Reign of the Supermen #488: New52 Superboy

Source: Superboy vol. #1 (2011) to present
Type: Current Superboy
To me, this version of Superboy is a fine example of the New 52 reboot's mismanagement. If DC's heavy continuity was one of the factors justifying a reboot, then this was an opportunity to use the Superboy trademark free of the convoluted history attached to the Connor character of the previous DCU. DC did the opposite. Instead of tying him more into Superman's origins (such as is usually done with Supergirl), they've distanced him even more from the core family of books (despite late-coming crossover action) yet retained the overcomplicated clone of Supes/Lex/[?] origin that has lost its context since Kesel and Grummett introduced him in the original Reign of the Supermen.

In fact, a new reader's acceptance of this Superboy seems entirely reliant on that reader knowing a lot from the previous DCU. Not only is he a clone with tactile telekinesis powers, but in his supporting cast, you'll find Rose Wilson, daughter of Deathstroke and sometime Titan Ravager, and to make things even more continuity porntastic, an adult version of Caitlin Fairchild from the former Wildstorm Universe. Sadly, the secret organization responsible for cloning him has nothing to do with Doom Patrol's Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. aside from the name, incidentally, the umpteenth secret organization introduced to the New52 that first month. The rest of NOWHERE's personnel has unlikely names like Dr. Umber, Colonel Maudlin and Zaniel Templar, just to confirm writer Scott Lobdell is a very bad at naming characters.

And just to make the set-up even more impenetrable, the clone has an entire VR life, for some reason set in Kansas like the original Teen of Steel's adventures. As soon as he's out and about, his story dovetails into the Teen Titans' (and the Ravagers') in a storyline called "The Culling", as if Lobdell was inviting readers to drop a few books. He made it easy, I think, because Teen Titans was easily one of the worst New52 books, a wannabe X-book with terrible costume designs. Superboy has pretty much been on crossover patrol since then, with a Titans/Legion Lost thing (where I dropped the latter), and whatever the heck H'el was all about. A 90s Marvel writer through and through, Lobdell just can't keep anything confined to a single book if he's writing more than one. And of course, before leaving the book with issue 19, he burdened it with a crazy Cable-type "true origin" story.

Freed from Lobdell's clutches, can Superboy thrive? Well, oncoming writer Justin Jordan has just announced his departure over creative/editorial differences, so who knows what kind of tripe DC wants to force Superboy into (more crossovers I bet). Not that Jordan's first couple of issues wowed me. Even if I were to accept the inclusion of the Game of Thrones version of Krypto (which I don't blame on him), there still seems to be a definite lack of focus as to what the book is supposed to be about.


Anonymous said...

What's really frustrating is that Superboy had finally, finally hit a really good status quo just before nu52. Connor had finally reached the point of wanting to follow in Superman's example, Geoff Johns had placed Connor on the Kent farm, and Jeff Lemire wrote a pretty amazing run with Superboy, Smallville, and new pals who were Lana Lang / Lex Luthor analogs.

Then nu52 and Lobdell, secret organizations, and convolution just as you say.

I remain astonished at how DC can be so bad at figuring out what makes a character work or what makes a particular writer successful with a character. When you're putting Lobdell on Superman, Superboy, Teen Titans, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and probably a few other titles, it says at least a few bad things about DC -- most likely that editorial is such a pain to work with, they have trouble holding on to writers.

JeffJedi said...

Uggh, New52 looks so bad. Painful to see.

Siskoid said...

Anon: I completely agree. Johns' little run on Adventure Comics was a great simplification and direction for the character, which Lemire embraced with added weirdness up until the reboot.

I think the Superman Family lost the most in the reboot. Supergirl too was in a good place (after at least a decade of mismanagement), and of course, the Superman franchise is something I find nigh unreadable right now.

Only Supergirl is currently a good Superman Family book. Too early to tell on Batman/Superman, I suppose, though I'm sorry, NOT too early to tell on Unchained. Action was good under Diggle after too bizarre a Morrison final arc (too bizarre too early), but is now on the same pile as the Lobdell Superman book and the character's Justice League appearances. The pile I'd line my bird cage with if I wasn't afraid of the mind-rotting effects they could have on the bird.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading an interview with Scott Snyder (of "Superman Unchained"), where he talks about why he's telling a story about the army's rival superguy (codenamed "Wraith" BTW). Basically, it picks at the question: why doesn't Superman do more?


"General Lane puts a map up and says 'look how dangerous the world was then, Superman. Look at it now. When you landed, we thought you were another one, but you’re just a disappointment. What you need to hear all the time is applause, the sound of clapping and adulation, and deep down you’re a coward because you know you could take out that warlord in East Africa if you could do it secretly, and you know you would change things geopolitically, but you need to be the hero that everyone loves. This guy’s the real Superman.'"


Snyder would not be the first to address this issue; there's hardly an "Elseworlds" that goes by that doesn't touch on it. But I trust Snyder to be smarter about it than most; I don't imagine he's going to come up with a pat answer, but is probably going to reaffirm why Superman's basic M.O. is the right one for Superman.

Siskoid said...

Not really Snyder's fault, as I enjoy his work on other books. I just can't stand Jim Lee. He ruins it for me. Maybe I should get my hands on raw scripts and read those.


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