Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Superboy #16


Tom DeFalco • Writer
Ron Frenz • Thumbnails
Iban Coello and Amilcar Pinna • Pencilers
Rob Lean and Amilcar Pinna • Inkers
Richard and Tanya Horie • Colorists
Travis Lanham • Letterer
Chris Conroy • Editor

So many people involved in this comic book — what a mess (did we really need a separate person to do the thumbnails?). I imagine this is indicative of the mess Superboy was in at this time. The title was pretty much at the mercy of crossover events that originated in other titles like Teen Titans, Ravagers, Legion, and now Superman. Superboy had a habit of changing a lot after its solicits and generally had trouble establishing its own stories. Of course, I've learned most of this second-hand, as I haven't read very many Superboy issues.

The cover is by R.B. Silva with Rob Lean and Java Tartaglia. It's OK. I just get a little tired of the Bat-worship. I know Batman sells books, but he wasn't the only hero teaming up with Superboy here. This cover implies Batman and Superboy will team up and have their own unique adventure inside, but that doesn't really happen. It could have, but it didn't.

The story begins with Superboy, Wonder Woman and Batman fighting their way past a horde of Kryptonian worker-drones to get to the Fortress of Solitude. H'el has erected a force-field around the Fortress, so Superboy tries to use his tactile telekinesis to tear it down. We then get a quick flashback of one hour ago.

After meeting up with the Justice League at Lex Luthor's prison, Superman decided to take them to Dr. Veritas' lab, which is close to the center of the Earth. Superman hopes this remote location will prevent H'el from spying on them while they formulate a plan. Superman says he has a shard of Kryptonite in the Fortress that might be able to bring H'el down.

Within the Fortress, H'el and Supergirl begin converting his spaceship into a Star Chamber to take them back to Krypton. H'el furthers his manipulation of Supergirl by using his psychic powers to show her images of Krypton just before and during its destruction.

Outside, Superboy is able to dismantle the force-field, and Flash starts to vibrate through the Fortress' wall to find Supergirl. Flash soon finds out, however, that this wall is extremely difficult to vibrate through. While it appears solid, it's actually a composite of millions of crystal-like objects and Flash has to carefully align his vibratory frequency with every single crystal, making thousands of adjustments with each step.

Meanwhile, Superman and Cyborg arrive inside the Fortress via boom tube, but H'el manipulated their teleportation and put them right in front of the deadliest threats in the Fortress — killer-droids from Epsilon-18.

Wonder Woman kicks in the front door and stays behind to fend off the worker-drones while Batman and Superboy race toward the trophy room. However, they soon find that H'el has already taken the Kryptonite. They then run into Superman and Cyborg, who are evading a machine that teleports people into a never-ending series of pocket dimensions. Superman pushes Superboy out of the way of one of the beams, and he gets teleported away. Superboy then purposefully gets teleported himself to try to save Superman.

In the Himalayas, at a temporary research facility with an unknown purpose and unknown operators, a couple of scientists stumble across a big red alien that says, "After months of silence ... the Oracle heeds my summons — and a world dies!"

The Good:

Assault on the Fortress. There was a lot of fun stuff going on here: tons of different robots and natural defenses of the Fortress, combined with the manipulations of H'el. It was a smart idea to split up the team so we could see as much of the Fortress as possible, along with different ways to enter it. They also did a good job of explaining why none of those entry ways were easily accessible. I also liked seeing H'el play with the emotional sensibilities of the teenage Supergirl. It makes him really creepy and shows just how evil he is.

The Bad:

Action/art disconnect. While the story itself was exciting and intriguing, the art didn't get the job done. Of course, a big part of that has to do with the story itself. For example, Flash having difficulty vibrating through an alien wall is an interesting idea, but it looked dreadfully boring on the page. An extremely talented artist would find a way to give us a closeup of the microscopic crystals messing up the Flash' vibrations, but none of the artists on this issue could attempt that. Another big problem with this issue boils down to the root of Superboy himself. He is a psychically-based superhero, which means the majority of his big moments involve him concentrating really hard and occasionally bleeding from his nose. It's interesting to think about him summoning all his will to take down a force-field, but it sure is boring to look at. If this issue didn't have all the robots, it would have been a pretty bad comic book. Instead, it pulled out to be just average.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: Supergirl #16

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