Today, Shelby and guest Freakin’ Animal Man are discussing Superboy Annual 1, originally released January 23rd, 2013. This issue is part of the H’el on Earth crossover event. Click here for complete H’el on Earth coverage.
Shelby: I’m usually pretty excited for annuals. They’re an extra opportunity to spend time with the books I’m reading; about twice as long, and often separate from the main continuity, for me annuals are a fun, special thing to read. Lately, however, my streak with annuals has not been so great. I hated the New Guardians annual, because it was so removed from main continuity as to be an intro to a new book. Moreover, DC led me to believe otherwise by showing me a cover featuring Kyle, and then changing the coloring slightly to have the cover actually feature Jedidiah Caul of Threshold. I’ve got a similar complaint here with the Superboy annual; DC promised me Rose Wilson, daughter of Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke, and gave me a regular issue stretched out to annual length by repeating the same terrible dialogue and character posturing over and over again.
This book is definitely in main Superboy continuity; it picks up exactly where issue 16 left off. Supers Boy and Man have been sucked into a weird dimension, and they are bickering about it. Some mysterious observers suck them into a different weird dimension, and our super friends bicker about it. Superboy uses his TK powers to find a consciousness in the environment, and then they are sucked to another different dimension. More bickering, more TK, and finally our mystery observers reveal themselves. Apparently before this was a prison planet, it was like the recovery ward in a hospital; people could go there to heal, each finding the kind of environment they need. Since being forced into a prison the planet/place/entity has been feeling real angsty about it. A fight ensues, and Superboy convinces the planet-thing to toss the aliens to the edge of a distant galaxy, and then he and Superman are transported back to the Fortress. Turns out, they’ve only been gone for two minutes! Also, Kara and H’el finished their new toy.
This book seemed to drag on and on; I was just as surprised as Superboy they had only been gone 2 minutes.
Superboy and Superman spent the bulk of their journey through the various dimensions bitching at each other. The worst part is it’s the same complaints, over and over. I took a little tally of the ideas and phrases that were repeated over and over in this issue.
Superboy calls Superman arrogant or egotistical: 4
Superman calls Superboy sarcastic or snarky: 4
They argue over whether or not Superman is lecturing: 3
On top of that, we’ve got 2 “ya think?” and a “paranoid much?” and “egocentric much?” on the same page. I’m really not sure what Tom DeFalco is going for with this incredibly repetitious dialogue; is this his way of commenting on how teens and adults communicate with each other? They keep having literally the same fight over and over until suddenly everyone changes their minds and acknowledges the other person’s opinions? I suppose that’s not completely inaccurate, but why on Earth-1 would I want to read that for 40-some odd pages? I feel like I’m getting beat over the head with whom these characters are supposed to be, what role they are supposed to fill. Superboy is the angsty teen. Superman is the ponderously lecturing adult. Even when DeFalco tries to have a moment between these characters, let them learn more about each other, Superman has to be an ass and call out Superboy for being snarky.
I almost feel like DeFalco doesn’t trust the story he’s telling, that he’s got to tell it to me again and again to make sure I’m getting it. Maybe that’s just his style, but I’ve been noticing that the first couple pages of every issue are devoted to recap of the last. It’s especially frustrating here, since this issue immediately follows issue 16 from last week. I don’t need to be constantly retold the story up to this point; it feels like a very old-fashioned way of writing.
The bits of the story connected to H’el aren’t much to write home about, either. The Justice League wonders what to do, and Kara continues to be super dense about H’el’s plans. Does she really think that the Star Chamber she just helped assemble is going to do anything other than destroy the solar system? This book is a really frustrating read for me because DeFalco seems to feel the need to not only tell me what’s going on instead of show me, he has to tell me over and over again. I can’t even really comment on the art in this issue because there are 4 creative teams credited.
That is a lot of different people to work on one book.
So where does that leave us with Superboy and the continuing H’el saga? He’s starting to grow as a character, learning more about himself and what he can be, which is good. But if the only way for us to get that story is through this “two steps forward, one step back method” of constant recaps and repetition, I’m not so sure I’m interested in following this story much longer. On that glowing note, I’m going to turn this over to none other than Freakin’ Animal Man, whom you may remember from some of our zero month adventures. What do you think, Freakin’ A? Is there something more substantive to this story buried underneath the same, tired relationship being that I’m just missing? Were the multiple creative teams a distraction for you as well? I didn’t even get to the noticeable lack of Rose Wilson in this issue, what do you think about that?
Freakin’ Animal Man: I didn’t care too much about Ms. Wilson but I had many a bone to pick, don’t you worry.
Oy vey. I’m gonna dive right in here. A lot of the things Shelby has written here hit the nail on the head. My first biggest thing is the Adult/Teenager communication. Yes, those discussions are realistic of such a “father/son” relationship, but just like Shelby said, it doesn’t mean I need to read it. A scriptwriting professor I once talked to said “plays are meant to either teach or entertain” and the same can be said about any media, including comics. Amidst all that repetitive “you’re arrogant, you lecture” I found myself asking if DeFalco was either trying to entertain us by doing this over and over and over with each new artist or if it was to teach us about how to talk to our super-powered biological rip-off of a son. Whichever he chose, I can’t say I feel like he succeeded. If you were to educate us on how ridiculous communication is, it doesn’t gel well in the pages of Superboy and it’s awkward as can be amidst your attempt at entertainment. If it was for entertainment, it stopped being witty really quick and sometimes felt like you ran out of things to say. When I closed the book all I could ask was “why was all of that there?” When they return to say that they felt that the 2 minutes felt like 2 days, I can’t say I agree. As the reader, it felt like one of those discussions you get into with your parents you just can’t escape. They’re long, granted, but “it felt like days” long?
Let’s also tackle something else Shelby brought up. Something that really upsets me. The damn intro to the comic. I am really behind on comics right now, and read #16 right before the annual. You weren’t kidding.
This is only a few text blocks. Just on the first page. But already my eyes are rolling. If you want me to get into your book, please don’t make me feel like reading the first few pages are irrelevant. I can understand the paranoia of a new customer picking up a series for the first time, but “I’m a clone” “this suit fits weird” “Superman is my odd father figure” are things heavily reinforced in every issue. This isn’t necessary! Just typing about how unnecessary it is making angry! Take a look at Animal Man! Every issue starts “Damn does life suck or what and off we go!” and not “My name is Freakin’ Buddy Baker, I was abducted by aliens, except not, because I had to raise my daughter who is better than me in every way supposedly”. Animal Man, a character with half the familiarity with the casual crowd than Mr. Young Justice himself, can keep his exposition down to what’s needed and not repeat himself every damn issue!
The art is interesting because it seems all these alternate worlds are providing better fitting art for Superboy than the canon artists. I’m here to review the annual, but if you want to see rough, look back at #16, there are several times it seems like the artists involved just wanted to wrap things up quickly. Also, like Grifter and everyone else with TK powers, I’ll buy fifty extra issues of the comic that decides to scrap that annoying “Photoshop filter that shows we’re being psychic” effect. Again, maybe it’s just me, but I am really sick of it.
I also felt that Kara’s dedication to H’el has gone past the point of disbelief. I’m reading about dimensional travel of a super-being from space and his clone, and I’m struggling to keep believing her. The only times I don’t seem to have trouble is in her own book, but I can’t say the few times she showed up in DeFalco’s Superboy has helped her at all. I also just feel that the Justice League for the past couple issues is so tacked on. They do nothing these two Kryptonians couldn’t do. This issue they serve nothing more than to be filler and exposition machines. I also felt that this attempt to keep the baddies secret until the end felt horribly tacked on as well. Superman explained everything about them, and they served for necessary action that was less than impressive, complete with “I’m attacking you with this weapon and even though it’s obvious what it is, I need to explain to you what it does and how it will defeat you.” What makes it worse is that all these flaws are so blatant. It’s frustrating. I think the only redeeming thing about this issue was that it was better than #16 which I believe is Superboy’s worst to date.
I guess I’ll end the same way Shelby did: with questions. Where do we go from here? Superboy is developing as a character, but does that just mean more flops like this? Why is 60% of the current cast of this series even in the book? I’ve liked Superboy. DC evidently has too, as they’ve put him in anything involving super-minors. But he’s spread too thin; he should be focused on his great character potential and used in an actual story someone can care about, cuz we’re 17 issues in and still no cigar. You can take that to the freakin’ bank.
Freakin’ Animal Man is a superhero with too much time on his hands. If he’s not saving the day from animal zombies, he’s reviewing comics and pretending to be vegetarian. You can read more of his material at @FreaknAnimalMan on the Twitter.
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?