Superboy #1 (DC Comics)

Jeff Lemire (Essex County, Sweet Tooth) brings his trademark light touch on rural life to this new series of adventures starring Superman’s teenaged clone in Smallville, Kansas.

 

32 pgs. full color; $2.99
(W: Jeff Lemire; A: Pier Gallo)
 
Off the top of my head, I don’t know of a character who gets jerked around inside the pages of a comic book as much as Superboy. I won’t even begin to try and explain this character’s complicated past and varying origins. You can pursue that while drinking a twelve year Speyside and reading the very long Superboy Wikipedia page.
 
What you really need to know going into this book is that this isn’t the Superboy that’s a younger version of Superman. This is Kon-El, the version of Superboy that was created in a test tube from some of Superman’s DNA after he “died” at the hands of Doomsday back in 1993. You also need to know that this book was written by Jeff Lemire.
 
Jeff Lemire has been one of my favorite indie creators since I first read his self-published Lost Dogs back in 2005. He soon followed that up with his almost instant classic Essex County graphic novel trilogy, in which he does all the writing and art himself. What made Lemire’s books stand out was the very real and endearing quality of simple, rural life that he portrayed in a sentimental sort of way. So, when DC wanted to get Superboy back home to living on the Kent farm in Smallville, Jeff Lemire must have seemed like the obvious choice to write the new Superboy comic.
 
Lemire gets right to the heart of this new era of Superboy with Kon-El (Superboy’s Kryptonian name) being introspective about who he really is and where he comes from. Kon-El’s past is something that has distracted him in the previous years, but we learn right away that he is over most of that and ready to move on. Of course, this is a super hero book, so just a few pages in Kon-El gets a visit from the Phantom Stranger who gives him one of those, “I have to warn you about something but I can’t say what it is yet” messages. Without a whole lot to work with, Kon-El goes to Smallville High as his secret identity Conner Kent, Clark Kent’s cousin.
 
Lemire uses his down-home storytelling skills to set up a classic high school love conflict between Conner Kent and Lori Luthor. Lori definitely has the hots for Conner and he isn’t uninterested in her, but the whole “your uncle is my evil arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor”-thing makes Conner feel awkward around Lori and he blows her off. Maybe he should have taken a chance hanging out with Lori and feeling awkward, because not long after he’s in a fierce battle with the supervillain Parasite and struggling to survive, much less win the battle. With action this packed and then another surprise appearance by a well-known DC personality, the first issue of Superboy is officially kicked off.
 
Though it was sort of weird to read a Jeff Lemire story drawn by someone other than Jeff Lemire (his schedule is full enough both writing and illustrating the Vertigo series Sweet Tooth), Pier Gallo’s artwork is top notch. Using his own unique style (that maybe has a touch of Will Eisner influence), Gallo creates both beautiful wide view shots of Superboy flying over vast Kansas corn fields and in-close personal panels of Conner Kent interacting with his school mates. Gallo’s art has a tendency to be simple and clean in one panel then full of detail and business in the next. His attention to the personality of the characters is well appreciated. His rendering of Parasite is one of the scariest incarnations I have ever seen of that character before. Gallo’s does an excellent job with the battle sequences as well, and never draws any of those confusing panels that leaves you wondering what is going on in there.
 
DC seems to be making every effort to make Superboy a success as solo book. By giving Jeff Lemire the nod to write the book, they seemed to have actually taken careful consideration of matching a writer to his subject character instead of just choosing the current hot writer of the moment. Looking at the front cover, you see this very large image of Superboy that extends off the borders of the page but the title “Superboy” is in a very small font in comparison. It’s almost as if DC is trying to show that this book will be much more about the character of the book than just the title. I am intrigued and, dare I say, excited about this new book. If you’re looking for a new book to hop onto with a nice mix of action and story this may be a great book to give a test drive. | Ryan Parker
 
Click here for a 5-page preview of Superboy #1, courtesy of DC Comics.
 
 

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