The biggest problem with Superboy #1 is that it really isn’t about Superboy – it’s about the organization that created him and the people who want to exploit him.
Meet NOWHERE – a mysterious group of scientists (my, but there seem to be a lot more of those in this New DCU) who have created a clone using a mix of Superman DNA and an anonymous human donor. Most of the issue is told from the perspective of this so-called Superboy, who absorbs knowledge easily and remembers things without knowing how he learned them. He starts out in a tank, unresponsive to outside stimuli until the scientists try to kill him at which point he is moved into a VR simulation of small-town Kansas based on the memories of his “parents”. Despite showing a complete lack of empathy, the Powers That Be are anxious to put Superboy to work at some sinister yet undefined purpose. Meanwhile, a mole inside NOWHERE feeds information to reporter Lois Lane about the sinister goings on.
This script by Scott Lobdell reads more like a #0 Issue for his upcoming Teen Titans book than a Superboy comic, with everything leading up to a final splash-page depicting him standing alongside other teen superheroes. There is more focus upon Superboy’s doctor – a skinny redhead prodigy with glasses (figure that one out, comic fans!) and a security guard named Rose Wilson (no prize for guessing who she is) than there is on Superboy himself. This is not surprising given that, at present, Superboy is a cipher with the emotional maturity of a toddler, who can’t begin to understand the emotions his teenage body and implanted memories inspire. While the idea of telling part of the story from this perspective is an inspired idea, I’m afraid Lobdell can’t quite pull it off. Using the redhead Doctor who seems to have developed an attachment to Superboy as a focal point throughout might have been more effective, particularly if she is who I think she is… or will be.
Thankfully, the art by R.B. Silva and Rob Lean is all-around excellent. My one complaint is that some scenes seem posed and lifeless, with little organic flow to them. Still, all of the characters are distinctly designed and the line-work is particularly noteworthy: the inks aren’t too thick, yet the foreground figures are quite clearly separated from the background without any mess.
In the end, your tolerance for Superboy may come down to how big of a fan you are of Teen Titans or Scott Lobdell’s writing. The story here isn’t bad but there has to have been an easier way to streamline Superboy’s origins, staying true to what came before while utilizing the interpretation of the character from the Young Justice cartoon. Perhaps there will be a pay-off in the upcoming Teen Titans #1 that will make this worthwhile in the end. We can only hope.