Paul Levitz is known as a writer for his work on “Legion of Super-Heroes” back in the day, but to the best of my knowledge this issue of “Adventure Comics” is his first on this particular title. So it’s with that in mind that I feel like I need to start off by saying, it’s a shame about the art.
The worst offender is the cover for “Adventure Comics” #12. Superhero books have always played loose and fast with idealized anatomy, but Scott Clark’s cover seems to have sailed well past normal boundaries. The guys have such ridiculously muscled torsos that it looks like someone painted Superboy’s outfit onto his chest; there is simply no way that fabric could or would do that. (Never mind the creepy looking cables on either side of his neck, or the crease between his two pectoral muscles, of course.) The women don’t fare well here, either. Phantom Girl looks like a strong wind would snap her in two, her waist is so impossibly skinny, and while Saturn Girl’s “hourglass” figure at least isn’t structurally unsound, Clark seems determined to draw her outfit so tightly across her chest that the fabric is straining a little bit.
On the bright side, Clark’s cover makes the insides a little more palatable. Kevin Sharpe’s pencils thankfully don’t make everyone anorexic, but it’s still not pretty. His facial expressions are all over the map, none of them matching up well with the script. On the fourth page, Saturn Girl tries to reassure Superboy, who is embarrassed and stammers, “I-I didn’t meant to insult–” Instead of an embarrassed expression, though, Sharpe’s drawn Superboy with a curiously dead-eyed expression, almost as if he’s so angry that he’s trying to drain all emotion from himself before he snaps and kills her. On the next page, Saturn Girl is the next victim to strange expressions, as her random admission of being an orphan is accompanied with a face that on its own would make you assume the script said, “Saturn Girl is feeling gassy after eating two burritos for lunch.” The art continues this way throughout the issue (why do Lightning Lad and Colossal Boy have their eyes closed for two pages while a building collapses?); the strange thing is that if you used Sharpe’s layouts and character poses as breakdowns or layouts for another artist to provide the finished product, I don’t think these problems would be here. Sharpe has all the right ideas and understands the basics, but it’s the finer points that still need to be worked on. The good news is that I think that with time, it’s the latter that’s easier to improve. A glossy finish over an unstable base is recipe for disaster, but Sharpe has a good foundation that just needs some finishing touches.
As for the story itself? As an introduction to old-time Legion of Super-Heroes (with a smaller line-up and Superboy traveling into the future to visit his friends), it’s not bad. It’s a back-to-basics story, but one where Levitz is using Geoff Johns’s “list” motif from his issues of “Adventure Comics” starring the modern-day Superboy, and applying that same storytelling device to the original character. It’s a nice bridge between old and new, and for the last issue of the current numbering (starting next month the title reverts to its old numbering, which has been quietly lurking behind the new numbers on the regular covers, and appearing front-and-center on the variant covers) it’s a good way to make that step forward. There’s not a lot of meat in this issue, though, feeling more like Levitz flexing his Legion-writing muscles again than anything else. A warm-up in many ways.
I’m hoping with time Sharpe’s finer details pick up; he’s listed as the artist for the next couple of issues of “Adventure Comics” so clearly it’s a “wait and see” proposition. And of course, we do need to see a little more in the way of an actual plot here from Levitz. But as a flashback to yesteryear, it’s not bad. But to keep readers coming back, we need something a little more proactively good, and soon.