At a glance, “Superboy” #10 (which gets two issues this month in order to finish up “Rise of the Hollow Men”) looks to be a big exposition dump. But the more I read it, the more I found myself getting pulled into the issue. In short, if you’re going to have to give the reader a lot of exposition, this is a thoroughly pleasant way to do so.
Jeff Lemire tracks the rise of long-time DC Universe villain Tannarak here, starting in 45025 BC during the reign of Atlantis, then jumping in time twice more before landing in the present day. Lemire keeps sight of Tannarak being a foe of the Phantom Stranger throughout this story, the two clashing even as olden day characters Arion of Atlantis and the Viking Prince make cameos to help stop the sorcerer. They’re fun little vignettes, each showing how the Phantom Stranger rises to stop him… and perhaps more importantly, what happens in the 19th century when he doesn’t make that crucial appearance.
It also helps that “Superboy” #11 is due in just two weeks, rather than waiting a month after all of these flashbacks to finally see what happens next. So it’s a pleasant detour (akin to how Judd Winick was able to afford to take some issues of “Justice League: Generation Lost” to give origins of the characters without disrupting the flow of the main narrative) and while all but the 1884 sequence could have theoretically been cut if this extra issue wasn’t available, I’m pleased that it’s here.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we’ve got three great artists drawing the flashback sequences, to give main artist Pier Gallo time to draw both the present day sequence here and the final issue in two weeks. Pete Woods tackles Atlantis, and the style he uses here reminds me a lot of his work on the “Up, Up, and Away” Superman story that kicked off the “One Year Later” event from a few years ago. Next up are CAFU and Bit for the Viking Prince in the 10th century, and his intricate art is my favorite contribution to the issue. With his careful lines and beautiful construction of characters, each time I see CAFU’s work it reminds me of the excitement we had when John Cassaday first burst onto the scene in comics. Last up is Paulo Siqueira, whose work I’m not familiar with but whom I’ll certainly try to remember in the future. He comes from the same style group as artists like Woods and Gallo, with a clean, rounded style. He’s capable of great detail, though; just look at that pyre that Tannarak is standing on with all of its boards and skulls, for example, or the terrifying interior of the barn when it’s time for a sacrifice. This is a great looking issue from all four artists, and a nice way to rev up the excitement for the conclusion around the corner.
I’m sad to see Lemire and Gallo leave “Superboy.” It wasn’t a perfect title, but I can honestly say it was one that kept growing in strength and (like “Batgirl”) quickly snuck up on me as a comic that I looked forward to reading every month. I’m glad Lemire has “Animal Man” starting next month (the previews DC’s been running this week look strong), plus of course “Sweet Tooth” over at Vertigo. But this “Superboy” title has been genuinely fun. It’ll definitely be missed.