Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Pier Gallo
Colored by Jamie Grant
Lettered by John J. Hill
Cover art by Rafael Albuquerque or John Cassaday & Andre Szymanowicz
Published by DC Comics
The Karl Kesel/Tom Grummett Superboy series debuted about a year after I’d started reading comics, and it was the first DC series that I followed regularly. As such, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for The Kid (the Kesel/Grummett runs are, along with JLI, one of the two superhero series I most often reread), yet the character was eventually steered away from the characteristics that drew me to his adventures over the years. The cloned-from-Lex-Luthor reveal did no favors, as far as I’m concerned, as the revelation turned the character into a dour, sulky mess far from the high-adventure, good-times hero I’d once enjoyed reading. (Besides which, I’m not in favor of anything that narrows the mythology with an ever-tighter circle of incestuous relationships – nobody wants Metamorpho to date Lex’s daughter because Simon Stagg’s too low-profile, so I’m not sure I buy the explanation that Superboy’s previous evil-clone-stock wasn’t sufficiently known. But I digress…)
Anyway, Superboy died during Infinite Crisis and I was happy – better than the alternative, I figured. Of course, he came back, but we were moving in different circles and I was fairly content to leave it that way. However, DC announced that Jeff Lemire, auteur of the highly recommended Essex County books would be writing a new Superboy series – and a glimmer of curiosity cut through me. Despite a character I like mixed with a writer whose work I enjoy, I wasn’t sure I’d check the series out (sometimes, you just can’t go back), but then the dilemma was taken out of my hands when a review copy of Superboy #1 showed up in my mailbox.
And I liked it. Oh, yeah, I have a few reservations, but I definitely liked it. Lemire’s writing a series that matches, in some surprising ways, the old Kesel series. He’s not out to reinvent the wheel – rather, it’s a superhero comic built on anything-goes plots and solid character work. Lemire opts for one of DC’s oldest tricks for creating mystery – the Phantom Stranger shows up and says something ominous. Nothing special there, and the Parasite’s appearance seems slightly arbitrary at the moment. So the plot isn’t going to wow anybody. Not yet, anyway.
But the banter between Superboy and his supporting cast, Ma Kent, Lex’s niece Lori and boy-inventor Simon Valentine (I’m not sure if the latter two are original to this series or not), is engaging and shows room for plenty of oddness, with each character exhibiting a clear personality in only a few lines each. The plot’s pacing is insistent without being rushed. Lemire’s previously shown penchant for capturing small town familiarity and weirdness is, if not on full display, sidetracked as it is by the superhero plot, establishing roots that look like they’ll, hopefully, play out in future installments. Fast-moving plots, upbeat banter, creative use of superpowers, and a sense of fun – the script has pretty much everything I want in a superhero comic, despite a few rough edges.
Pier Gallo handles the artwork ably. Although the perspectives are sometimes somewhat uneven, but Gallo does a good job moving the camera around to keep the layouts engaging. His figures could use a little polishing, but they also have an animated, exaggerated quality that suits an anything-goes, high-adventure serial. The artwork isn’t a knockout, but it’s functional and shows potential for improvement.
While it doesn’t possess the most imaginative plot ever (Parasite shows up, as far as we’ve seen to this point, only to generate some fisticuffs), Superboy #1 does offer some promise in its small touches. Lemire’s quirky supporting cast fits the youthful, upbeat adventures of Superboy. The dialogue works, the art is coherent, and the possibility for the series to develop into a winner is evident. We’ll just have to wait and see how much of that potential is unearthed.