Connor Kent is making another go at maintaining an ongoing series with this first issue of Volume IV’s Superboy. The young man is going back to his roots, although if you take that literally, it would mean his return to a Petri dish in a very ornate lab. After all, Connor Kent is the product of the combined D.N.A. of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor. No, in this case, Superboy is back where all of Superboy’s stories tend to originate: Smallville.
You Got Your D.N.A. Into MINE!
Kent has finally come to grips with the fact that he has never had a childhood. Grown from organic material, his unorthodox ‘birth’ has essentially robbed him of the opportunity to manufacture a foundation for his emotional maturation. So, after some emo brooding from atop a local water tower, Kent is ready to call Smallville ‘home’ and he’s prepared to let himself become (gulp!) happy. Apparently this is not to be, since The Phantom Stranger materializes atop the water tower (you know, like the Hendrix tune) with a foreboding message!
Phantom Strangers In The Night…
Our favorite stranger delivers a few panels of purple prose with a warning that includes the phrases “…a darkness blowing on these gentle Kansas winds,” and “something sinister incubates within these rich old fields.” At least Kent calls him on the leaden speech, telling him to drop the ”ominous cryptic schtick.” If only the warning could have been whispered earlier in a certain scripter’s ear.
From this point forward, we actually have the semblance of a tangible threat for Superboy to face against. However, short of swooping in to catch a falling Ma Kent, Superboy doesn’t really do anything resembling heroics until page 20. In order to survive this encounter with baddie #1, Kent will need to rely upon a specialized skill set uniquely different from Superman’s roster of abilities. And before you ask, no…it’s got nothing to do with Billy Corgan or picking out fashion for this year’s back to school sale at Hot Topic.
Less Aha, More Hurm
This had many ingredients that should have made this a better book. Writer Jeff Lemire is no stranger to quiet tales about isolation and farm life. Long before he arrived in the offices of DC, Lemire wrote a series of books for Top Shelf, titled The Essex County Trilogy. However, superhero scripting is a relatively recent endeavor for the talented creator. As much as Connor Kent suffers from a lack of identity, this issue itself shares the same fate. The initiation for conflict wasn’t terribly creative and there were very few ‘aha!’ moments. Instead, we’re mostly a series of ‘hurm’ moments. Dog’s stomach exploded on concrete alley. Blood congeals on bottom of shoe. Wait a minute…mixed my metaphors for a moment there. No worries, I’m back!
Interior artist Pier Gallo doesn’t do much for me either. His renderings of faces are nondescript and there isn’t much energy to his layouts and action sequences. He also stumbles pretty badly on a motif-stylized page. A unifying image appears at the center of the page and the resulting actions read in a series of splinter panels. I had to go back and read the page twice to make sure I followed it correctly. Nope – still didn’t take.
Bottom Line: Take It Or Leave It
As a first issue, this does very little to whet my appetite for future monthlies. This is a straightforward superhero comic that doesn’t seem very compelling. In a marketplace full of superhero books, I’m not sure what readers will find within the pages of Superboy that will make them want to come back for more. Superboy #1 earns 3 out of 5 stars.