“He Primed Me”
I never thought Superboy-Prime was funny.
I get that he’s supposed to be a parody of whiny, immature comics fans who always complain about how creators “screw up” their favorite characters. And he’s clearly written to be a selfish, stupid child with more power than good sense. But that’s part of what makes him such a dangerous villain.
When he came back in the pages of Infinite Crisis he killed several heroes with his bare hands. In Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds he freed every super-villain in the future and lead them on a rampage that killed hundreds of people. And in Countdown to Final Crisis he destroyed an entire alternate Earth, killing every living thing on the planet. Every person, every animal, every trace that the humanity ever existed was exterminated at his hands. Then he did it to another Earth.
I can’t laugh at someone like that.
Superboy-Prime is a child with god-like power. If that doesn’t scare you, you don’t know children.
So when I picked up Adventure Comics #4 with my free Rainbow Lantern ring, I was surprised to see Superboy-Prime not only return, but in a story that treated him as both a joke and a threat. The meta-commentary was enough to bring me back for this issue. It got even better. Prime and the Black Lanterns go on a rampage through the DC offices--a tribute to the many attacks the fictional Marvel offices have suffered over the years. Prime then has a moment of self-awareness and realizes what he’s become. But he still blames other people for his crimes. He hates what he’s become and can’t take responsibility for his actions. He’s truly a monster in the making. And like every monster story, the ending gives us hope then snatches it away.
I want to see more stories about Superboy-Prime. His transformation into a deadlier villain could be a chillingly compelling story. And after this issue, his existence on his Earth is revealed. Not only will these people have to deal with a dangerously insane super-being, but also the fact that some of their fiction is reality. Either one is enough to drive a person insane. How can will they cope with both?
The backup story is one of the best Superboy stories I’ve ever read. Conner Kent tries talking to young Lori about getting help for her mom instead of getting revenge. Conner doesn’t just take Lori to the police. He tries to help her change the way she thinks about Smallville and herself. This short story reveals a lot about the two characters. The revelation of her uncle’s identity at the end is a shock, yet it makes sense when you realize he’d have done the same thing Lori did.
It’s the kind of thing I don’t see much from Geoff Johns. He’s gained a bad reputation for the violence in his stories, so I often wondered why he kept getting such high profile work. This comic shows us why. Johns can write moving stories with complex, nuanced characters that speak like real people. The artwork emphasizes the emotions of both stories. Ordway’s and Wiacek’s art grounds Superboy-Prime in a world that could be as real as our own. Manapul’s penciling and coloring give the Superboy story a soft touch making it feel more intimate. I’m tempted to keep buying more issues of Adventure Comics based on this story alone.
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