school "somewhere in the heart of Kansas." He meets and becomes friends with Rose Wilson. The pair walk home together after school, they discuss Superboy's lack of memory prior to arriving in this town and they casually flirt with each other, completely ignoring a woman who is screaming for help from a burning building they walk directly in front of. Eventually this is revealed to all be part of a virtual reality simulation that N.O.W.H.E.R.E is using to test Superboy. The researchers believe they have Superboy fooled but through his internal monologue it is clear that he is aware of everything going on around him. Rose Wilson is revealed to be one of Superboy's "handlers" and the aforementioned Dr. Umber is secretly sending Lois Lane top secret information about Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. The story ends almost exactly in the same was that Teen Titans #1 ends as Zaniel Templar orders Fairchild to release Superboy to deal with Red Robin and his Teen Titans.
As far as accessibility is concerned, this issue is one of the DCnU's finest examples of blending the old DC's history with the DCnU's quest for new readers. There is enough here to be familiar to long time readers while also explaining to new readers who Superboy is and why he isn't simply a younger version of Superman.
Scott Lobdell really makes up for his horrible offering in Red Hood and the Outlaws with this issue. This is one of the few DCnU titles that really has me looking forward to the future rather than looking back at the past. Silva's art leaves a little to be desired at times but it really works well with the story.
Total Score: 86
Final 52apolooza Score: 335 (Average Score: 83.75)
Written or Contributed by: Niam Suggitt, Kelly Symmonds, Brad Thomson and Sakie