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