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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventure Comics #1 Adventure Comics #1

Adventure Comics #1

[Original Numbering: #504]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 12, 2009

Cover date: October 2009

"Superboy: The Boy of Steel" - Part One

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Francis Manapul

"Long Live The Legion" - Part One

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Clayton Henry

Lead Story Synopsis & Review by: Barry Freiman

Back-Up Story Synopsis & Review by: Anthony-L

Click to enlarge

"Superboy: The Boy of Steel" - Part One

In the DCU present-day, Conner Kent/Superboy plays ball with Krypto the Superdog outside the Kent Farm. Conner is living in Smallville with Ma Kent and has a new appreciation for Farm-living. Conner has a tender moment with Ma and Krypto and flies off. He thinks about what Superman did to become Superman. First up, he lived with the Kents so Conner has done the same thing. Second, he went to Smallville High, so off Conner goes to Smallville High School. Third, Clark joined a super-team (the Legion) as a Teen of Steel so Conner rejoins the Teen Titans with Kid Flash. They destroy their memorial statues built when the two were thought gone forever.

Fourth, Clark would use his powers to help people in need. So Conner does the same thing. He helps a blonde girl when a wood bridge collapses underneath her. As he's about to save the girl from drowning, Krypto flies in from nowhere and grabs her, saving her. The still unnamed girl thanks Krypto for the save and admires his cape. Superboy offers to fly her somewhere and the girl jumps into Superboy's arms and asks him to take her home.

Meanwhile, teenager Simon Valentine, a scientific genius, is looking for a beast hiding in Bruin Lake that others in town seem to have spotted. The Lake has recently become thick as mud while all other Smallville waterways remain crystal clear. The beast rises out of the water (Tellus of the Legion as is made clear by the back-up story's art). Tellus telepathically tells Simon he'll be 'his' greatest friend and 'his' greatest enemy and should drown him in the lake - but that he isn't here for Simon, he's here for Superboy.

In what used to be teenage Lex Luthor's house, Conner and Krypto walk around. Krypto senses another presence - it's Superman! He asks Conner why he's in Lex's burnt-out house. Conner says he is surprised by how normal the house seems. Clark tells him that he used to hear things about Lex's upbringing - that it may not have been so 'normal' - but that Lex buried his history in Smallville after he left.

Conner asks if Clark thinks Lex would have turned out differently with the Kents as his parents. Clark says he doubts it, that Lex is a delusional maniac. Conner asks if Lex was born bad. Clark says that isn't what he meant. Conner replies he's just trying to understand Lex. Clark tells him he's been trying to do that for years. Clark reminds Conner that he isn't Lex or Superman - he's his own person. Clark asks Conner to stay away from Lex.

Later, Conner feeds Krypto as Ma Kent cooks dinner. Conner goes to his room and finds his personal journal underneath his mattress. We can see that he's checked off each of the things he has done that Clark did before becoming Superman. But, on the opposing page, he has a list of things Lex would do - there's one thing listed: 'Lies to Superman.' Conner places a checkmark next to that.

To be continued...

"Long Live The Legion" - Part One

A three-page synopsis of the history of the New Earth Legion of Super-Heroes opens this eight-page backup feature including what looks to be a not-named Superboy (Clark Kent). Good thing Starman has Schizophrenia or else I might think Thom has stolen Exposition Lass' power to bring the reader up to speed. Starman reminds us of a few things we already knew (if you're a JSA reader): he's is a secret member of the Legion Espionage Squad, his part in bringing Superboy (Conner) back is only part of his mission, and the worlds still need to be saved. Other Legionnaires are in the past as well (we've already seen Tellus in the main story). Thom gets distracted by some bowling, acts crazy, and then flies off to see Tellus.

The latest mission of the Legion revolves around the Last Will and Testament of R.J. Brande. Tellus attempts to use his telepathy to reconcile Starman's disease which results in Thom calling out a couple of teasers for the future including a war and a warning to "Beware the Black Witch." He ends by calling out the name of his long time love, Dream Girl. Thom's schizophrenia is rapidly getting worse and Tellus can't help. The story ends with Starman wanting to get Dream Girl back to save the future before his mind is completely gone.

The back-up ends with Johns' "Coming soon" trailer page with hints of Legion activity in the 21st and 31st centuries. In the 21st Century, the main story and this back-up story may merge: Conner's Chemistry teacher appears to be Element Lad and Superboy and someone that could be Mon-El are rescuing Dream Girl. Strangest to me is the Morgan Edge/Despero meeting scene. Ahead in the 31st century, Blok is suffering from some complications from his injuries but only wants to get to the Sorcerer's World (current home of the Black Witch), XS is trying to use the cosmic treadmill to get back deliver a warning (back from where? Or when?), and it looks like a Green Lantern will be joining the Legion.

4Lead Story - 4: Before I get to the story, a quick welcome to new Superman Homepage reviewer Anthony-L, a good friend and Legion enthusiast. As you'll quickly see when you read Anthony-L's review of the back-up story and art (and his write-up of the back-up story synopsis), he has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things and all eras Legion. On top of that, he's a darn good writer with a keen analytical mind so you can count on Anthony-L's reviews to entertain and edify.

Not all that much happens in the lead story as it's all set-up for Conner Kent's new world and new motivations. Yet, without saying much in terms of dialogue, Geoff Johns effectively conveys that new world. The story tone feels a lot like the Normal Rockwell-ian Smallville chapters of Superman: For All Seasons, as does the art (see below).

Like Superman before him, in Smallville, Conner is going to end up with his own Lana Lang and Lex Luthor - the girl he saves (a name would have been nice as we know it's not Chloe from "Smallville") and Simon Valentine (revealed at Chicago Comic-Con by artist Francis Manapul to eventually be known as Simple Simon). I would guess that Conner Kent is about to learn the hard/Smallville way that bad guys don't always start out that way.

Even if just in momentary flashbacks, I love having the Clark Kent Superboy back in continuity. Borrowing from the "Legion of Super-Heroes" two-season animated series, the Legion is where Superboy learns how to become Superman. In fact, Conner should think about that - his item on the be-like-Superman-list is to join a super team but it's not just any super-team; it's the Legion where Clark was able to use the paradoxes of time travel to get in some heavy-duty super-hero training. Conner isn't necessarily doing what Superman would have done by rejoining the Teen Titans.

Krypto is featured prominently in the story. I get it that people either like the idea of a white dog with a red cape who can fly and do everything Superman can do, or not. I happen to like it. I like it so much that my dog's name is Krypto. So the Dog of Steel's prominence is a good thing to me. Every boy has a dog. A Superboy should have a Superdog. It's an old-fashioned notion for a story that's meant to feel a bit old-fashioned and works in the context of Superboy's new life.

5Lead Story Art - 5: Gorgeous. Manapul had me at Superboy but he's brought Smallville to life in a way that hasn't been seen since Superman: For All Seasons and early episodes of TV's "Smallville". Smallville itself doesn't look to have changed very much in the years since it last had a Superboy living full time in its midst and that's the way it should be - Smallville is a timeless place where something super came to be. It makes Conner's new appreciation for small-town living post-dying all the more believable to have it look so breathtakingly good.

Anthony-L tells me that he saw the pencil drawing of the beast rising from Bruin Lake and, in the pencils, it's much more obvious that the creature is really Tellus. I'm glad it's made to look less obvious as inked and colored as it made the more obvious reveal of Tellus in the back-up story more of a surprise.

3Back-Up Story - 3: The Good: The classic Legion is back (or at least the New Earth Version of the Legion)! I've been a fan since the introduction of the Heroes of Lallor way back when, fell in love the with Zero Hour reboot version (which I thought came to far too soon of an end) and was starting to warm up to the '3-boot Legion' once Jim Shooter came on board (my feelings were tepid at best before that). I've heard that the back-up feature is supposed to eventually feature all three versions of the Legion but only time will tell.

The Bad: My biggest complaint is that, for a book called Adventure Comics, there is a big lack of Adventure in this first feature; and as a character piece on Starman it's not so successful either. We learn very little new about Starman here although the overall mystery and foreshadowing are heavy. It is good to see Starman interacting with his fellow Legionnaires again but it's time for him to get back to the future or else I fear his story will be coming to a permanent end (that his disease is rapidly progressing is not a good sign of things to come for him).

The Good: It looks like Johns may be applying my favorite Legion story guideline: not every Legion story needs to feature every Legionnaire. Every Legionnaire is someone's favorite is a great credo but historically, a rotating small cast in each storyline resulted in some of the best Legion stories. I hope Johns keeps going with a rotating small cast. It's a good move.

The Bad: Half of this back-up feature is devoted to the past or the future, only four pages actually contain story. DC used to be able to tell complete stories in eight pages. In this first issue we barely get any story at all; instead we get a two page spread of Superman and some of the Legion (not even the entire team!). Not necessarily a great move for a first issue.

The Good: Given that this version of the Legion is the "New Earth" version, there are a lot of unknowns about the history of this team so this is just as much an introduction for a long-time Legion Fan as for a new reader. Johns is trying to make the Legion as new-reader friendly as he can with his introduction widgets. It's a good device but Legion Roll-Call may be the best long-term way to handle the large cast.

The Bad: Editorial is asleep at the wheel again! Two Legionnaires are misidentified in the opening splash page (Night Girl and Shadow Lass). One of the biggest complaints about the Legion is the large cast so this is the sort of thing they need to watch if they want to attract new readers to the stories. Also, the printing of the ID Widgets wasn't great. The text was hard to read in most cases.

The Strange: I'm not sure about the decision to focus this first story arc on the Legion in the 21st century. The Legion in the 21st century has been a controversial decision in the past. Hopefully this will be a limited time thing as opposed to a long term story direction. Part of the fun of the Legion is the vast 31st Century backdrop.

3Back-Up Art - 3: It's a bit unfair to compare the main feature and the back-up art but really, if your lead feature is going to look brilliant, your back-up better be equally brilliant or really different stylistically. Clayton Henry's art is good but not great. Why did Henry decide to draw the 2-page spread of the Legion looking so angry? Was this a recommendation from Johns or a choice? The perspective on the S-Shield seems a little off to me as well given the position of Superman's body. The reference for Tellus may be off as well, as traditionally, Tellus did not have fingers. Manapul's Tellus in the main feature is nearly breathtaking (I saw the original pages in his portfolio at Chicago Comic-Con) so Henry's suffers by comparison. That said, I think Clayton Henry has some real potential and I'm happy that at least it's a good artist on the back-up. I'm reserving a higher score until I see more.

5Cover Art - 5: I actually bought the variant cover because I liked it more on a first look at the comic book store. But now, having read the stories, I think I like the main cover a lot more. It's simplistic - Superboy and his two Dads. But it says everything that needs to be said about what Conner's feeling in the book.

4Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: It's a great cover that evokes the old - i.e., from my youth - comics that regularly featured paneled covers like this. But it feels modern too. The image of Conner flying straight ahead is killer. Ordinarily, Superdog has a yellow collar but I really like the blue collar with yellow studs - he looks more regal, for a canine.

It's a beautiful cover, but its content has more in common with the story from Adventure Comics #0 than it does with what's going on in the two stories in this issue. Brainiac the villain, Lex Luthor dissecting a human being, and Superboy-Prime don't even show up in the comic. Luthor at least is a big part of the story without actually being in the story. But Brainiac and Prime? It's a bit of false advertising.

The menacing eye and deformed skin in the lower right-hand panel is hard to identify for sure, especially with the UPC code covering most of it. It looks to be Bizarro, Match (Superboy's own failed clone Bizarro type creature), or perhaps Simple Simon in the future.

Overall, the cover succeeds in conveying the broad scope of an anthology type series like Adventure Comics - the continuation of the original numbering (issue #504) on the original series adds to that feeling.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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