The big tease at the end of last issue was the reveal of a new version of the Legion of Super-Heroes. This issue? Not a sniff of Saturn Girl, Invisible Kid or the rest of the 30th century's favourite super-teens. Instead we have, well ...
The voice in Jon Lane Kent's head which has been egging him on to do evil things - like he needs it - turns out not to be a Legion villain such as Saturn Queen or Esper Lass, but a young woman who revels in the name of Schiz.
Which I was reading with a soft 'sh' but now that I think about it, it's derived from 'schizophrenic' - she's driven mad (MAAAAAD, I tell you!) by being unable to psychically tune out the entire world. She responds to mood, so around the angry JLK, she's especially aggressive, and attacks him. He has telekinesis, but no defences against mental assault. Plus, she has a 'circus of street performers' and because they're human, JLK can't kill them - it seems he's taken an oath which means he will moider only metahumans. Caught offguard, he's soon being manipulated to shoot himself. If it weren't for the intervention of Teen Titan Raven - also stranded in the future - he might well be dead.
Anyway, Raven teleports JLK halfway across whatever planet they're on, and confronts him with the fact that she knows he's not the Titans' Superboy, but an imposter. But she's not going to turn him in (click on image to enlarge):
JLK returns to the city to finish his business with Schiz, and finds himself in a lab, where she's in a tube, and he releases her. She's more lucid, and makes him an offer - she and around 100 genetically tweaked humans will go with him into the past as an army to help in his mission to kill the superheroes of the 21st century.
But wait ... watching from afar is Raven! She's running the whole show, manipulating Superboy to free Schiz as part of some plot to please her father, the demon Trigon.
Well, that's how I read it the first couple of times. A couple more readings and it becomes apparent that after leaving Raven, JLK's flashing back to a trip to a secret lab he was compelled by Raven to make between the end of last issue and the start of this one. Though in a stasis tube, Schiz persuades the Teen of Mean to free her - or maybe it's Raven. Who knows? Anyway, JLK just ups and leaves, confused, and some time after that the book's opening fits in.
And the lucid conversation fits in after the fight.
This issue is one hot mess, a pile of Schiz. Even for a confused person, Schiz' motivations are all over the place. She wants to hurt Superboy. She wants to help him. Superboy grasps a straw implying Raven can stop the genetic condition that's killing him, forgetting that last issue the unseen Schiz was telling him she could do precisely that. A baby is brought into play as some kind of plot motivator, then never seen again. Schiz makes great play of introducing her street people, The Fallen, and they're around for just one panel. She wants to help Superboy protect ordinary humans, but she's knifing and shooting them. And Schiz asserts that she's not a meta because her powers were given to her after birth? How is that different from Flash, Green Lantern, Shazam (ugh) and 90 per cent of all superheroes?
Last issue's co-writer, Frank Hannah, is absent from the credits this time. I imagine he ran for the hills. Marv Wolfman remains, but this isn't Wolfman playing to his strengths - deep character work and strong plots. No, it's a New 52 'throw everything at the wall and pray something sticks' special. This instalment certainly isn't the tale we were expecting - last month's Next Issue blurb promised: 'Superboy and the Evil Legion'. Instead we get more of the random fight rubbish this series has featured almost every issue. New questions raised, none of the existing ones answered.
The editors of Superboy - led by Eddie Berganza - should make this panel into a tee shirt because it's the Superboy series all over. 'Don't worry about that right now, by the time we've raised more questions you'll forget the 400 earlier ones'. Expect Schiz - an update of the never popular Firestorm foe Mindboggler - to be an incredibly important character for at least two issues, until someone brings back Harvest, or Daggor and Thraxx, or one of the other awful baddies who have bedevilled the tragic triumvirate of Superboy, Teen Titans and the late, unlamented Legion Lost since the 2011 DC relaunch.
At least tell me kids are enjoying this? DC has to be aiming this book at somebody, perhaps it's fine young people with no attention spans who like explosions and pretendy angst? Which is by no means all teens.
Oh, let me find something positive to say. Wolfman gives us the best Raven since the New 52 version of his empathic witch debuted; I may not be keen on the character as a baddie, but the original/real Raven did tend to swing both ways. Raven here has a confidence rarely seen in this series, whether it's starring poor lost-in-time Kon, or the hateful, hideous, please-just-die JLK. She knows who she is, and I like that.
Her costume is still laughable, though.
While I'm not sure he's ever seen a woman without breast implants, Andres Guinaldo once again provides generally excellent, engaging pencil art. If Schiz's mohawk can't decide whether to stay up, or down, it's either him drawing what he's been told (for all I know, the hair's erectness or not is a power signature) or someone 'correcting' the art. All credit to Guinaldo and super-clean inker Mark Irwin for bothering to draw stubble where the head's been shaven, for the sweetest iddle baba you ever did see, for 1950s Clark Kent hats, for a great version of Raven's soul-self. The body language is good - check out the knackered Superboy further up. A symmetrical spread illustrating the mental link between Schiz and JLK is well-rendered, while a couple of panels showing the contemptible title character's ill-placed family pride carries a real sense of threat.
And this is the guy DC are promoting with the name Superboy, 'by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family'? Superboy is all gritted-teeth killing, from the now cliched cover by Rafael Sandoval and Norm Rapmund onwards. I really thought this comic might be turning a corner after last issue, but it's just a waste of the creators' talents, and the readers' time.