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Comic Book Review – Superboy #4

By: Rennie Cowan

It’s virtual reality no more as Superboy is headed for New York City! But first – before we continue I think nostalgia is always a good way to begin a comic book review. For those who remember the classic TV series The Adventures of Superboy starring Gerard Christopher, you’ll recall an episode titled “Who is Superboy?” where Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk) is at it again, trying to figure out if Clark is really Superboy. Clark offers a suggestion that Superboy could have many personas or disguises, not just one. Why the comparison? Well, because finding out just who Superboy is appears to be the overall theme of the first four issues of this off-spring to the all-new 52’s! In fact, if you haven’t noticed, the first sentence of every Superboy issue tries to define just what or who Superboy is. The first issue starts out with Superboy’s single opening thought They called me Superboy. If you fast-forward to the third and fourth issue, Superboy’s opening thought is My name is Superboy. Superboy’s identity is getting a bit sharper but not without mystery; this certainly keeps the reader intrigued and I am still intrigued. You know just by the first sentence of every issue that we are getting closer and closer to the truth. Yes, truth, and that makes Superboy even more ambiguous.

Red (Gen 13) turns into a huge hulk of a woman during the first few pages in an angry rant; Superboy’s telekinesis hurdles her own apartment materials at her, and she goes back to being just the right size. The placement of her fall is a bit thought-provoking, don’t you think? A new military personality named Centerhall shows up on the scene to inform Superboy that Red is a terrorist. If the mystery about himself doesn’t confound him, then the mystery surrounding just who are the good guys confuses him even more. Centerhall ushers Superboy into a lab where he promises him a discussion about the truth. And as we know, the truth is never out there. There is no answer for Superboy’s lineage other than a list of Kryptonian donors. Don’t ask who your Daddy is (maybe he shouldn’t know). Scott Lobdell is setting the readers up for something, but until then more questions about Superboy’s complicated origin are thrown into the mix. And not without some skepticism, Superboy is told he is a free man. Seven days later in New York City, Superboy is totally bored indicating that freedom can be a pretty boring thing.

 Did you get what you wanted this Christmas? No dismay, you’ll feel much better when you see the panel of Superboy incinerating a Christmas tree in New York City. Indeed, things heat up despite the snow fall. Again, the mystery of why he does the things he does only adds further holiday blues to Superboy’s persona.  At this point, Superboy is still at a loss to understand his own self let alone the Christmas spirit, which only appears to irritate him. He decides to rummage through some Rum Springa. I suppose it’s the simple things in life that don’t make much sense to a young clone. Christmas Carolers beware… Superboy is not in the best of moods. He has no one to fight; nothing to fight over (and nothing to fear). And to make matters worse, he is called a metahuman freak by one Christmas Caroler. Maybe that will help Superboy figure out who he is. Because you know what they say, the freaks come out at night. That thing you do; why is he so completely alien? Why can’t a tree just be a tree without it incinerating to his impulsive instincts? Deck the halls with heat-vision. Have you ever done something just for the hell of it? When Superboy sets aflame a Christmas tree in NYC, a bystander in the festive crowd yells, “What kind of a person would do such a thing?!” Maybe one…who isn’t a person at all….

Humanity – man or Superman? To me, boys will be boys, and if you were made to be a deadly weapon don’t expect Truth, Justice and the American Way from Superboy. Don’t cash your chickens before they hatch, he does have one understanding for the value of human life when a man randomly falls from a skyscraper window. Superboy catches him and announces that killing is wrong when he realizes that two other metahumans (Honey Bunny and Sweets from the previous issue) are the ones to blame for the outrage. Yes, it’s wrong. So he isn’t the mindless kind of deadly weapon. He’s not a terminator who asks why you can’t just go around killing people. He knows killing is bad and that is because he is Superboy. I like this scenario already. Yes, there is hope for the clone yet. Will he wear the S-Shield the American Way or like a Dark Knight with a psychological childhood past? DC is headed in the right direction here.

Scott Lobdell delves further into the psyche of Superboy, and not without a good amount of action and even newer questions regarding the DNA of the infamous clone. As for the artwork, Silva and Lean continue to be a good team and they deliver the goods with some memorable panels with some priceless Superboy facial expressions. Though sometimes Superboy’s eyes look empty (or white) like he has no pupils, other than that, the cover leads one to believe there may be some sort of dramatic showdown in store for the reader. And once you get to it, what exactly is with all of those weird swirly things? It feels like a Pokemon cartoon. If only I could hear the sound effects on that one. Front covers are always meant to tease anyway, right? Of course, Superboy’s Tron-like outfit still looks cool. The final showdown with Honey Bunny and Sweets unleashes metahuman mayhem of a dimensional kind. It’s glitz and it’s glitter; it’s nightlife in New York City. Things get a little rough because the freaks do come out at night. And by this time, Superboy is dressed in a hip-styled suit and we can tell he is feeling restrained. The suit surely fits him, but it’s stuffy and he already wants to hone the Tron-tights once again. Superboy can dish it out, but Honey Bunny and Sweets get what’s coming to them. Not a moment too soon Centerhall comes to congratulate Superboy but Superboy chalks it off as just another test.  

This series is paying great attention to the mystery of the character and is certainly messing with the psychology of Superboy. At this point, we don’t really know who he is. Superboy doesn’t know who he really is but we all hope he will become the hero he is supposed to become. He may not be one for the fuzzy Christmas spirit, but a cold-blooded killer he is not. And that’s something.

Overall Grade: 8.5/10 

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