Archive for February, 2011

Superboy: A Dose of Old-Timey Goodness

I’m not a Superman fan.  I don’t read any Superman titles.  I’m not in tears over Smallville’s last season, and Henry Cavill’s recent casting as the Man of Steel doesn’t make my heart race.  I tend to side with the argument that Superman is … just … boring.  Utterly vanilla.  I’ve never been hugely taken in by any Superman story I’ve read—he just doesn’t do anything for me.  And in truth, I’ve probably never given him much of a shot.

But that’s because right now, I love Superboy.

This is a fairly recent development.  As I’ve never particularly followed the Teen Titans, my exposure to Conner Kent has been sparse at best.  I knew he was a clone.  I knew he dated Wonder Girl.  And I knew that he died during a Crisis.  That’s about it.  And now that I think about it, I don’t even know how or when he returned.

SuperboySuch as it is, I’m not sure what prompted me to pick up the new Superboy series by Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo.  I suppose a part of it was Rafael Albuquerque’s gorgeous front cover to the first issue.  Nothing set the tone of this book better than that healthy image of a smiling Superboy, and the feeling only gets better when you crack this thing open.  You’re sitting in a rocking chair on a wrap-around porch with a glass of lemonade and the sun shining around you.  Oh, and there’s Krypto barking by your lap.

The best way I can describe what Lemire is doing here is by using the phrase “old-timey.”  We’re bringing back what was once good and what the Superman franchise was built upon to begin with—the “clean.”  It’s clean in foundation, in moral, in outlook, in artwork.  It’s upbeat.  It’s the Kents on a farm in a small town.  It’s a young kid with his buddy and his dog… and then it’s also something else.  Superheroes and bad guys.  Back to basics, but it works spectacularly well.  The title’s first story arc is set off by a foreboding appearance from the Phantom Stranger and followed by an attack from Parasite, but it’s peppered with quiet moments and heart-warming character exchanges.  And yet, it still surprises you.  It’s almost a book of contradictions, as that classic style and air will switch on you and give way to something you didn’t expect.  Parasite, for instance, is followed up by Poison Ivy.  Psionic Lad’s wholesome appearance in one issue is trailed by … well, I can’t tell you.  You’ll just have to read it.

Lemire’s Superboy struggles with his place in the world, his relationships with his friends, and his own identity to an extent.  It’s all capped off with a few pieces of campy dialogue here and there—not enough to turn you off the book, but Superboy & Kryptorather just deliberate and delicate enough to flavor it with a—let’s call it “vintage”—writing sensibility, giving the book a traditional feel.  The art offers a fresh-faced look with clean lines, decent camera movement, and wonderful colors.  Most of us didn’t grow up with the Superman of old.  While I have a few minor complaints (Lori’s ridiculous outfits, for one), this, to me, offers its readers exactly what the phrase “of old” could have felt like, and Lemire’s only just getting started.

My little crush on this book hasn’t prompted me to pick up Superman: Earth One or any issues of Action Comics.  But who knows if it will get me there eventually.  Maybe one day, thanks to the incessant pestering of my comic shop people, I will give the Man of Steel a fairer chance.  But right now, I’m ready for the upcoming Superboy/Kid Flash race.  It is, apparently, the first ever.

X-posted @ Nerd Caliber

Review: Wolverine & Jubilee #1

Wolverine & Jubilee #1Well, that was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect to like this book at all—I wasn’t even going to give it the time of day, but seeing some preview pages caught my eye and I decided to give it a chance. I’m glad I did, because this was easily one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had lately.

You see a title like “Wolverine & Jubilee” and you think it could go either way. The “Wolverine” part could be good—but then, how much of that actually has merit and how much of it is just a plug by Marvel to pull you in? The “Jubilee,” on the other hand, kind of induces a bubbly gag reflex, and you think to yourself, dear God, why would I want to pick up this book?

But you do want to pick it up—and here’s why.

If you’ve followed the events of Victor Gischler’s X-Men series at all—on which I admit I am way behind—you know by now that our dear Jubilee is—SHOCK—A VAMPIRE(bolditalicunderline)!!! Who the heck writes about vampires these days, anyway? Where did those guys come from? Does anyone even like vampires anymore?

I kid.

Hate for the vampire fad aside, Jubilee is now one of the undead, and she’s had some of Wolverine’s blood transfused into her in the hope that his healing factor kicks in and takes the edge off of Jube’s crazy bloodlust. And it’s working. Kind of. There’s a very humorous opening scene in which Dr. Rao and Emma Frost debate exactly what “it’s working” actually means.

This four-issue miniseries, then, takes a bigger focus on what’s happening to Jubilee post-vampire encounter, and how the X-Men and Wolverine are handling the situation. My immediate reaction this idea was “Why should I care? It’s Jubilee.” But then I kind of mulled it over, thought about how I haven’t really read Jubilee in quite a while, about how great her scene with Wolverine in Girl Comics was, and got nostalgic to my days as a kid watching the 90s animated series. Then I looked at the cover of this and saw the names Immonen (that’s Kathryn, not Stuart) and Noto, and I was basically sold.

The first issue centers on Wolverine’s concern for Jubilee, who he sees as being his responsibility, as his blood now flows through her veins. The X-Men are wary of letting Jubilee out amongst the other students, believing her desire for blood is too strong for her to control, and that she will ultimately seek others on whom to feed. Jubilee’s reaction is as you’d expect—rage, angst, confusion, frustration. When she leaves the mansion (at night of course) and encounters a stranger, Wolverine tracks her down and finds her alive, but amongst a heap of bloodied bodies.

In between scenes of Jubilee lashing out and Wolverine attempting to control the situation, there are some interesting moments with other characters, including Santo—who’s crushing on our vampiric Jubes; Armor—who doesn’t trust her and picks a fight; and Emma Frost—whom Kathryn Immonen writes spectacularly well. Heck, even the inclusion of Pixie can’t ruin this book for me. Immonen makes it that good, and Phil Noto’s art is something I’ve come to realize I’ve missed. I fell in love with his stuff back during his run on Birds of Prey, and I dare say he’s even better here.

Jubilee’s current situation is going to breed a great storyline here, and it’s about time they did something pertinent with her character. Her relationship with Wolverine is almost taking on an X-23-like feel, and I actually hear she’s going to be appearing in Laura’s book shortly. Under either title, she’s going to be in good hands, and the fact that they’ve made me actually care at all says a lot. Can’t wait for issue #2.

X-posted at Nerd Caliber