Lemire has been putting a lot into building up the world of Smallville around Superboy, and this issue adds more to it. Billed as the first Superboy/Kid Flash race, this issue blends parts of Superboy’s worlds together, bringing the Teen Titans (except, last I checked, Beast Boy’s name was Gar, short for Garfield) to Smallville to cheer on their teammates. It’s staged and it’s hokey, but it’s charming as a tribute to the Silver Age.
Unfortunately, the art is a bit of a letdown for the story. Gallo’s art has been hit or miss since this series started, with the first issue very much being a hit. This issue struggles a bit more, but not for lack of effort. Gallo does a nice job of framing the story and telling the story within and between panels. Unfortunately, that story stars Superboy in his uber-skinny jeans and mismanaged t-shirt and Kid Flash in his shifting costume with a mask that varies in its peaks, and gloves that follow suit. The biggest distraction of Gallo’s art, to me, is the s-shield on Superboy’s shirt. I spent a few minutes after reading this issue going back through it trying to figure out if the shield is highly stylized or just wrong. Honestly, I’m still not sure, but in this day and age, I’d like to think an iconic symbol like the s-shield can be rendered uniformly across an issue, series, or brand.
Complicating matters is some rough color work from Jamie Grant. Grant does a good job of coloring the stuffing out of the backgrounds, foregrounds, and costumes of this book, but the skin tones — whether the character is white, brown, or green — are pretty darn painful to look at and have me quite concerned that they just might be contagious. Grant’s got the planes of the faces and other parts right, but the highlights and shaded areas are just poorly executed.
What started out with a strong debut – earning five stars from me – has just lost a great deal of luster, and I’m not sure if it has to do with the layers Lemire is adding to the world around Superboy, or the content of those layers themselves. Lori Luthor and her cancer-stick habit does nothing to endear the character to me, and the same can be said of Simon Valentine and Psionic Lad. The highlight of the issue was Pete Ross rattling off the list of benefactors that have helped Smallville rebound from the effects of Superboy’s first four issues. I’m pretending that “Steve Danton” was supposed to be “Steve Dayton;” Good thing Rita Farr had no place in this issue or the whole family would be slighted in one swoop, as both this and the “Garth” slip were made on the same page.
This issue provides an interlude for the wackiness and calamity that has decked Smallville for the past four issues, but there are portents in this issue that more wackiness and calamity is on the way. Those stories will blossom in the months to come, certainly, but they’ll be joined by Doomsday. Lemire popped by to discuss the upcoming Doomsday appearance in the next issue of “Superboy.” This series provides an interesting sample of the DC Universe, slightly tinted through super-glasses, but for me, it’s just not clicking right now.