Today, Drew and (special guest writer) Nick Idell are discussing Superboy 0, originally released September 12, 2012. Superboy 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Drew: I’ve never been a big fan of origin stories. They tend to be overly plotty, displacing more telling character moments in favor of unwieldy exposition. In short, I see them as a necessary evil we often need to get out of the way before the real story can begin. It’s unfortunate, then, that I live in an age where superhero origin stories are so ubiquitous, every third Spider-Man movie needs to revisit that well. We’ve fetishized origins, pushing them to ever-increasing complexity, straining the very limits of pre-title copy that attempts to explain it all. “The Supergirl and Robin of Earth-2 are trapped on Earth-1” sounds relatively snappy, but likely requires an explanation of what the fuck Earth-2 is, and how exactly they get trapped in the first place. These baroque origins relay details, which requires more space to properly explore, resulting even more bloated exposition. “Scientists clone Superman” is such a clean, self-contained idea, but Superboy 0 finds writer Tom DeFalco ladling on the details, buddying the message into an inexplicable hash.
The issue begins with Lord Harvest giving Omen a little lecture on Kryptonian history. Who are these characters? The issue has curiously no interest in explaining this, but makes it clear that they are pulling the strings behind the project to create Superboy, and that they are evil. We know this because Lord Harvest is ugly (he’s also wearing a dark robe and insists on being called “lord,” as though he owns an estate in Yorkshire) and because Omen is bleeding out of her eyes for the duration of the issue (a good guy would probably bother to have that shit checked out).
Never mind how Harvest got this info, but he explains how Kryptonians got lazy, cloning themselves a slave race to do all of their menial labor. Those clones then rebelled, wreaking havoc on Krypton, potentially leading to its eventual destruction. The clones’ leader was called Kon, which sounds a lot like Connor, for those of you uninterested in sounding this out. Harvest explains that the violent history of Kryptonian clones is why he’s so excited for the project. Meanwhile, Connor wakes up, causes some damage, and freaks out Dr. Fairchild when his psych tests suggest that he’s a sociopath. This is, of course, exactly what Harvest wants, suggesting that everything we’ve seen Connor do up until now may be part of the plan to use Superboy as a weapon.
What a weird issue. So much space is given over to Harvest’s story, you’d expect it to mean something, but it’s really not clear if it does. His plan essentially comes down to “some clones went crazy once” as a reason to believe this clone will go crazy, but almost none of his story makes sense. First of all, do we buy that the highly enlightened society of Krypton would enslave clones just because? Our society can’t even agree on the morality of mass-producing chicken breasts, so it’s hard for me to imagine a society as advanced as Krypton being cool with slavery as long as the slave was born in a test-tube. Beyond that, I’m not sure I agree with the assessment that Kon must have been mentally unstable to lead a rebellion against the notion of slavery. Maybe I’m out of touch, but I thought most sane people also objected to slavery and/or being slaves. If all Harvest wanted was a Superman that is against slavery, he could have just called it a day before he even got started.
There are other details about the genetic defects that don’t exactly hold up to even the loosest scrutiny, but the biggest crime of Harvest’s story is the sheer pointlessness of it all. He mostly just spouts exposition because somebody had to. He doesn’t even give a clear answer when Omen asks him about how the fuck he knows all this stuff, evading it with a limp “don’t ask.” Harvest kind of suggests that the rebellion may have led to the eventual destruction of Krypton, but the connection is too tenuous and half-hearted to have much impact. DeFalco makes a point of mentioning that Kon’s body was never found, suggesting that he might reappear at some point (or that Connor is somehow cloned from him — Superman is never explicitly mentioned as the cell donor here), but again, he plays it too coy for it to feel revelatory.
DeFalco does tease some mysteries and drop clues about future issues, which I imagine would be more impactful if I’d been following this title. I assume that prior knowledge would also cue me in to just who Lord Harvest is, and would make the loosely-sketched relationship between Connor and Dr. Fairchild more satisfying. I’ll leave those assessments to you, Nick, but for somebody who hasn’t been following this title, this was a bit convoluted. Maybe all of what I’m reading as question marks have already been explained elsewhere, and everything that strikes me as dumb is actually working to tie-up/foreshadow things going on in the series. Not having read it, I have no idea. To get a little more seasoned perspective, I’d like to turn things over to guest writer Nick Idell, purveyer of all things nerdy at Shelby’s LCS, AlleyCat Comics. Is this issue just sloppy, or does it read any clearer if you already know what’s going on?
Nick: To be honest Drew, I only read the first couple issues of Superboy and stopped. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, it just seems that the story was moving at a pace that would suit me much better in trade paperback form (which seems to be what most comics nowadays are doing). Then there was that whole The Culling crossover storyline and I got lost. There’s only so many hours in the day and way more comics than that. The few issues that I did read were basically along the same lines as issue 0. We don’t know much about Superboy other then he is a half-human, half-Kryptonian clone that might go all bat shit one day and destroy the planet. But I have liked the character for a very long time and I’m curious to see what they do with him. That’s why I would have to say that I quite liked this issue. I think that this is exactly what a 0 issue is all about, a good mixture of exposition and enough vague intrigue to get me to pick up the series and go.
Right off the bat, I can tell that this isn’t the Superboy I grew up with. This isn’t the biker jacket clad kid that picked up the S mantel after the death of Superman. There is something else here. In previous continuity, Conner always had a difficult time dealing with the fact that he was made from both Superman and Lex Luthor’s DNA. He was never quite sure which side of him would prevail the good or the evil. Superman showed Connor that he could be the person that he wanted to be, dispute who’s DNA he had. But it’s seems that DeFalco is trying to go even further with that internal struggle and I like it. Conner might not have a choice in the matter of good and evil, it might be a genetic flaw that he has no control over. As Lord Harvest goes into the in-depth Kryptonian history lesson (where did he get this info, I’m sure we’ll find out in the months to come… hopefully) we see that this might be another case of history repeating itself, or at least that’s what it seems that Harvest wants. I would have to agree with you on what you said about the Kryptonian’s judgement on creating life to exploit it for manual labor, but we are talking about the same people that chose to not heed the words of one of their greatest minds (Jor-el) and suffered mass extinction because of it. Well, we all make mistakes.
I’m not sure if they have explained who Lord Harvest or Omen are, but I’ve never been the one to ruin movies with my friends by yelling “Who’s that?”, “What are they doing?”…it’s a comic book, it’s 22 pages long, there is a reason they are monthly, they want you to keep reading, so that one day (hopefully) you’ll find out. But I did look into it and I believe that Harvest is also in The Ravagers #0, which is the team lead by Superboy at the moment, if I’m not mistaken. So I’m sure he is going to be some sort of Buffy-style big bad that threatens humanity and we’ll have to pick up every issue of some five title crossover to find out what happens… oh goodie! But for now I’m content with knowing that there is some maniacal badass with dinosaur teeth out there plotting the end of the world and he plans on using a confused and possibly extremely dangerous member of the Superman family to do it. ‘Cause let’s be honest everybody, the only time anyone gives two shits or a fuck about the Superman family is when one of them goes rogue and starts busting the place up… am I right?
I do think that this is a great jumping on point for people that are interested in the character. I might start reading it more frequently myself… oh wait, it’s Fall, there are so many shows starting back up again. I guess I’ll wait for the trade.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?