We are twenty issues into the ‘not so new’ New 52. We have lost some and have gained some, but there are a number of issues that are considered the best and, unfortunately, worst of the New 52. Where does Superboy fit into this scheme?
At the start of the New 52, Superboy was given an enormous reboot. Instead of having an already established Kryptonian clone, we were reintroduced to the origin of Kon-El. The comics started off strong as a whole, and it was compelling to see the Superboy of old–a weapon with little conscious, turn into the Superboy of new–an angsty teen trying to find himself.
His powers have become predominately telekinetic, as opposed to a 50/50 split with Kryptonian abilities. At first this can be hard to swallow, but it makes for a Kryptonian who is unlike what the House of El currently has to offer.
His strength is outstanding, but at times it seems that he is only able to go that far when he is enraged, lending itself to the angry teenager that Superboy really is. Although the series has immersive action sequences and powerful prose, it also enjoys lighter moments of hilarity which truly make this comic entertaining.
We find Superboy struggling to fit in with the Teen Titans, as he doesn’t necessarily feel like a human boy. We are greeted with small gems of Kon opening up, however, when he’s with singular titans as opposed to the whole team. This makes for the hilarious moments, like when he needs to be told why it is bad to take money from a bank, or when he decides to turn himself in—until he decides to leave. Superboy is still searching for himself and finding out what it is to be a human as well as a Kryptonian, every hero and villain he meets along the way somehow aiding him in becoming not just Superboy, but eventually Superman.
Far from flawless, the story has sustained a few hiccups during its run. Although you should be excited for every release of a Superboy comic, the first few issues tended to be ill-paced and at times boring.
Not to mention that every issue started the same monotonous way (and some still do) with the lines, “I am Superboy. I am a weapon created by N.O.W.H.E.R.E….” It made Superboy feel more like a robot then a person, and it was hard to relate to him.
An argument can also be made that the progression of the character as a whole tends to be erratic. In one issue he is a kind, loving, human. And in another he is a powerhouse that could care less about what he destroys if it means taking down the monster. He fights with himself and can’t discern which personality is the one to stick with. We are left with an unclear definition of who Superboy really is. Do we really know? See Kristina’s Preview piece here.
The series picked up during the Culling event that crossed Legion, Teen Titans, and Superboy’s worlds into one. The villainous Harvest drew a line into the hearts and minds of all of the teenage heroes, and that line will rot for issues to come. Superboy went through a turning point in the Culling by siding with the Titans and running from Harvest and his Ravagers. This became another hiccup in the story, as it wasn’t as energetic and powerful as some of the other Superboy events of the past. After the fallout of the Culling came H’el on Earth.
H’el on Earth was a very strong arc that crossed each of the House of El titles (excluding Action Comics) and delivered a dominant story.
This is where Superboy began to shine. Having to face a threat unlike anything he had faced before, and nearly getting ripped apart by H’el gave him perspective. It grounded him, and made him realize that although he was designed to be a weapon, he was still mortal.
Lately we find Superboy rediscovering how to have a normal daily routine after a full 15+ issues of constant fighting and struggle. Of course this down period doesn’t last long and he is now facing off more villains than ever. The series is not slowing down after the H’el on Earth arc, but it may have trouble keeping the pace in the comics to come.
Although the series is beginning to find its stride, it isn’t without its missteps. With a change in creative teams looming over the Superboy comic, only time will tell if this is a high impact comic, or a subpar shelf filler. The comic is still entertaining and enjoyable, but may not be for everyone. This comic is struggling for its own identity as much as Superboy himself. Depending on the arc, it may be hit or miss. Either way Superboy is worth a look.