REVIEW: Superboy, Vol. 1: Incubation
Bland and misleading cover aside, Superboy: Incubation is a surprisingly strong entry into the DC New 52. Writer Scott Lobdell has stated in interviews that he intends Superboy and Teen Titans to serve as companion books. Those disappointed with his handling of the Titans should give Superboy a chance.
This is a slow burn origin story that relies on strong characters more so than mindless action to move the narrative forward. Superboy, a hybrid clone of both Kryptonian and human DNA, is the property of N.O.W.H.E.R.E.—an organization that keeps tabs on young metahumans. Intended to be a living weapon, Superboy has a benefactor in his doctor, Red. Initially, Superboy is content to be the organization’s enforcer. He has been promised by the powers that be that he will gain his freedom in exchange for his compliance. Nevertheless, after serendipitously saving people from a supervillain attack, he starts to question his purpose. These feelings are only heightened when he takes down the Teen Titans. On top of all this, he has an encounter with Supergirl, who insists that all Kryptonian clones are destined to become murderers. Incubation, more than anything, is the story of Superboy searching for his purpose in the world.
Lobdell’s handling of Superboy’s inner conflict is compelling. The supporting characters are handled equally well. Red, in dramatic, fan-boy pleasing fashion, is revealed to be Gen 13’s Caitlin Fairchild. Another strong character is Rose Wilson (Ravager), who serves as Superboy’s babysitter. The character’s ambiguity that made her so popular in the past is still in place. If the story lacks for anything, it’s a compelling villain. N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is a bit too ill-defined and amorphous to serve as the primary antagonist.
This is my first experience with R.B. Silva’s art—and it’s fantastic. Clean, detailed, and rounded, his pencils should appeal to just about everyone. More importantly, they strengthen Lobdell’s storytelling. The action scenes, especially Superboy’s scrape with Supergirl, are well handled and absorbing.
I skipped Superboy when the New 52 launched. In retrospect I realize that it’s stronger than many of the titles I stuck with for several issues. I’m looking forward to seeing what Lobdell and Silva are going to do with the character.
My score: 4/5
Superboy: Scott Lobdell, R.B. Silva, Rob Lean
I would like to take a moment to tip my hat to writer Scott Lobdell. He’s done some amazing things for the comics industry. He’s famous for his work with Marvel, particularly on the X-Men, he was partially responsible for the creation of the monstrous villain Onslaught, so on and so forth. He’s a genius writer, and has a knack for teenaged heroes that are set apart from “normal” society. Of course he’s going to be writing Superboy, the clone teen of Superman! Not to mention other teenage superhero titles, but those will come later. So let’s start, again, with Lobdell’s genius. He’s done something with Superboy that we haven’t seen before, really. I mean, we’ve seen something similar in Cartoon Network’s “Young Justice” TV show…and so I’m trying to overlook the similarities and trust in Lobdell. What I’m saying is Superboy here is very technical. His thinking is very scientific and observational. It feels right because of two things: first, because he’s a creation of science and you almost expect him to be that way, and two, Superboy himself states he’s been studying the science team surrounding him and working on him constantly…so that’s how he’s learned what he knows so far. Did you just get chills? Yeah, it’s even better in the book. A couple of things bother me. I understand that this is a relaunch…and certain characters are getting the reboot process. So, is this Superboy going to become the same Conner that we all know and love? Time will tell. For now, though, he appears to be a tool for N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to use. The second thing that bothered me was portions of the art. Generally, the art is very good, and fitting for the book’s personality. But what stood out were a couple of scenes where Conner is shown in his tube, and then immediately after breaking out. His body is proportioned weird in the first shot of him facing backwards, and then when he breaks out and stands there, he looks fine and is all buff like Conner usually is…but in later pages where he’s more - ahem - clothed, he’s scrawnier. Skinnier. Less muscular. I like his look…because he looks more like a normal teen and not a hulked out linebacker (like he has in previous iterations). But his shape seems to fluctuate a bit…from buffer to skinny. So I don’t know. I do like his “Tron” outfit, though. Here’s my question: why would a secret organization, cloning Superman, put the Superman “S” on Superboy’s outfit so it’s so easily recognizable? Wouldn’t that prompt someone like Tim Drake to use his contacts to TELL Superman that someone’s beating up his friends while wearing the Superman symbol? Maybe that’s part of the plot, who knows?
Superboy, the verdict: I’m very excited about this book. I like the idea of Superboy being used against the Teen Titans (not like that’s never been done before). I do enjoy seeing how the other abilities of the Titans line up against a miniature Superman. And hopefully he keeps his tactile telekinesis. Lobdell is a very talented writer, and he’s doing the Teen Titans book as well. So he is full control of BOTH of these books and how they intertwine. I’ll be picking up the rest of this series for sure.
The progression of my Weather Wizard commission by R.B. Silva
This R.B. Silva about to start my commission. And, begin!
Wow, already on to dark pencils! I missed the blue pencil sketching part.
Wait, you’re on inks now? Did I blink or something?
Thank you so much Mr. Silva! This is my new favorite con experience.
People, I can’t recommend enough stopping by his table if he happens to be at the next convention you attend. He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.