by Jeff Lemire (writer), Pier Gallo (art), Jamie Grant (colors), and John J. Hill (letters)
The Story: Superboy defends Smallville from a major member of Superman’s rogues gallery.
What’s Good: Reading this first issue of Superboy, it’s clear that there are two different Jeff Lemires at work here. There’s the contemplative, indie creator attuned to the tone and rhythm of rural life and then there’s the gleeful, DC fanboy eager to use his new toys in explosive fashion. The fact that these two sides of Lemire are perfectly balanced is why Superboy #1 is such a success.
It’s clear right from the get-go that Smallville itself is not only key to the book’s atmosphere, but is such a presence that it almost constitutes a character in its own right. Lemire has managed to use Smallville to give the book an affable, friendly, and joyful tone; Superboy reads a lot like the superhero cartoons you loved as a kid, the sort that had that happy innocence but also never condescended. Smallville makes this book lovable, what with its intimacy and its nuances. It influences Connor, forcing him into contemplation as he interacts with nature itself in almost Romantic fashion and is also a vulnerable figure that needs protecting.
Then the DC fanboy Lemire steps in. The DC figures (Phantom Stranger, Parasite) are so opposite to Smallville that they create a sort of dissonance the lends the book a kind of goofy weirdness while creating some real excitement. Once the action starts flowing or Parasite is shown sucking the life out of Smallville, it’s clear that Lemire is having the time of his life, and that joy is infectious.
The transition between Smallville contemplation and comic book action is also expertly done and Lemire’s sense of pacing throughout the book is fantastic. Part of this is thanks to those moments where the indie Lemire and the DC fan Lemire bounce off one another, which is also when the book is at its most interesting. Take, for instance, Lemire’s choice of Parasite as a first victim; big and purple-skinned, it doesn’t get any more comic-booky and Lemire goes on to show the villain destroying and rotting out Smallville’s farmland wherever he sets foot. It’s as though the DCU is poisonous to the sanctity of Smallville innocence.
Then there’s the wonderful link between the book’s beginning, which features lovely narration as Connor ponders thoughtfully over a field, and how that very physically foreshadows how Connor defeats Parasite. It was definitely a fist-pumping moment where, in a way, Connor uses Smallville’s natural setting to defeat the outsider, Parasite.
Pier Gallo’s artwork is also a wonderful choice for the book and reminds me of a simpler, stream-lined, and softer Frank Quietely. Gallo’s work is subdued and homey, and thus perfect for Smallville. This, however, contrasts wonderfully with his depiction of Parasite, who is a lumpy monstrosity. Jamie Grant’s colors are also wonderful match for Gallo, enhancing everything that makes his work strong while glossing over and smoothing out any weaknesses. His tones a bright, happy, and, in a way, innocent, mirroring both Gallo’s work and Smallville itself.
What’s Not So Good: While a lot happens this month, this isn’t necessarily the slam-bang, all the cards on the table kind of debut issue that some might hope for. It’s still totally unclear what Lemire’s story is going to be about. For me, though, that was fairly refreshing as this didn’t at all read like the first chapter of a trade, but it may annoy others.
Conclusion: Elegantly constructed, thoughtful, and action-packed, this is a rousing success and everything I’d hope for from a Superboy book.