I feel bad for Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul. Sure, they’re not out of a job, per se; they’re leaving “Adventure Comics” for a run on “The Flash.” But they’d barely just begun on “Adventure Comics” and with this being their final issue, it’s hard to not notice that Johns’ story feels a little accelerated. And no, that’s not a reference to the Flash.
Here, Superboy finally confronts Lex Luthor after several issues of trying to figure out just how much of himself comes Lex one of his genetic “fathers.” (For those coming in late, Superboy has two daddies; the other more obvious one being Superman. It’s the sort of thing that entire slash fiction fandoms were created around.) But it’s hard to not look at this issue as a compressed version of what was surely going to be an entire storyline. So we get to see the rise and fall of a collaboration between the two characters in a single issue, and it unfortunately feels a bit hollow as a result.
I’m not saying it’s a bad story, though. Even at a compressed pace, Johns brings a lot to entertain. Lex Luthor’s plan for curing his sister Lena is Machiavellian, one of those moments where when the final piece is put into place you do believe that Luthor truly is an evil genius. It’s a nasty “gotcha!” moment that Johns brings to the table, and something that I hope the regular “Superman” writers will replicate whenever he returns to those titles. There’s even a perfect little coda that is all the more frustrating when you know that Johns isn’t going to be around to follow-up on its potential. But still, it’s not a bad issue, but just not as well paced as Johns’s earlier stories here.
Manapul’s art is, as usual, gorgeous. I love how he uses ink washes combined with Brian Buccellato’s colors to create a soft rendered look to the pages; these are some of the nicest backgrounds to grace a book at DC. Mind you, the foregrounds look fantastic too. Superboy looks strong without being ridiculously muscled, and the imposing stature of Brainiac looks rather creepy. I’m not entirely sure why Manapul seemed to go out of his way for the first half of the issue to hide Lena Luthor’s face (once it appears there’s no sudden surprise or reveal that I picked up on, anyway); it’s an odd decision that actually ended up proving to be distracting. Still, it’s a minor hiccup in an otherwise nicely drawn issue.
Farewell, Johns and Manapul. I was hoping for a long and fulfilling run on “Adventure Comics” from the two of you, but what little we got was still a lot of fun. It’s a high caliber to follow, that’s for certain. And if nothing else, I’m convinced that I need to read “The Flash” when you bring it back later this year. I just wish you could’ve had a little more time to properly wrap things up, that’s all. Still, not bad.