After hearing the praise for the first issue of the relaunched “Superboy,” the second issue seemed like an interesting book to pick up and review. Featuring a different take on the lead character that still harkens back to his origin as a clone sounded promising. “Superboy” #2 deals with the fallout of Superboy’s escape from the lab that created him and his killing all of the scientists save one in the process. It’s certainly an unexpected direction for a Superboy reboot and the ensuing direction holds some promise, but the execution is rather flat and lifeless with dialogue that’s about twelve steps away from witty.
At the center of this comic is the relationship between Superboy and Caitlyn (or “Red,” as she’s often called), one of the scientists on the project that created him and who is the sole survivor of his attempt to break free. She insists that Superboy is innocent and shouldn’t be manipulated or used to evil ends, while everyone around her tells her that he’s “a caged lion who can maim or kill at any instant.” That tension would be interesting were it not for Superboy’s narration confirming that he’s an amoral killing machine that has no interest in developing a conscience or nice side.
Him directly saying that he wants to change would be too much, but there’s not even the subtlest of indications that there’s the potential for change or growth, which undercuts the apparent direction of the book. Reading this, any softening of the character would seem forced rather than organic. If the character were presented as more of a blank slate that leans towards violence because of his environment, this wouldn’t be a problem. Everything about Superboy indicates that he almost glorifies in hurting other people, because he’s got the power to. How can he turn it around when he seems to actively like killing people? What motive would he have to think that it’s wrong?
That lack of nuance or subtle hint that there’s the potential for change makes Caitlyn look naÃ¯ve and foolish, and the supposed protagonist of the book thoroughly unlikeable. It’s a strange approach and one that isn’t bolstered by inherent craziness or entertainment to really succeed. Even devoting the back half of the comic to Superboy, basically, fighting against a humanoid shark creature doesn’t help matters.
R.B. Silva’s art is rather attractive in its thin, clear line work. He’s able to pack in a lot of background detail often, because his characters are very simply drawn. Since he’s dealing with young characters, he wisely doesn’t go overboard with unnecessary lines, making sure they look young. His fondness for profile shots of characters becomes stale as the comic progresses, limiting its visual appeal. When the action starts, he varies his layouts and perspectives more, giving the scenes more energy.
“Superboy” #2 shows that the book has potential, but it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be yet. Is it about the redemption of a superpowered clone as he learns to be human? Or is it a dark comedy about an evil bastard clone that likes to kill folks? Either approach would be fine, the book simply needs to settle on one.