Superboy (vol.3) #1 (2011)

Superboy (vol.3) #1 (January, 2011)
“Smallville Attacks!  Part One”
Writer – Jeff Lemire
Art – Pier Gallo
Colors – James Grant
Letters – John J. Hill
Assistant Editor – Wil Moss
Editor – Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.99

Ya know what’s annoying… how if I mention say, Walmart or Target while in the presence of my phone, my social media will suddenly be bombarded with ads for those places… but, my spellchecker/auto-correct, with as much as I’ve written about comic books over the past three years, still puts the squiggly-red line under the word “Superboy”.  Ya kiddin’ me with this?

Worth noting, Superboy often auto-corrects to “superbly”… could that be an indication of what we’re in for with this very issue?!

We open with Conner Kent, back from the dead and now living in Smallville.  As he sits atop a grain silo he thinks to himself what his life might’ve been like if he’d had a normal childhood… or, ya know, any childhood at all!  While he’s thinking about this, we see a little boy dressed like a superhero frolicking in the fields.  As Kon rubs a grain between his fingers, Krypto barks, informing him that they’re not alone.  Superboy finds himself joined by… oh, c’mon, the Phantom Stranger.

The Stranger comes with bad tidings, as he normally does.  He tells Superboy that the fate of someone close to him is hanging in the balance… and that he should return home post-haste.  Just so happens, at that very moment, Ma Kent is stood atop a chair watering some plants on the porch… she slips, but thanks to the warning, Kon is able to swoop in just in the nick of time.

He tells Ma about his recent visit with the Stranger… and wonders if his staying in Smallville might actually do more harm than good.  Ma assures him that there’s nothing to worry about… and Ma’s got a way of being pretty convincing.  Worth noting, if you’re reading the panels, read these backwards… the page has this clockwise-circular gimmick going on.

We rejoin that tot dressed like a superhero as he happens across a critter that looks to have been sucked dry.  Could the Phantom Stranger have been there to warn of a Chupacabra outbreak?!  Well, no… instead, a giant purple mass of a man bursts onto the scene and chases the boy away!

We shift scenes to Smallville High School, where Conner Kent is grabbing some books from his locker.  He is approached by Lori Luthor (Lex’s niece, natch… which also makes her Conner’s sorta-kinda “cousin”).  She asks why he’s been avoiding her… and he coyly tells her he hasn’t been.  He’s just been busy with “other stuff”.

Back in the fields, that Purple Beast is trudging his way toward town… leaving a whole lotta dehydrated flora and fauna in his wake.  Is it okay to reveal that this is Parasite yet?

After school, Conner heads to a diner… where he meets an old man.  The fella informs him that today is the 154th anniversary of Smallville’s founding.  He hands over a little blobby figurine he’d whittled and wishes Conner a “Happy Birthday”.  Conner returns the favor… well, more like he returns the sentiment, it’s not like he hands over a whittled figurine himself.

On his way out, Conner runs into Simon Valentine… his best pal in Smallville, who naturally has red hair.  That’s kinduva “thing” with Super-Pals.  Simon pulls him aside because he’s got biiiiig news.  Conner is certain it has something to do with his army of trained frogs, but nope… it’s even bigger than that.  Ya see, Simon has figured out that Conner Kent… is Superboy!

Before the Boy of Steel can even begin to digest this revelation, he is attacked by that purple beast Parasite!

Parasite is there… to kill Superman.  Kon tears off his shirt, and lets the baddie know he’s got the wrong dude… but if he wants to get to the “main event”, Parasite’s going to have to go through him.  As luck would have it, that’s exactly what Parasite wanted to do!  Ya see, he’s going to drain Superboy of his power… and use it against the Real Steel Deal!

After getting punched through a Barber Shop window, Simon shouts that Superboy should take the fight off the street… because, ya know, they’re tearing the place up.  Superboy tackles Parasite and rams him right back into the wheat fields so they might continue.  Unfortunately, upon landing… Superboy ain’t good for much!

He realizes he’s going to have to count on his tactile telekinesis… and attempts to use it to lift up and hurl a tractor.  Only, he’s not strong enough at the moment!

As Parasite stomps ever closer, Superboy realizes that it might not take the biggest thing around to put the baddie down.

He focuses his attention on the tens-of-thousands of wheat grains in the area… and absolutely bombards Parasite with ’em!  It’s actually pretty gross if you think about it… which is why we probably shouldn’t!

Simon rushes on the scene to see if “Conner” is alright.  Superboy informs him that it’s, ya know, not cool to call him by his civilian name when he’s in his work clothes.  I mean, c’mon, that’s Super-Pal 101 stuff there.

Suddenly the flora around them starts going nuts… and we wrap up with the arrival of Poison Ivy, who is fearful she’s too late to save Smallville!

Ya know, it says a lot about a book when it can open with the friggin’ Phantom Stranger, and close with Poison friggin’ Ivy… and I can still give it the ol’ “two thumbs up”!  This was a wonderfully enjoyable issue, and a fine start to this new volume of Superboy.

Now, if you’re a regular reader/listener, my feelings on the Phantom Stranger ain’t a big secret.  I find him, like many of DC’s mysterious/undead/ethereal characters… to be rather a bore.  They seem to pop in and either spout some cryptic nonsense, or just serve as a hand-wavin’ deus ex machina.  Luckily, he only occupies a couple of pages here… and he facilitates a nice discussion between Conner and Ma.

As for Poison Ivy.  She’s kinda up there with Ra’s Al Ghul in the pantheon of “Bat villains I never need to see again”.  Especially if we were to jump back to the Winter of 2010/2011.  Talk about having a lotta Bat-Books today, back pre-Flashpoint, half the line was like Bat-Books on steroids.  I mean, the Avengers would raise an eyebrow and say “Innat a bit much?”  So, yeah… seeing a (traditionally) Bat-Family character here didn’t exactly rock my socks… but, it also didn’t make me not want to pick up the next issue, which is the most important thing.

I thought having Conner move to Smallville and live with (the relatively-recently-widowed) Ma Kent was a great idea!  Thought this was a great way to make Smallville relevant, and tell stories that didn’t necessarily have to take place in the big city.  Also looks like Lemire was pulling together a great little supporting cast for the kid!

The fight with Parasite was pretty great… and concluded with a wonderfully clever use of Conner’s much-lauded (by him) tactile telekinesis!  This one act of understanding the potential value in “little things” showed a (much welcome) leap in maturation for the Boy of Steel.

So, yeah… I loved this issue.  With that said… Why am I so annoyed, then?

Well… this book is yet another example of some of the great things DC had going on before flushing ’em down the toilet less than a year later.  Actually, if we’re to go by The “official” Chris is on Infinite Earths “hot-take”… this issue had the same cover-date as Flash (vol.3) #6… which is where I personally feel like the “other shoe dropped”.  That was the issue/month (to my mind) where DC decided that Flashpoint was going to be something more than just the next big Flash event.

So… was this book always doomed to a short life?  Did DC launch this knowing it wouldn’t survive the year… or, was it already in the works before the seminal beats of The New-52! were in the ether?  Whatever the case, this series is a shining example of the good-to-great books DC was putting out before the plug was pulled.

Speaking of “great”… how ’bout this art?  Where’d this Pier Gallo come from… and why haven’t we seen so more from him?!  I mean, holy smokes, this was some wonderful work!  Gotta say, this is a top-flight book… and it’s a shame it had to be sacrificed for whateverthehell The New-52! Superboy was all about.

Overall… yeah, check this one out!  I know Kon-El is about to make his return in the pages of Young Justice (vol.3), but I’m not sure he’s going to be the same fella as the one we read here.  He’s still in his 90’s togs… which might just be a “funny, ha-ha”… or might be an indication of where he was “nyoinked” from.  Whatever the case, this series is worth your time.  This issue has been collected as part of Superboy, Volume 1: Smallville Attacks… and it’s also available digitally.

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