Less than two months ago, I ranked “Adventure Comics” as the second-best Geoff Johns series of all time.
Sadly, a handful of weeks and a couple of issues can change everything.
“Adventure Comics” #5 gives us the second part (and the final part, thankfully) of the Superboy Prime “Blackest Night” crossover story that sends the super-powered analogue of the whiny internet fanboy to the offices of DC comics, where he smashes Dan DiDio’s desk and throttles editor Eddie Berganza as he faces some dimension-hopping Black Lanterns.
There’s plenty of precedent for this kind of character-meets-dudes-working-on-his-series story. From “Flash of Two Worlds” to “Fantastic Four” to “Animal Man,” the notion of the guys who work behind the comic book page to tell the tales of these costumed heroes meeting up with their “real” counterparts, well, it’s been done. And sometimes it’s done well. Sometimes it’s clever. It’s the kind of story that I’m predisposed to like, with my interest in metafiction and the layers between fiction and reality.
But the lead story in “Adventure Comics” #5 isn’t clever. It’s not particularly well-done. It’s just an extended inside joke, and even Jerry Ordway’s normally sturdy pencils fall at the challenge of making the DC offices look interesting. Instead, it’s a very special superhero episode of the “Where’s Waldo” follies, where you can thrill at the drawn-from-photo-reference images of Simone Martore, Mike Marts, Mike Carlin and other DC staffers. At least issue #4 had some creepy scenes of the frighteningly powerful Superboy Prime as the worst teenage son ever. Issue #5 has none of that. It doesn’t do much of anything other than remind us that Superboy Prime still exists, and he’s still a mess.
The character may have worked as a villain in the DCU, but as the star of his own two-issue mini-saga, he just isn’t worth anyone’s time.
The back-up story in this issue isn’t a “Legion of Super-Heroes” tale, as we’ve seen in previous months. This time, it’s the Johns/Manapul “Superboy,” the story that was the feature for the first three months here. Their work on Conner Kent is very good; Johns is slowly unfolding the story, giving us a pastoral pacing for a story about Superboy’s second try at coming of age. It’s been a poetic, pleasant tale, and it’s nice to see it continue, even if it’s just for the back-up this month.
Hopefully, we’ll see Johns and Manapul bring Conner Kent back to the front of this book next month. And hopefully they won’t just drift away from the character when Paul Levitz comes in to do his long-awaited return to the Legion. But the sad fact is that the two-part Superboy Prime story didn’t work, and this series has lost some luster because of it.