Superboy #20 review

Like this week's Suicide Squad, the 20th issue of Superboy features a new writer. Justin Jordan jumps on board to continue the Dr Psycho story from two issues back that was so rudely interrupted by ... no, I don't want to talk about it.

The best thing that happens this time is that Superboy heads to a police station to confess to taking thousands from a bank a few issues back. He's already returned almost all the money, but realises he was wrong and should pay the price. I like this scene because it shows Superboy is growing; his sense of right and wrong is developing as he comes to understand the world into which he's emerged as a teenager.

He never gets inside police HQ, mind, as he's confronted by Dr Psycho, who needs his help to get some bad guys off his trail. And Psycho, in turn, doesn't get to make his request because said bad guys - the massive Dreadnought and titchy Psiphon - show up and engage our heroes. Yes, traditional Wonder Woman villain Dr Psycho is here defaulted into a good(-ish) guy by dint of being less bad than the badder guys. An escapee from the H.I.V.E., an eeeevil group which turns psychics into drones, he just wants to get on with his life; it's the same position Superboy is in with regard to N.O.W.H.E.R.E. - remember, in the DC Universe, acronymic organisations are not your friend. And while it's true that Psycho's preferred path involves petty crime, H.I.V.E. is the bigger threat to be taken down.
The banter between Psycho and Superboy is excellent, with the former's sarcastic sense of humour bringing some much-needed levity to this book ... no one could honestly say New 52 Superboy is a barrel of laughs (click on image to enlarge). Dreadnought is the most boring of bruisers, Psiphon your average mentalist gnome, but they motivate an entertaining, if overlong, fight scene.

It looks as if the H.I.V.E. business will run through the next few issues; after that, I want to see Jordan really concentrate on Superboy's non-super life. He began settling in on Earth months ago, but his new supporting cast have all-but vanished amid the never-ending, not-that-interesting, nonsense surrounding Superboy's origins.

This isn't the most interesting of issues in terms of moving Superboy's story forward rather than constantly looking back to the stupid new origin, but for what it is - a big daft action special - it's pretty decent. I'd rather Jordan's wit served a more original story, but I'm not blaming him, being pretty sure this isn't the story he set out to write - but more on that below. The last page cliffhanger, featuring dull future cop Jocelyn Lure, is baffling, but hopefully it will make sense next time. The one real misstep is a super-dramatic opening which frames the main action, but isn't something we ever return to, so we've at least a month to wait to learn what Krypto has to do with anything.

Regular artists RB Silva (pencils) and Rob Lean (inks) are backed up by guests Kenneth Rocafort and ChrisCross, making for an issue with inconsistent style, but consistent quality. There's a dynamism that speeds the fight along, and a lot of humour in the reaction shots. And I love that the first sequence - Silva and Lean, methinks - features non-plot motivated fallen leaves. It's just a little detail to round out the world, something we need more of in comics. Can you remember the last time it just happened to be raining in a comic book, as opposed to someone struggling through the storm of the century, or a villain's typhoon? Were I editor Rickey Purdin, though, I'd have asked Rocafort to drop his distinctive jagged panels and back-of-panel colour blocks, as they really stand out when the rest of the book hews a more conventional furrow.

Richard and Tanya Horie add continuity with their colours, while Travis Lanham's letters play their part, er, to the letter.

The cover is the work of illustrator Ken Lashley and colourist Matt Yackey. It's great stuff, if you like your Superboy growling an gritty; it's got bugger all to do with the story, mind. 'Blood and Steel'? It does have something to do with this solicitation, which came out awhile back and still sits on DC's website, even as I type:

“BLOOD AND STEEL” begins as The Teen of Steel decides it’s time to become more proactive in his battle against evil. But how far will he go before he crossed the line? Written by Justin Jordan, art by RB Silva, Rob Lean.

I dunno, I can see DC changing their mind about an issue's contents, it's pretty much the law these days - but they could at least slap on a new cover. Or at least, at least, take off a specific story title that has nothing to do with the price of peas. A homage to Detective Comics #38, with Superboy as Batman, and Dr Psycho as Robin, maybe - well, the wee man is the sensational character find of 2013. Anything, really.

And it seems we may get almost the same cover next issue's all very confusing. I'm holding out for the same image yet again, but with added Super-Turtle, for #22.

So, an entertaining Superboy #20, but I can't help wondering if the Superboy #20 we never saw would have been heartbreakingly good.

Detective Comics #38 borrowed from the Grand Comics Database. Do visit.


  1. Anyone who uses "proactive" in a comic book solicitation is making the world a less good place.

    1. Perhaps, but hopefully Superman will teach him to be a better hero in later issues. And it looks like they're gonna meet again soon, considering that according to the solicitations, Superman will also be fighting H.I.V.E. in later issues of his own book.

      BTW, I think that what would be interesting/cute is if Superman names Superboy "Conner" because of Superboy getting along well with Krypto, especially considering that the name "Conner" is derived from the Irish name "Conchobar", meaning "lover of hounds".

    2. Hi Richard, I hate 'proactive' almost as much as 'instore'. And the proactive heroes thing is sooo Nineties.

      Oh, PRgirl1294, that Conner bit is such a clever idea, go whisper it to DC. Maybe it could happen when Supergirl introduces Superboy to her pal Siobhan, her being Oirish and all.

  2. Also, the new origin for Superboy is not that bad. It could actually set up an interesting "family" dynamic between Conner, Clark, and Lois. And once you strip it down to its most basic parts, it's not any more convoluted than any other superhero's origin.

    1. Maybe - I reckon I'll sit back and see how the next new origin goes, I'm sure one will be along in a minute.

    2. I doubt it. It took no less than eight years for Superboy's origin to be retconned each time. I'm pretty sure that this one is gonna stick around for a while. So for now, I would try to keep an open mind about this one.

  3. Man i already want the next issue, not saying this issue was perfect, but kon sounded like a teen, and was actually talking shit during the fight, which imo is a staple of his character. Kon fought a juggernaut type being while his TK was being drained and sent into dreadnaught, great way of having a opponent who can out power SB, but kon still finds a way, after getting his butt handed to him. Krypto, love it, he looks just like wolf from the YJ show, wonder if they did that on purpose. Starting out with the "moist" comment was a great way to start the issue.
    Also i dont think that was jon taking away kons powers then kicking him, i think it was a HIVE telepath who also can block mental powers, because he telepathically put krypto down and SBs powers just stopped working, and he had blue energy, not red, and jon has red, like kon.
    Liked rocaforts flying dropkick, and chrisscrosses rock bottom lol.

    1. What's a 'rock bottom', Tony, some fight move? I'm old, you know ...

      Oh, I never even considered that poor old Jon might have been the kicker - I'm trying not to think about anything that was revealed, preferable 'revealed', last month! Nice spot on the energy signatures.

  4. Lol, the rock, dwayne johnsons finishimg move in wrestling, i only said it because kon used that huge rock to take down dreadnaught.

    Ppl other places thought it was jon who took his powers away, and i dont think thats it, i think HIVE has psi operatives that can take psi powers away, makes sense with them being all about psi powers. This is actually a great idea, because then we can see if kon has any kryptonian abilities, besides enhanced metabolism.

    What came first YJ Wolf or nuKrypto?

    Did everyone notice how kon was selflessly turning himself in to the police, and had a actual personality, with actual witty banter?
    I think this will only get better

    1. Thanks Tony, I shall learn that move!

      I think Nu52 Krypto came first - gotta say, I hate the current design, Krypto should be a lovely Earth-style pooch, never a scary beast.

  5. Agree with everything here Mart. And I bet you are right about the cover predating the actual story.

    I thought this was a very good issue and a 180 from the last one which was so downbeat for me.

    This felt more like the Hawaiian Con, high flying adventure, humor and a young hero learning. Nice
    'new' beginning.

  6. Great spot on the Hawaiian Superboy vibe ... those were the days - his own setting, villains, friends and set personality. Hmm, let's hope Justin was a fan!


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