It’s hard to believe that it’s been a few years since the current Superboy (Conner Kent) died in “Infinite Crisis.” Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder, but reading a comic that stars him again is a welcome presence, something that I hadn’t realized I’d missed. Then again, it’s that reconnection process that dominates “Adventure Comics” #1, so it’s almost certainly just what Geoff Johns was aiming for in his script.
From the early pages where Superboy wonders how he ever could have hated Smallville, to his retracing the steps of his genetic parents, it’s clear that Superboy is on a path of self-discovery. He’s re-evaluating the world around him, learning to appreciate the quiet life of Smallville or even having Krypto around as a pet. He’s following the path that Superman once went down, but in his own particular way. It’s a nice nod to both the past and the future of the character, in a way that revels in what came before but also isn’t strictly bound by it. It’s a rare sort of balance these days, and it’s nice to see Johns manage to keep from going too far to one side or the other in this first issue.
In terms of actual story, the plot is certainly a little slight, but the craft feels so confident and strong that it’s hard to mind too much. “Adventure Comics” #1’s main feature is concentrating more on setting a scene, preparing the reader for the stories that are still to come in the title. That’s also true to some extent with the first Legion of Super-Heroes back-up story, with most of the glance just getting a brief flash across the page before settling down to just two of the characters. With both of them still having dangling stories needing to be resolved, it does make sense that it’s beginning with them. I can’t help but wish that their stories do come to a conclusion before long, though; there are so many other characters from the Legion that I’d like to see in the spotlight, especially after the strength of “Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds” and their recent run in “Action Comics.”
As for the art, though… wow. Francis Manapul’s recent stint on “Superman/Batman” was beautiful, but he’s absolutely knocked it out of the park here. He and Brian Buccellato seem to be trying to really wow us with their early two-page spread of a sunset in Smallville; from the multiple shades of red and pink and yellow in the sky, to each of the individual ears of corn in the field, it’s marvelous. Even the body language looks sharp here, with Ma Kent standing next to Conner in a way that shows both a protective feeling towards him and how she’s taking strength and comfort in his own presence. Each page from Manapul looks great, with a strong sense of movement and action on display. I almost feel bad for Clayton Henry in the back-up feature, because while he’s good too with his crisp, clean style, it’s hard to be paired up with such a powerhouse as Manapul’s rapidly become.
There’s a lot to enjoy in “Adventure Comics” #1. Even Johns’s patented “things to come” page is a lot of fun, with nice teases about how the Legion is already in the new Superboy’s life (as well as moments and characters we’ve yet to see) as well as other stories up ahead. I did have to cringe at the swapping of two characters’s names in the Legion back-up (Night Girl and Shadow Lass), since between this and the last issue of “Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds” it seems like the Legion is being plagued with typos these days.
All in all, a fun and strong debut for the book.