I wasn’t really sure what to make of Jeff Lemire taking on a superhero property, particularly a character like Superboy, where the character seems more often than not on the verge of being shuffled off into limbo due to pending litigation. My primary exposure to the writer has been through his pretty brilliant Essex County, and later his quirky sci-fi Vertigo title, Sweet Tooth. To see him decide to plant his flag in Smallville was a curious decision to me, to say the least. I wondered if Lemire would be able to transplant that soft touch he has with his characters and the worlds he creates around them to the adventures of Conner Kent and if some of that subtly and mystery employed in his other works would bleed into his latest project.
Well… I’m undecided at this point. I think the problem here is that perhaps I’m expecting a creator to deliver to play the same song every time, when maybe he’s more interested in mixing it up a bit with new arrangements. So here we have Conner Kent contending with Poison Ivy and a Smallville overtaken by plant-life (weirdly, not her fault), and a team-up between young superhero and veteran supervillain to find the cause of the crisis. That part goes about as you expect—Ivy is, after all, a villain, and typically it’s not a question of if she’ll revert to form but when. Conner’s also gained a new friend and non-powered sidekick named Simon, who happens to know the hero’s identity and has a skill at pulling off super-science on the fly. He comes off a bit like Jimmy Olsen meets Braniac.
The most interesting part is what’s happening underneath and behind the story: I suspect Lemire is going in a similar direction of James Robinson with Starman and Gail Simone with The Atom, making the city in which the story takes place as much a feature of the plot as the hero himself. Conner consciously refers to Smallville as “her” while the masterminds behind the wild fauna outbreak seem to have specific plans for the Superman’s hometown. There’s even an interesting feature—I don’t know if this is a contribution by Lemire or an earlier writer—of including “Home of Superboy” on the Smallville welcome sign, explicitly binding the character and the location. I’m intrigued by it enough so to want to revisit the book next month.
Pier Gallo is on art with Jamie Grant on colors. It’s a very vibrant book, for all their work. Gallo’s round, “soft” characters are a good fit for the title. His Conner is looks like a teen or young adult and not a bodybuilder in a t-shirt, a distinction that artists, have on occasion, forgotten. There’s a little bit of stiffness to his rendering of Poison Ivy, though, and she feels a bit overly-referenced and not quite part of the scenes where she’s used. The gripe aside it’s very solid work.