Monday, May 13, 2013

Superboy #20

(w) Justin Jordan     (a) RB Silva, Rob Lean, Kenneth Rocafort, and ChrisCross

There exists, in the comic book industry today, a debate over systematic ageism. Jerry Ordway’s now infamous rant detailing his experience of being a comic book writer after his prime has become a sort-of galvanizing point to those who believe middle-aged and older writers are being pushed to the side to make way for younger talent. Ordway waxed poetic about ideas he’s yet to see happen, that he still has a lot to offer story-wise, and that he isn’t ready to be pigeonholed as a commission artist at conventions. On the intimate level Ordway is trying to reach his fans upon, his talking points sound fair and legitimate. Why take a risk on inexperienced, young writers when there’s a gamut of veterans waiting for a call from the Big Two?

What Ordway seems to forget is that it was his generation of ‘Young Turks’ who blew onto the scene in the mid-80s and ‘stole’ work opportunities from creators who carried DC and Marvel through the Silver Age of comic books. The reasoning behind this was simple: comic books were changing, readers were changing, and the industry was changing. Established writers from the 60s and 70s were having a hard time keeping up with the demands of the then-current pop culture zeitgeist, which prompted companies to find writers that understood how to connect to current readers.

It's no different today, yet DC has fallen behind in this way while Marvel has been stacking their talent pool with a diverse group of younger writers whose voices have raised up the company's marketshare and earned critical accolades. DC still has Bob Harras, who likes to hire his friends who all happen to be middle-aged, worked at Marvel in the mid-90s under Harras, and who now produce only echoes of their most popular work.


Scott Lobdell spent 20 issues of Superboy trying to make the character's concept new and exciting, and only succeeding in driving the Boy of Steel into the ground. Nothing was the same, and that was a problem. This new Superboy shares no similarities to the pre-relaunch one other than his Kryptonian DNA harvested from Superman, and the title of 'Superboy'. Quite frankly, it was maddening, and if you look back at old entries I've written on issues of Superboy, you'll find a consisten pattern of frustration and anger.

Justin Jordan takes over with Superboy #20, and even though he's inherited yet another ridiculously convoluted Scott Lobdell excuse-for-a-plot, this is the best issue of the series to date, hands down. And it's because Jordan moves away from what made Lobdell's runs o frustrating: valuing action and lore over character and organic plot flow. Even though he's appeared in two issues prior to this, I really had no concept of who Dr. Psycho was until this month. Perhaps it was designed that way, but history shows that Lobdell tended to forget what he started or tried to mask the fact that he didn't have an ending by awkwardly segueing into some new story.

Superboy #20 is great because it feels natural. I wasn't a fan of Jordan's work on Team 7, but that was less about his style and more about the series' base premise being somewhat underwhelming. Here, Jordan finds a voice for Kon-El that makes him come across as a real person and not just a prop in an ongoing narrative that feigns a greater purpose, yet never delivers. A line like "Now I'm pissed. I don't have enough clothes to waste them like this." is so much better than a character thinking this sentiment within the ever-constraining thought balloon.

Scott Lobdell often fails at writing good comic books because he's trying to hard to make everything accessible/easy to read/pick-upable. It attempting to cater to everyone, he caters to no one because how he writers is condescending to readers. Justin Jordan's style is a breath of fresh air and a welcome change for Superboy, who still has one of the foggiest and least-memorable origins of any 'New 52' character. Now, I actually want to read Superboy.


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