New 52 Review: Superboy #1

This hybrid Kryptonian/Human clone goes back to his test tube baby roots, with some significantly different results.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Superboy #1

Full disclosure:  I've never been particularly interested in Superboy, because his name is Superboy.  It's not interesting when it refers to young Kal-El, and it's not cool when it refers to a clone of Kal-El mixed with Lex Luthor DNA wearing a t-shirt and jeans everywhere, and it's certainly not cool when that clone is wearing this.  Normally, a Superman/Luthor hybrid would seem pretty interesting, but when his name is Superboy, the eyes glaze.  No boy or man would ever call himself Superboy. 

But this isn't a boy or a man anymore.

In Scott Lobdell's Superboy #1, that name is bestowed upon him by his science-monkey creators, an outfit named N.O.W.H.E.R.E., who have him in a bacta tank and think he's a brain-dead failure.  However, they're unaware that somehow his consciousness is spread through every atom of his body, and therefore will never register brain activity.  We'll pretend that makes sense.  When they try to kill him for an autopsy, however, he breaks free and kills the shit out of most of them.  Save for one person – the red-haired, bespectacled scientist who was the only one to view him as a person instead of an object.  They only call her "doctor" or "Red" in the book, but at one point she's half-identified as "Dr. Cait–" before she cuts off the computer voice.  Why the mystery on this woman?  Well, Bleeding Cool has figured it out, and if you don't want to be spoiled, don't click the link.

When we first see him, he's bald, and thus he looks like Luthor, but reading the issue closely, that feels like a misdirect.  The donor of those human cells is a mystery, but Superboy seems to demonstrate some sort of tactile telepathy to go along with his usual tactile telekinesis, so my money's on someone new.

Of course, that someone new might still be a "deeply pathological, megalomaniacal narcissist the likes of which the world has never known," because Superboy seems to be completely oblivious to the idea of empathy, and when he's run through VR simulations of a normal Kansas adolescence, he completely ignores people who cry for help, instead remaining fascinated with Rose Wilson.  In the VR, she's a smart and funny high school girl.  In reality, she's a mercenary killer hired to kill Superboy if he ever breaks out and kills the shit out of everybody again.  That won't end well, since it turns out the head of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is someone named Templar, who is about to sic Superboy on the Teen Titans.  This falls in line with Lobdell's proclamation that Superboy is going to be the Titans' main villain for the next year.

There's some interesting stuff going on here, such as the skullduggery where a Dr. Umber is secretly reporting on N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s activities to Lois Lane (which is awesome), but he's holding back any info on the Superboy project, because he's afraid he'll get killed the instant that information leaks. There's mystery, intrigue, science gone wrong and if that's your thing, and if you like RB Silva's clean, bright art enough to overlook his blank and bland faces, Superboy #1 should work for you.  Lobdell's getting ambitious here and the writing is fine. 

For me, however, I just don't think it's enough to get me interested in reading about a character named Superboy.   Irrational?  Entirely.  Yet, it's there.  The notion of an Young and Evil Superman doesn't do much for me, either.  Of course, it won't be that simplistic when the story unfolds – there's enough depth in Superboy #1 to illustrate that – but it's just not exciting.  At least not to me.  Your mileage may vary.