It’s been a while since I’ve found “Superboy” a book that I could follow (essentially starting with “The Culling” crossover), so I had high hopes for Justin Jordan taking over the writing position with “Superboy” #20. And while the book isn’t quite rock solid and great, I will be the first to say that it feels like it’s finally back on the right track.
Jordan gets some big points from me almost instantly by starting to deal with some loose threads that I’d remembered from earlier issues of “Superboy,” but at the same time in a way that doesn’t leave new readers out. The conversation between Superboy and Bunker lets readers know the essentials (that at one point Superboy robbed a bank and later gave back “most” of the money), but really it’s being used as a springboard for something bigger even as Superboy prepares to turn himself in for the crime. While it may sound silly, I appreciated this early scene; it made me feel like Jordan’s trying to keep Superboy a hero, someone who wouldn’t just brush that sort of “I didn’t know better” action under the rug.
More importantly, though, the story once it kicks in isn’t that bad either. It’s a strange team-up between Superboy and a character that I’ll freely admit I didn’t recognize from pre-relaunch until he’s identified by name around the halfway point. It’s a nice little surprise once you understand who his new ally is, but more importantly it’s a perfectly fun fight scene between super-powered people. It moves the plot along well, and the coda at the end gives us the proverbial “uh oh” moment to alert us that this is part of something bigger. As a first outing, it’s not bad.
Regular art team R.B. Silva and Rob Lean handle part of “Superboy” #20, and their art looking fine is not a surprise at all. Silva’s got a sharp and distinctive line, and there are some handsome panels here, like Superboy staring down at his new ally with his arms crossed. Not only does the tilt of the angle let us in on the height difference between the two (so that we as the reader are slightly looking up at Superboy), but I like the slight cocking of the head and the handful of leaves drifting down. It might not be flashy but it’s solid, attractive art. Kenneth Rocafort and ChrisCross fill in for part of the issue, and each of them do a nice job as well. Rocafort’s trademark angular style meshes surprisingly well with Silva’s pencils, and I must admit that I’m growing a little addicted to his strange diagonal-sided panels that he loves to draw so much. ChrisCross gives us a smoother, more typical art style, but he’s always a good artist to have on board. Once again it’s nothing terribly flashy, but it gets the job done in a nice manner and the expressions on Lure on the last page are a riot.
“Superboy” #20 feels solid, and I feel like this is a building block from which the series can pull itself back together. For now, this is a sense of relief. If you also drifted away from “Superboy,” worry not. This has been a change for the better.