When it comes to the new DC Superboy series, I’m curious if the current trend will hold strong. What I mean is, issue #1 was a terrific launching pad, then issue #2 faltered a bit and now, Superboy issue #3 is another great entry into this ongoing. The entire Superman Universe tends to work better when it’s a touch more sci-fi, when things are happening that are bigger than anybody else can handle. Case in point, the heavy handed and meandering run of Superman as he walks around. It’s not that the Superman Universe can’t have humanity in it, but it needs to be mixed with solid action. This isn’t Batman; running inner monologues just don’t become the Universe Of Steel.
Enter Superboy #3, which is a perfect mix of both humanity and action. The humanity here comes from Superboy (aka Conner Kent) dealing with the trail of destruction through Smallville left by Parasite. As much as he wants to Kent can’t save everybody, nor help everybody. These are lessons it’s interesting to watch him deal with. The other side of the humanity comes with Kent’s relationship to his brilliant high school buddy Simon. While a real asset to the Superboy persona, Simon’s lack of tact and over enthusiastic misgivings are becoming a threat to the Conner Kent identity. In issue 3 we begin to see how that may cause a rift between the two. There are some very nicely executed shades of Superman/Lex Luthor in this story.
Writer Jeff Lemire does an excellent job of taking a set-up issue and turning it into something exciting. He does this by jumping back and forth in time as well as stringing three different storylines together seamlessly. The adventure focus is a sudden wave of sickness spreading through Smallville and the appearance of Psionic Lad, a teenager from the future bent on getting Superboy’s help against his would-be attackers. The two humanity storylines blend with that and keep Superboy #3 popping. I also enjoyed the appearance of Kid Flash and the possible future that sets up.
The art from Pier Gallo is a style I’ve never enjoyed, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. Gallo does very little in the way of shading; he’s more about a solid presence of everything within the panel. While that works very well with backgrounds, it tends to make the human figures and faces look boring, even robotic. When you approach a comic that way each panel becomes stagnant, there’s no flow and as a result, no feeling of movement. There is an argument to be made that Gallo’s style works well to bring the small town, gosh-oh-shucks vibe of Smallville to life, it just doesn’t work for me. To be honest the real hero of this issue, art wise, is colorist Jamie Grant. Grant’s use of her palette breathes life into the less animated parts of Superboy #3 and helps give the story the motion that Gallo’s art is lacking.
As Superman continues to falter, it’s the Universe around him that is really taking off. Supergirl continues to be a solid read, Action Comics’ focus on Lex Luthor is some of the best work in DC right now and Superboy is coming on as a strong contender for iconic greatness. If the rhythm of up and down in the quality of Superboy evens out, this could be a breakout series for DC in 2011.