Superboy gets another new creative team in the shape of writer Aaron Kuder and artist Jorge Jimenez Moreno and that's the only reason I'm back buying this frustrating series. Kuder - currently wowing fans with his art on Superman over in Action Comics - showed promise as a writer with last year's Parasite special. And Jimenez helped make a Kid Flash solo strip worth a second look.
As it happens, they make a good overall impression. We're still knee deep in the Jon Lane Kent storyline (evil Superboy wants to destroy all metahumans), but there's a slight shift in tone. Whereas the book under Marv Wolfman tried to make JLK's nastiness attractive, Kuder apparently hates him as much as I do, wrongfooting him at every turn. I can almost see a comedy hook coming JLK's way to drag him off to comics limbo.
Regular Superboy Kon - supposedly lost forever - is referenced several times here, giving me hope that he's about to fly in to save the day.
As for the specifics of the script, JLK arrives in the 21st century from the 31st, planning his attack on the superhero community, but is too weak to go through with it. His physiology is rather knackered. A Times Square crowd go from being excited to see him, to angry mob.
This is the book's one big misstep. Bit by bit - not least in Action Comics - DC has been moving away from the New 52 default position of Superman being hated and feared blah de blah. It's a ridiculous role for Superman to have thrust upon him - if there's one superhero you can trust, it's Superman. Even the troubled Supergirl has only ever acted to protect the people of Earth.
Other than that, it's goodness all the way. A new version of the Guardian shows up to help 'the magically appearing Superboy'. JLK, as is his nature, is hostile, even though he can read Guardian as one of the humans he hopes to 'save' from the metas. He's too weak, though, to kill Guardian, and is taken to a Star Labs research facility, where the hero's colleagues, a characterful batch of boffins, offer to help him. While JLK is unconscious, tests reveal he's not Kon, meaning there's no point in this Superboy adopting his usual act.
Having first been confused at waking up in what to him is a utopia - no metahumans oppressing the populace - now he's totally thrown by the idea that anyone should wish to help him out of sheer benevolence and drops his guard, revealing that his name is Jon. He goes for six whole pages without scheming to hurt anyone, some kind of record. But while he's not plotting, it seems his mind is plotting against him ...
Kuder gets major points for toning JLK down a tad, and the new characters are welcome - actual decent people. Plus, as Martin Alexander Gray, how could I not love this fella?
I'd be delighted were HAG to become the go-to scientist in the Superman books, because he looks just how a superbrain should look, shambling and beardy. He has a trustworthy vibe other DC science folk >cough Shay Veritas cough< lack.
His youthful gang have promise too, with some nice humour between the clever kids and the Guardian. Hopefully they can be Kon's cast when he returns.
The script is almost a home run from Kuder, who seems to enjoy words as much as he does visuals - the simple, two-word line 'Irony abounds' speaks volumes.
And while it'd be great to have Kuder drawing his own scripts, in no way is Moreno (Jorge Jimenez has grown an extra surname, it seems) second best. He really knows how to lay out a comic, telling the story with intelligence and style. His characters have a vibrancy, and Moreno isn't afraid to go big on the emotion. Particularly good is the contrast between Guardian's openness, almost innocence, and JLK's tense distrust of, well, everybody.
A flashback to JLK's childhood, which saw him raised a boy soldier by the awful Harvest, is really well done - just look at JLK in that final panel. One smart, well rendered image tells us everything about JLK's world. This kid, I feel sorry for.
The only image I hate is the opening page, a 'future memory' showing JLK murdering Aquaman, though it does convey the horror that is this Superboy. Still, these guys used to share a comic - sort of.
Tanya and Richard Horie, on colour art, and Carlos M Mangual, on letter art, help the visuals sing and bring the script to life. I'm not keen on Ken Lashley and Michael Atiyeh's decently done cover, which is utterly generic so far as this series goes - it could have appeared on any issue, and likely has appeared on one. I hope Kuder finds time to take on the regular assignment.
So, a very promising debut from Kuder and Moreno. All we need now is JLK sent on his merry way and Kon back and over his various identity crises, and all will be well with the world.