Adventure Comics #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Francis Manapul and Clayton Henry
Colors by Brian Buccellato and Brian Reber
Lettering by Steve Wands and Sal Cipriano
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
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It's back to school with Superboy, as Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul establish an easy-going but beautifully rendered portrait of the Teen of Steel in Adventure Comics #1.
In a lot of ways, death and resurrection has done a lot to mellow out the somewhat high-strung Conner Kent, as he tells himself: "I can't believe I ever hated Smallville." In that sense, it's a really interesting decision by Geoff Johns, who has shepherded the character through the best of times and the worst of times, to make him a more subtle, complex hero -- not too dissimilar from the mellower Superman himself.
The story doesn't feel particularly long, as it's all about characterization, painting a picture of the world Superboy lives in, now that he's come back from the dead. Highlights include a cameo by the also recently returned Kid Flash, who urges Conner to destroy his memorial statue in fun and creative ways: "Use heat vision! No! Freeze it! Freeze it then shatter it! That's gonna look so cool in slow-mo!" But all in all, this issue takes a second to compare and contrast Superboy from his heroic predecessor. The question of identity -- of whether or not evil is a choice, or is destiny -- is something Johns has explored within Superboy for years now, and I'm curious to see how he will differentiate the answer from what he did in Teen Titans.
The real star of the book, however, is Francis Manapul. I've heard that the theme of the art style was "Americana," and there are really a lot of nice nods to Norman Rockwell for these wonderful pages. Conner comes off as a really thoughtful character, with just subtle uses of emotion that really give readers a mystery. His colorist, Brian Buccellato, is really the unsung hero of this entire issue -- he really uses the beautiful sunset effectively: since Superboy is wearing a dark costume, only by putting him in bright backgrounds can he truly pop.
The backup is a little bit tougher to get into, only because it requires a little bit more knowledge of recent Legion history. Starman is the hero of this book, and while his superpowered antics are fairly amusing, the nature of his brain disease transitioning from debilitating to more-or-less lethal feels somewhat contrived. Still, when you have artwork by Clayton Henry -- a guy who not only knows composition but emotion -- as well as lines such as "long live bowling," it's not a bad desert.
If you're expecting high-stakes action, this isn't going to be a comic for you -- after all the action Superboy has been through, from the Insiders to Infinite Crisis to Legion of Three Worlds, Geoff Johns is overdue for a breather on this character. Instead, Adventure Comics #1 really is a character piece that has a lot of potential -- especially with the jaw-dropping art -- to be something great.