REVIEW: Superboy #2: Smallville Attacks! Part Two

Superboy #2 by Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo

“Two words… PARASITE FROGS!”

That may need some explanation.

This month’s Superboy picks up where the last one left off: Poison Ivy is in Smallville and she needs Superboy’s help. Superboy initially distrusts her, but she claims she’s not the one causing all of the vegetation to go nuts. There’s some alien power affecting the whole Green and all the plant elementals are feeling it. They track it down to some kind of alien device. Ivy is able to… “disable” it and immediately turns on Superboy, trying to use her pheromones to force him to steal the device for her own use. It’s then that Simon is able to use some of Parasite’s cells to genetically modify his frogs and use them to take Ivy down. It’s all wrapped up nicely when Superboy and Simon find an ancient artifact with some very familiar markings (to the reader, that is).

Jeff Lemire proves that he has a very good handle on what DC wants from the Superboy premise: a simple story of Superboy in Smallville with a villain-of-the-week and his pals helping him figure out the problem. In other words, a cross-breed of the original Superboy stories with the early Smallville TV series. As unoriginal as the premise is, it’s executed well. Lemire has a good hold on Superboy’s character (even if Pier Gallo went a bit overboard with his hair). Simon Valentine is more than just a young Lex Luthor (so far), he is his own character and an interesting one at that.

All that said, the issue really feels like half a wrap-up of the previous issue and half the opening part of the next issue. Stuff happens, but it’s all just hints at future storylines. That’s not unprecedented for the second issue of a series. Things are just getting started and a lot of pipe has to be laid to pay off in the future. All in all, you can probably pass up this issue safely, but you won’t feel gypped if you do buy it.

REVIEW: Action Comics Annual #13: Father Box; A Father’s Box

Lex. Darkseid. Paul Cornell. 'NUFF SAID

Well, he’s done it again. Paul Cornell has taken his fantastic take on Lex Luthor in the pages of the monthly Action Comics series and condensed it into 2 self-contained stories, making this probably the best annual I’ve ever read. This slimly overtakes my previous favorite annual, which was, oddly enough, Action Comics Annual #2. What makes this annual better than that one is that this is entirely standalone, and probably the best DC comic you’ll read all year.

Both stories are flashbacks to Lex’s past. The first, Father Box, is the stronger of the two. A young Lex comes to Metropolis for the first time. He has no job and only enough money to pay for the first night in his hotel. When the desk clerk informs him of this, he replies “Then I’d like my key, please. I have to get to work to find some way to pay for the second night.” Hitting a bar, Lex runs into a man who he quickly deduces is Perry White of the Daily Planet undercover. Turns out, the bar is a front for Intergang. Lex worms his way in to Bruno Mannheim’s confidence, just enough to be brought to the attention of his boss: Darkseid.

Lex learns from Darkseid. Note the layouts and gorgeous colors!

Marco Rudy and colorist Val Staples paint a moody picture of Lex’s adventure, from the griminess of the bar to Mannheim’s organization to Apokolips itself. The whole thing is done in a pop-art style and Rudy plays with the layouts in a near-hypnotic pattern. I won’t spoil the end of Lex’s story on Apokolips. Needless to say, his work for Darkseid builds to a very Luthorian-climax and Lex learns a valuable lesson. I also liked how Cornell brought back (in a fashion) the post-crisis relationship between Perry White and Lex Luthor. Though Lex is now much younger than Perry, it brings back the possibilities of Alice White sleeping with Lex while Perry is reporting on a war. I don’t think it will go so far as to have Jerry White actually be Luthor’s son since they seem to want to make Superboy Lex’s only offspring (or at least, son… not sure if Lena Luthor existed in this reality), but it’s a nice touch.

The second story, “A Father’s Box” doesn’t meet the high standard of art the first one set. Lex, slightly older than he was in the last story, is apprenticing under Ra’s al Ghul. He learns of Ra’s take on the world and how to save it, he must kill most of it. Luthor decides that a better solution is to lead the world instead, and he and Ra’s have a falling out over this. Luthor fails a test of Ra’s and Ra’s actually goes so far as to murder Lex and toss him in a Lazarus Pit.

The story kind of feels forced to me. Not everything in the DC Universe has to have a “secret history” with everything else. Luthor and Darkseid make a certain amount of sense since Intergang was a big force in Metropolis as Lex was gaining power, so it follows that their paths would have crossed. But Luthor and Ra’s al Ghul is unnecessary. And the Lazarus Pit has become an overused plot device ever since Black Canary was throw into one and regained her sonic scream. The logic starts unraveling when these pits, previously only used by Ra’s to keep himself immortal, are used by everyone and everything. Also, since then Lex would have been killed and brought back, why wasn’t he one of the Black Lanterns Nekron controlled during Blackest Night? That, my friends, is the sound of losely developed plots smashing into each other.

Lex in the pit

However, the story is beautifully drawn by Ed Benes and told entirely in narration, much like an old story book (fitting Ra’s motif nicely). It is the weaker of the stories, but still a nice stand-alone tale and look into Lex’s past (of which we haven’t seen much past Smallville in this post-Infinite Crisis reality). The annual as a whole is very much worth picking up, even if you don’t regularly read Action Comics. And maybe that should be “especially if you don’t regularly read Action Comics.” If you don’t care to pick up a comic in the middle of a storyline, this annual is the perfect way to get a taste of the magic Paul Cornell is working with Lex.

My Picks, Week of 12/8

Here’s my anticipated comics for this week. Reviews will start once I have them in my hot little hands.

Superboy #2
It’s so great to see The Kid back in his own book, and it’s even better to see rising star Jeff Lemire writing it. The first issue captured the spirit of Superboy perfectly, and the gorgeous pencils of Pier Gallo really made Smallville come alive. In the second issue, Poison Ivy is in town and all the vegetation of Smallville is going crazy. Should be a fun read.
R.E.B.E.L.S. #23
When I began reading comics seriously ~15 years ago, L.E.G.I.O.N./R.E.B.E.L.S. was the first full series I ever collected. I was really thrilled to see Tony Bedard bring back Vril Dox in this book, and it’s proven to be one of the most reliable books month-to-month for superhero-space opera. Jumping on the Green Lantern bandwagon, L.E.G.I.O.N. is once again butting heads with the Corps, and guest star John Stewart has been dispatched as an envoy for a treaty between the two. Meanwhile, the Psions are dealing with the aftermath of Starfire’s attack.
This book makes good use of DC’s rich tapestry of aliens to tell some great space stories. Claude St. Aubin’s work continues to wow me with the detail he puts into alien worlds and starships. This may be the number one sleeper hit you should be reading from either of the big two.
New Avengers #7
While I’m happy they restored Avengers with the classic line-up of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, the first storyline was all flash and not much substance. The first arc of the renumbered New Avengers was much better. The aftermath of the demonic invasion it is felt in this issue, and the previews promise some shake-ups in the team’s roster. This promises to be Bendis at the top of his game, working without restrictions.
Lady Mechanika #1
I’m not usually a big steampunk guys, but I’ve heard so many good things about this one. The Joe Benitez art looks great and the #0 issue was intriguing. I’m willing to give it a shot.
27 #1
They had me at “Hendrix, Cobain, Joplin, Morrison. All belong to the “27 Club,” which admits only the most brilliant musicians and artists…and kills them dead in their 27th year.”

We want to hear from you! What are you looking forward to this week?

Steel City Con Recap

Loading up my Ultimate Super-Hero Mix on my iPhone and consuming a large Mountain Dew for extra nerd-power (essential for hunting for bargains!), I took off for this year’s Steel City Con at the Monroeville Convention center just east of Pittsburgh.

I haven’t been to this particular convention before, but it’s the smaller one of the two annual conventions in Pittsburgh (the Pittsburgh ComicCon being the big convention). This is mainly a dealer-based con, and they were out in force! A handful of back-issue dealers were present, but the majority of the tables were collectibles retailers: toys, statues, figurines, trading cards, t-shirts, card games, even movie props. It was quite an impressive spread.

Nice scan bait!

I had no particular goals for this con, just to get a look at the junk, maybe find some back issues on the cheap and check out the local artists/indie books. I rifled through the back issues, pulling some old Legion books I wanted to try my hand at scanning (picked up the entire Great Darkness Saga for about 7 bucks), and a couple more here and there. The complete Man of Steel miniseries by John Byrne was a particularly great find, along with early Superboy stuff from the Reign of the Supermen. I picked up a whole run of the indie book Iron Sirens (even had one signed by one of the female bodybuilders the book is based on), and I was surprised at the quality of the book. I must make a note to review it sometime soon.

The celebrities were pretty sparse. Richard Kiel was in attendance, and man has that dude gotten old. There were some wrestling girls from TNA (I’m not a big wrestling fan) and the obligatory Stormtroopers and a dude in a pretty nice Vader costume. There were a number of people in Mandalorian armor (seems like everyone wanted to be Boba Fett but more than one would certainly violate fake-costumed-character credibility!), including one with their plastic breast plate shaped like breasts. I’m going to assume it was a woman, but with the armor and helmet on I wouldn’t rule out a crossplayer. The only major celebrity (relatively) was the Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno. The line was 20 people deep and I saw he was charging $40 for a picture with him. Needless to say, I passed.

My favorite sign I've seen on a long-box in a while.

As befitting a con of this size, there were just a few fan costumes. I saw the world’s least curvy woman in a Catwoman suit. She was so stick-thin the vinyl outfit bunched up and she was not pulling it off. Better than that was a guy in a fairly decent-looking Deadpool costume and his companion, a passable Ms. Marvel (not really enough hips to make the sash hang right, but not bad overall). We have a phenomenon here in Pittsburgh of a group of guys in full-on Ghostbuster jumpsuits and proton packs. As I left, I saw their mini-van painted to look like Ecto-1 in the parking lot.

All in all, a decent Con for wasting a few hours browsing dealer tables, but not much more than that. Still, we really only have two cons here in Pittsburgh, so it was still the place to be for all the nerds, geeks and other dateless wonders. I just wish it was a little more “Who’s Who” and a little less “Who the hell?”.

Star Trek Card Game on the cheap. Makes me nostalgic...

A trio of B-9s, dwarfing Robby...

Ugh. I'm so done with people cramming zombies into everything else.

Some of the rarer DC Universe figures. Even a Sinestro!

Asps! Very dangerous! You go first!

So many Transformers

Old School Star Wars

Figures upon figures


I love the smell of longboxes in the morning...

Sliding bins like in elementary school... classy!

Collect them all!

My Ultimate Super-Hero Mix

What a shock... one of my favorite albums has a song on this list!

I got the idea from a friend to do a super-hero mix, suitable for pumping up the blood before a comic con. And with tomorrow being the relatively small but still fun Steel City ComicCon, it’s time for just that! Here we go, in play order (arranged thematically):

How can you not include Brainiac's Daughter?

Sunshine Superman – Hüsker Dü
Spider-Man – The Ramones
Divine Hammer – The Breeders
Superman – R.E.M.
Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me) – XTC
Brainiac’s Daughter – The Dukes Of Stratosphear
God of Thunder – KISS
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me – U2
Thunderstruck – AC/DC
The End Is the Beginning Is the End – Smashing Pumpkins
Silver Gun Superman – Stone Temple Pilots
Iron Man – Black Sabbath
The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning – Smashing Pumpkins


Naked big bad wolves and princesses... oh my!

I may have just been talked into reading the entire Fables series by two who shall remain nameless. I’ve always heard good things and I’ve been so deep in Legion comics lately (finished the Magic Wars at about 2AM last night… moving on to L.E.G.I.O.N. and the Five Year Gap next), I need a good non-super-hero palette-cleaner. Since I’ve made this decision, I thought maybe an interesting experiment would be to see how fast I can actually read this. And I don’t mean as in skimming 100+ issues+Jack of Fables+Cinderella+Literals+Last Castle in an evening, but reading the main series (with relevant crossover issues), uninterrupted at a normal rate and seeing how many nights it takes me to finish. This may involve some live-tweeting for milestones/impressive moments, which I’ll hashtag with #SRFables.

And if it kills me, you can blame you-know-who…

If anyone else has any ideas for other Speed Reading features, let us know! What are the books you love that you think EVERYONE should be reading?

The Greatest Comic Series of All Time?

Four Legionnaires face the immensely powerful Time Trapper at the End of Time

I’m going to go ahead and make a declaration: the Legion of Super-Heroes (in all it’s various incarnations, with all it’s various spin-offs) is the greatest comic of all time. Some who read this may know that I’m in the middle of reading all the Legion books, from their first appearance in Adventure Comics 247 in the late 50s on. It’s been on and off, and slow at times, but I’m now approaching the end of Paul Levitz’s second run, the end of the 1984 Baxter series. I was just floored by Keith Giffen’s return as co-plotter and penciller in issue 50, the gigantic battle against the Time Trapper. WHAT AN EPIC BOOK! I can’t believe this isn’t on lists for epic battles/storylines.

The plot is great: after Superboy’s death at the machinations of the Time Trapper (a long story for another time), four Legionnaires secretly swear an oath that they will find a way to get to the end of time and kill the Time Trapper in revenge, despite the moral and legal implications. The conspiracy slowly unfolds over several issues until, finally, it’s revealed. The Legion as a whole agree to go and take on the Trapper, a being of immense power, in his domain. It appears to be suicide. At the last minute, Brainiac 5 takes the rest of his conspirators into the future, leaving the Legion behind.

The battle seems hopeless, the Legion is bounced around by the Trapper, there are casualties and revelations, and when all looks lost, Brainiac 5 reveals his secret weapon: he’s taken the brain-dead body of Jaxon Rugarth (a man who was once sent through the timestream on an infinite loop, becoming the powerful and tortured Infinite Man) and recreated the experiment, forcing Rugarth to again become the only being capable of taking out the Trapper. The Trapper, the embodiment of Entropy and the destruction of all things at the end of time, finds himself dragged from the end of time into the beginning of time by the Infinite Man, seemingly killing them both.

That alone is worthy of applause. I was stunned by the scope of the story and the scale of Giffen’s art. I kept reading to the next issue, 51, expecting a nice epilogue. Issue 51 revolves around the Legion’s trial of Brainiac 5, not for conspiracy or even for the murder of the Time Trapper, but for the apparent murder of Rugarth. Polar Boy prosecutes, Saturn Girl defends and Cosmic Boy presides as judge (if you’ve followed the series to this point, these are perfect roles representing their personalities in the Legion). It was argument back and forth, written well enough, but nothing spectacular… until Brainiac 5 decides to forego a defense and make a speech:

Brainiac 5's statement... powerful dialogue

If you’re not a Legion fan, I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again how great it is from Legion fans, but I’m also sure you’ve heard all about the roadblocks for reading it (complicated continuity, cheesy code names creating a perception it’s corny and hacky, gigantic cast of characters, too much soap opera, etc.). I hope this post serves as an example (relatively small in comparison to all the others I could give about how awesome the Legion is) as to how good the Legion can be. One thing I’ve also always found is that the people who do take the time to get into it always end up absolutely loving it. And if you used to read it and gave up on it, well, the old adage applies: once a Legionnaire, always a Legionnaire! There’s no better time than now (with Paul Levitz back on the book and the original Legion back in continuity) to pick up the new issues, or at least do yourself the service of reading one of the trades.

You’ll hear more from me from time to time on the Legion, that’s for sure.

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