Connor Kent has been struggling to find secure footing in the DCU ever since he made his return in Legion of 3 Worlds. He’s been around, but hasn’t been able to stay locked down for his story to be told justly.
Enter Superboy #1, the first comic bearing Kon-El’s name since 2002. Written by indie comics hero Jeff Lemire with art from Pier Gallo, the book is successful in setting up an interesting new platform for Superboy to shine on his own merits, in much the same vein that Supergirl has been successful in recent years. Lemire is quick to establish Conner’s new status quo living in Smallville, attending high school, and balancing his hero life. Since the Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul story arc on Adventure Comics, Conner seems to have accepted his history as a clone of Superman and Lex Luthor.
The issue kicks off with a resonating emotional bang, as Conner ponders what his life would have been like if he’d grown up with a normal childhood. I expected a more grounded sort of approach with Lemire at the helm, and with this opening scene he delivers. I know everyone wants to see Superboy smash stuff and fly, but it’s moments of introspection like these that have been missing for the character since he came back from the dead. Shortly thereafter, Lemire dives into typical superhero fanfare. It could be a bad thing, except everything he’s doing here suggests grand plans to build up Connor’s supporting cast. From Ma Kent and Krypto to his ginger best friend Simon and other locals, Lemire gives us a small taste of regular life in Smallville that will likely only grow as the book goes on.
The only real downfall of Superboy #1 is Gallo’s art. While not bad, it does nothing to set itself apart from hundreds of other comic books on the market; it’s all quite typical. Gallo has a good grasp on the superhero parts of the book but everything sort of comes unhinged when the characters aren’t smashing stuff or flying. For example, there’s a scene in Smallville High in which Connor is confronted by his kinda-sorta cousin, Lori Luthor. The scene is a low key dialog scene set in a hallway, but the perspective is awkward, the setting bland, and the characters don’t sell the scene. And also, what’s the deal with Connor’s incognito glasses? Are we making a return to the 90s Superboy design?
Ultimately, the cons are outweighed by the pros on Superboy #1 as Lemire’s characterization of Conner and those around him have set the stage for some exciting work to come. Just as DC has done with Supergirl in the last two years, I’m hoping that Superboy will be able to build up the Boy of Steel as his own, stand alone character.