There's a reason why this month's Superboy #31 felt like a new, #1 issue — not only is there a brand new Superboy in the DCU, but new writer Aaron Kuder is treating his run like the start of something exciting — even though the title's concluding in August.
Kuder and artist Jorge Jimenez Moreno started their run with April's #30, and reviewers immediately noticed a shift in tone.
Jon Lane Kent, the brand new Superboy who is allegedly the son of Superman and Lois Lane from an alternate Earth, came across like a super-jerk in previous issues because he'd been brainwashed to kill metahumans in the future. After trying to kill and replace Kon, the previous Superboy, Jon traveled back to the current-day New 52 Earth, ready to slaughter more superpowered heroes.
But under Kuder's pen, Jon Lane Kent's jerkiness has subsided tremendously. By removing Jon from his evil mentor and placing him in the care of S.T.A.R. Labs, Kuder has surrounded Jon with upbeat teen heroes and a group of characters that know he's not Kon, but genuinely care about him anyway.
The result is a change that's surprised readers and impressed reviewers. Although Kuder was already wowing fans with his art on Superman over in Action Comics, and debuted as a writer in last year's Parasite special, his work so far on Superboy has been establishing his potential as a writer as he's turned the tables on Jon Lane Kent — and readers who were determined to dislike him.
And even fans of the old Superboy, should be pleased by Kuder's story so far — there have been multiple hints about Kon not being dead after all, and Jon seems determined to find him.
Is the return of Kon in the cards before the series ends?
Newsarama talked to Kuder to find out more about what's coming in Superboy in the next few months, and why he chose to make such a big change to Jon's surroundings and supporting cast.
Newsarama: Aaron, this week's Superboy issue (#31) revealed that the image Jon is seeing of "the other Superboy" is "real," and that Kon is apparently "calling" to him. Am I reading that right — that you're confirming Kon still exists somehow???
Aaron Kuder: So if you're asking if we can trust the mind of a known psychopath that has been thrown back and forth through time, someone who has been brainwashed since childhood and is now seeing/hearing voices, no I cannot confirm or deny.
Nrama: We just found out that Superboy is ending with issue #34. Did you have that in mind as you wrote this final story that's beginning now???
Kuder: This story, this journey, has been crafted for that end.
Nrama: OK, then let's talk about Superboy #31, because to me, it almost feels like a #1 issue, as if Jon Lane Kent is getting a fresh start. Was that your goal with the issue?
?Kuder: I absolutely approached this as a first issue. There has been so much complexity to the history of this character that I felt the need to step back and reintroduce him. Plus, this is my first run as a writer on a series, so it’s a bit of a new beginning for both Jon and I.
Nrama: You've also lightened up the title quite a bit, bringing in some humor through the guards and characters who surround Superboy at S.T.A.R. Labs. Did you feel like the title, with such a heavy, burdened character at its center with Jon Lane Kent, needed some levity to balance it?
Kuder: I think any story of any genre needs a bit of humor, a bit of horror, a bit romance — it’s through the combination of those things that you can really bring a character to life. So, yeah.
Nrama: OK, since you brought up the fresh start you're giving readers with this month's issue, it's also interesting that you removed Jon from Harvest's influence, at least for a few issues. Was that important, as you took over the boy's story? And can you speak to where his mind is now, as he's encountering this new world — the past, where metahumans are good?
?Kuder: As we can see from the events that take place in Teen Titans Annual #3, Harvest had his own stuff going on. I wanted to have a story not influenced by Harvest, and the best way to do that was to show Jon abandoned by him and not ever knowing how or why.
Which lets us, for the first time, develop Jon as his own character without being manipulated by the man that brainwashed him his whole life.
Nrama: These young characters who've been helping Superboy at S..T.A.R. Labs — are they going to be the supporting cast for Jon during your run? Guardian, Dr. Harold Grey, Niti, Peter, Aya… They're so friendly! Is that for real? I mean, I hate to be mistrustful of kind people, but...
Kuder: [Laughs] Um, yeah dude! People are nice. Not everybody has to be grumpy.
Nrama: OK, OK… but with the Guardian in particular, you've really highlighted his enthusiasm and kindness by showing that Jon has specifically noticed his heroism. Guardian almost serves as an antithesis for Superboy and his cynicism. Was that your intent? To confront Jon with someone who contrasted with himself so obviously, yet was a truly nice guy and lovable character?
?Kuder: Yes, [laughs] It’s been my experience that it’s hard to stay in a bad mood when the people around you are generally optimistic and hopeful.
Plus, this is something Jon has never seen before. He’s been around heroes and forthright individuals, but never someone that simply exuded a good nature.
I wanted to play around with those character dynamics.
Nrama: You also teased a "benefactor" in May's issue — someone who's pulling the strings at S..T.A.R. Labs for what's being done with Superboy. Have we gotten clues about who that is? And is this something you're hoping to reveal later in the series? And can you tease the identity of the benefactor at all, or his/her importance?
Kuder: That scene alludes to something farther down the road. A bit of foreshadowing. That’s all I should say for now.
Nrama: It was great to see you writing Parasite again, and Jon's fight with him highlighted his powers. Can you describe what we saw, as far as the "drain" and its "evening out" of their powers?
Kuder: Well, as we know, Parasite is a human leach, draining life and powers out of everyone he touches. In the recent past, Jon develops similar powers in which he can absorb the energy of Metas. I didn’t want to have either of them drain completely, otherwise that would have been a very short battle.
Nrama: Good point. But there's also some confusion about Jon's birth. Can you clarify whether Jon is the birth child of Lois and Clark (from an alternate Earth), or is he a clone???
Kuder: Hmmmmm... I will say it doesn’t really matter for this story arc. The Jon we are dealing with is his own person. That question never crossed my mind. If we actually had clones in society, would they be less of a person? I don’t think so. Unless, of course, they team up with A.I. robots and overthrow humanity. Then they are nothing but dirty rotten pho-humans.
Nrama: OK, next month, the solicitation says that Jon's going to N.O.W.H.E.R.E., where he'll meet some Ravagers. Can you tease the characters we'll see, and what Jon's reaction is going to be, since I assume these are metahumans and Jon has always hated those so much?
Kuder: I will always have a warm spot in my heart for Ravengers, since they showed up in the first issue that I worked on for DC. As far as teasers go, I will say there are two obscure characters and one well-known character. As far as Jon’s reaction? We just have to wait. I'm sure Jon doesn’t even know yet.
Nrama: What's it been like working with Jorge Jimenez Moreno? What does he bring to the comic?
Kuder: Jorge is great! Jorge brings so much energy to the book. He’s been very patient with me, while I figure out how to write for someone other than myself. Plus, with each issue he seems to just be getting better and better. I'm incredibly lucky to have him on board.
Nrama: OK, then to finish up, what can you tell us about the next few issues of Superboy before the series ends?
Kuder: Jon will be unhindered by his illness and therefore at an emotional cross roads. He’s finally powered up, but he’s also found happiness (to a degree). Does he continue with his quest to rid the world of Metahumans or does he seek out some other inner truth?