Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: R.B. Silva
Inks: Rob Lean
Colors: Richard & Tanya Horie
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover artist: Eric Canete
Editor: Chris Conroy
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
When I read Hawk & Dove #1 last week, I knew going in I wasn’t going to enjoy the book. I’m not a fan of Rob Liefeld’s work, and I found nothing in his latest effort to change my mind about his art. A short time ago, I had a similar expectation when I took out my copy of Superboy #1. As I was about to read it, I figured going in this wouldn’t be my thing. Writer Scott Lobdell’s hasn’t appealed to me in the past, and I didn’t expect his latest endeavor would either. Boy, was I wrong. Lobdell tells a compelling story about the dangers of science and capitalism running unchecked. Sure, the cloning angle is hardly the most original sci-fi premise, but Lobdell updates the Superboy-as-a-clone concept with a more mature, chilling and complex edge. Those familiar with the origin of the previous incarnation of the title character from the early 1990s will recognize a number of elements, but there are a lot of new bits adorning this reinterpretation. Like many other comics readers, I was put off by the images of the rebooted Teen Titans series (to which this series is linked), but after reading Lobdell’s plot and script for Superboy #1, I find I’m actually intrigued by the possibilities in the new status quo for DC’s iconic teen-hero characters.
In a secure, secret facility, scientists in the employ of the mysterious organization known as N.O.W.H.E.R.E. are making a weapon, the most devastating weapon the world has ever seen. Actually, they’re growing a weapon, a clone dubbed “Superboy” because of the inclusion of some of Superman’s DNA in its genetic makeup. Reading indicate the clone is inert, unthinking and only alive thanks to its connection to N.O.W.H.E.R.E.’s machines, but little to the geneticists realize that the clone is aware, he’s been learning the entire time he’s been floating in a solution in the lab, and he possesses powers they never dreamed of being possible.
It took me a while I realize I’d seen R.B. Silva’s art before; he was paired with writer Nick Spencer on a “Jimmy Olsen” backup feature in Action Comics that concluded in a one-shot earlier this year. I think one of the reasons I didn’t recognize it at first is because most of the visuals in this book boast such a cold look, and that’s a testament to the artist’s versatility. His style looks like a cross between those of Phil (The Infinite Horizon) Noto and Barry (FF) Kitson. Silva’s art also contributes to the dichotomous tone of one of the main characters: “Red,” the scientist overseeing the “Superboy” project. There’s a softness to her; her oversized glasses frames make her seem like a likeable nerd, but that’s also contrary to her actions later on.
I had expected the interior art would resemble Eric Canete’s cover image, with its extreme, angular style. Instead, we find a more realistic, softer look that contrasts nicely with the cold, utilitarian look of the lab settings. It’s unfortunate DC didn’t opt to change the cover logo. I realize it wants to connect with the iconic look of the Superman masthead, but the tone of the story is so much different and somewhat removed from the super-hero genre that a different logo — even for a short time — might have helped to set this title apart and attract more attention.
While the cloning aspect was maintained from the Superboy origin of the early 1990s, Lobdell has deviated significantly from the source material. Most noticeable is the discarding of the concepts and visual flair of the late Jack Kirby, whose creations were featured prominently in Superboy’s world in the wake of the classic death of Superman storyline. I was surprised and pleased to find the writer, perhaps unintentionally, captured some of the charm and quaint qualities of the previous, Jeff Lemire-penned Superboy series with a Smallville sequence (albeit in radically different context).
Red is an unusual character. She clearly cares for the title character. Unlike others at N.O.W.H.E.R.E., she sees the clone as a person and not a weapon. On the other hand, she seems perfectly willing to keep him caged, to study him, all the while aware what her superiors have in mind for him. At times, she seems meek, and at others, she’s a taskmaster, strong and wilful. She’s definitely the most interesting character in this comic book. I expect she’ll ultimately prove to be on the side of the angels, but I’m curious to see what decisions she makes and dilemmas that drive her character arc.
The narration is sometimes overly formal in tone, but given it’s in the voice of someone who’s never interacted with people or the real world, it works. It’s when it gets more colloquial that it ends up sounding a little unnatural, ironically enough. I also enjoyed the whistleblower aspect of the plot, not only because it provides a link to Superman’s world but because it’s the sort of development one sees in the news in “our” world. Lobdell’s matured as a writer; this effort is leaps and bounds beyond his X-Men-related work, for which he’s best known. 7/10
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