Sunday, 12 August 2012

Superboy #12 review

Dragged out for a night on the town by new landlady Dallas Sorrentino, Superboy meets her posse and finds he doesn't like alcohol. He likes the thugs who threaten Dallas even less. And as for their boss, moneylender Kavi is a full-on devil woman, bewitching the Clone of Steel with her mind powers. She's not ready for what she finds inside Superboy, though, and is forced to slink off into the night. Elsewhere, another woman is taking a big interest in Superboy - 31st-century detective Jocelyn Lure.

You'll notice that evil organisation NOWHERE, which has bedevilled this book with plotlines that go nowhere, is nowhere to be seen this issue. They're mentioned on the final page, but that's it. And apart from a couple of pages with Bunker and a one-panel Wonder Girl flashback, the similarly page-hogging Teen Titans are absent. Superboy #12 is new writer Tom DeFalco stepping away from the macro-plot and doing some proper character work.

This includes addressing Superboy's casual attitude to bank robbery last month, having him form an instant opinion on the wisdom of drinking alcohol, and not worrying unduly about using his powers in front of casual acquaintances. DeFalco elaborates on his known powers by having Superboy discover the very Silver Age gift of super-taste, manifest a Spider-Man-like danger sense and do something wonderfully weird with his telekinesis.

Better than the meta-abilities, though, is the fact that he shows some empathy, wishing to protect Dallas from danger. He's following his human instincts rather than denying them, hiding behind his status as a clone. While Kiva's reaction at the end of the issue hints that there's something monstrous inside Superboy, the signs are that he'll overcome it.

Which is what I want. The more DC teases the 'is he a good clone, or a bad clone?' angle, the less I like the book. DeFalco stressed this line of character development in a recent interview, but I suspect he's not planning to drag it out.

The introduction of an instant supporting cast this issue is a positive sign. As well as rich and mysterious Dallas, there's party boy Raz, nice girl Jules Bennett, athlete Sam Mendez and rich geek Hartford Howard Wellington V aka (and I love this, it's positively Peanuts) Fifth. They're all archetypes at the moment, but DeFalco is an old-school writer who's bound to develop them into characters, given half a chance. Right now, they're Not the Teen Titans, which is good enough for me - I want Superboy to own his book, rather than have it be an adjunct to DC's teen team. His own backing players is a big step in that direction.

Teen Titan Bunker, though, he can stick around. He's acting as Jiminy Cricket, helping Superboy develop his conscience. He's also a lot of fun (though he hits the same tired gay stereotype note that shows up in Batman this week - he just loves clothes and has great taste).

Villainess Kiva is a bit of a one-note witch so far, but again, it's her debut appearance, she could go in any number of directions. The only thing that seems off in this day and age is that she refers to herself as 'Kiva, Mistress of the Lost Domain!'. Does she not remember the name, then?

There's a similar moment of clunky introduction at the end, when Detective Jocelyn Lure, talking to herself as she watches video of Superboy's scrapes to date, says her name out loud. Ruddy drama queen. Editor Chris Conroy should be catching this sort of thing.

Otherwise, this issue's script is excellent, just good superheroics. There's a great moment when DeFalco has Superboy show impressive fighting skills - it's rare for non-superpowered combat in comics to seem anything other than throwaway, but here we have action that's easy to understand, and plausible (click on image to enlarge).
Clap your hands, then, for artist ... oh, hang on, there are two pencillers and no page breakdowns. Robson Rocha and Eduardo Pansica share the layouts job. I think the above is Pansica, but if anyone can confirm or deny, please do. (Nope, wrong - inker Greg Adams clarifies in the comments below, but in case you don't get that far, he says: 'The page in question was penciled by Robson Rocha, and inked by Greg Adams. They did the art pages of #1–4, 7-11, 19 and 20. Thank you for the kind words!' And thank you, Greg!)

Whatever the case, the issue looks sharp throughout. There's one instance of a pipecleaner cheesecake girl (bends any way you want her), but she's mostly hidden by text. Otherwise, there's nothing to object to and much to admire. Superboy's emotions are front and centre, the new cast members are distinctive and bad girl Kiva is memorable. There's a dual perspective on the big fight scene that works well and an amusing moment when the battle just happens to result in Superboy's outfit getting ripped and showing off his new 'S' tattoo - expect that to occur a lot!

Credit also needs to go to inkers Greg Adams, Mariah Benes and Andy Owens, for sharp finishing. With so many hands on deck this issue could have wound up a mess, but it's a good-looking whole; colourists Richard and Tanya Horie also deserve credit, for setting the mood for everything from a laser-lit nightclub to a savage land via a dirty back alley. Kiva's spooky voice comes courtesy of Travis Lanham's eye for fonts. There's even that rarity among DC's New 52 books: a double-page spread that earns its keep by advancing the story and looking pretty spectacular.

All this, and a Steve Lightle cover coloured by Hi-Fi!

All told, Superboy #12 is the best issue of this series to date, hands down. It has character, action, mystery, humour and looks great. More please.

17 comments:

  1. I definitely agree, great issue! I'm hoping he learns what it means to be a hero from Superman in the recently announced crossover.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That would be great! I really don't want the new Superman Family fighting among themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  3. i really enjoyed this issue,and i was fully expepecting more bad reviews,so i am shocked to read this review,and very happy we finally agree on a superboy issue.

    good start for just defalco,i really liked superboys voice,characterization,and powers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DeFalco is a good, experienced writer. I think if he's not forced to keep having crossovers such as the Harvest business, he'll give us a more than decent comic.

      Delete
  4. I'm sure this issue was good, I just really miss the Jeff Lemire series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too - that was one of my favourites before we moved to the current alternate universe.

      Delete
  5. its funny i liked most everythijg about the lemire run,BUT for his take on superboy,and i really like this take on superboy,BUT the rest is shakey at best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I've had that feeling when runs transition from one to another - it'd be nice if we could pick and mix our favourite aspects into perfect runs.

      Delete
  6. I've only read one issue of the current Superboy series, the one with Grunge in, and it was terrible. But Mart, your review really makes me want to pick up this issue!

    Firstly, no N.O.W.H.E.R.E and secondly, new supporting cast!

    I LOVE a good supporting cast, and often they're what I miss the most when a series is cancelled or a new creative team takes over. People like Julia & Vanessa Kapatelis; Rex & Roxy Leech, Sterling Roquette, Jenet Klyburn, Marla Bloomberg, etc. So I always get a big thrill when a new comic is setting up a new supporting cast.

    I just wonder if they'll be around for longer than an issue or two in the New52.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fingers crossed they will be, I'm with you, a good supporting cast can keep me reading books even when I'm not enjoying the A-plot (Marv Wolfman's Superman is a good example of this - I could take of leave Lord Satanis, but I had to have my lois, Lana, Jimmy and Perry).

      Delete
  7. I follow the actual character thats got their name on the cover.sure i would love to have rex and roxy live in his apt building,maybe simon valentine in another one in the same building,with tana moon following him trying to get the scoop on him,but im here for SB,where he goes,i go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That'd be fascinating, a collision of continuities!

      Delete
  8. I would love to see tana moon chasing after kon,not the other way around,always lookijng for a hot story from him,,and him not wanting the fame,but her pushing it on him.instead of stealing money from a bank to live he could actually find rex leech to trademark his S shield and make money off if it,while his daughter roxy should try to make it her duty to get kon up to date on being human.kon could want to be normalso much he goes to school,there he meets simon valentine,a super genius,who SB enlists ti help him,even when simon doesnt want anything to do with being a hero.see,opposite from the past,but still interesting ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The page in question was penciled by Robson Rocha, and inked by Greg Adams. They did the art pages of #1–4, 7-11, 19 and 20. Thank you for the kind words! greg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Greg, I shall clarify. And again, great work, sir.

      Delete
    2. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I just posted your review on my FB page. g

      Delete
    3. Thanks very much - I shall pop along and try to Friend you!

      Delete