What purpose do we have in this world? Is our humanity determined by where we come from or by what we do?
After about a year since the launch of DC’s New 52 we have the release of the first volume of the Superboy reboot entitled “Incubation”. The summary covering this one is a bit simpler than my previous entries as it follows the newly recreated Superboy through his early life and interactions with the organization that developed him, N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Right away the mystery behind this organization and that of Superboy’s creation is laid out and we begin the slow course towards Superboy becoming not just a hero but a full on working being.
Much of the plot is pretty straight forward being told from the narrative of Superboy with very minor and brief exceptions from time to time. The story given to us is kind of a mixed bag as some elements are pulled off rather well and some simply fall flat. Much of the Superboy narration consists of the same thoughts as it gets reiterated at the beginning of every issue making the overall tone and internal dialogue kind of repetitive. I would say it’s a skippable part of the story when it happens if the few minor elements thrown into each issue didn’t make reading through all of it a necessity.
To further some of the repetitious elements the character relations bounce back and forth frequently which only serves to fuel the narrative into repeating itself again. Character motives are closely guarded which wouldn’t be a downside if it didn’t lead to so many seemingly hypocritical reactions from the majority of the cast. Superboy’s own conflict with who is trustworthy and who isn’t is a welcome inclusion, but is too frequently brought up and conflicted.The constant bouncing back and forth on almost every front makes finding and enjoying the good elements a bit more difficult.
That said there are good aspects to this story. The negative treatment of Superboy by just about every other character helps to build a more complex and somewhat internally conflicted Superboy than in previous incarnations. The lengths gone to distinguish Superboy from Superman, such as different variations of powers and higher vulnerabilities, help to make him stand out from his Kryptonian donor and are a welcome addition. In that same vein the lengths gone towards establishing a stronger personality and ethical link to his human donor(spoilers it’s Lex Luthor) make for a more intriguing take on Superboy’s morality. This makes Superboy the more morally gray member of the Superman family and this fact is built towards in a logical way and only serves to help distinguish the character more.
I will say that the more human, sometimes sympathetic, elements tossed into the antagonistic characters helped to create attachments to them. Unfortunately, in the case of a few of them this was quickly dropped and forgotten or outright twisted and complicated, as seen with Dr. Fairchild. Some of these aspects seemed to be dropped before their major reveal or impact could be made which was overly disappointing. The relationships within this book were a key thing to get right and ultimately fell flat.
The only other real upside to note is the included mystery behind the Culling and the other Meta-Humans kept in N.O.W.H.E.R.E.’s care. I am legitimately curious to see where this story point takes the book and hopeful that it will reinvigorate the series as a whole. That said this does unfortunately bring me to another problem with this book as a whole. While the plot is simple enough the later issues become harder to follow without prior knowledge of the events of two other complete books(those being Teen Titans and Supergirl). This is a very jarring shift in what should be an introductory story and excludes quite important chunks of story for the sake of the crossover. It effectively alienates the reader from about half of the book and gives a rather unsatisfactory ending to the volume.
Like the story the art is a bit of a mixed bag, but I can be a bit kinder here. For the most part the art within the book is quite gorgeously drawn and the covers in particular are great. In fact I found myself initially wishing that the cover artist would do the entire book but as I became more accustomed to the art of the story that feeling faded. It is definitely art that develops as you go and is a bit rough and disproportionate at the beginning of the book. This is likely due to the artist becoming more accustomed to drawing Superboy, but once you get past this the designs become far more consistent.
It’s weird for me to mention the color, but it is good enough to garner a mention here. It’s a very vibrant looking book and like the drawing it only becomes better as the book progresses. Much of the coloring goes towards making Superboy standout among the action and is quite successful at doing so. Maybe the only downside here is that the color red is used an obscene amount of times. The settings show a lack of differentiation because of this which doesn’t help the already repetitive nature of the story.
“Superboy: Incubation: was released by DC Comics a little under two weeks ago on August 1st. The writing and drawing staff consists of Scott Lobdell on story and R.B. Silvia on illustration with Rob Lean doing covers. The rarity of this book is, as you can imagine, rather common and prices at a reasonable amount for the issues it collects(Issues 1-7). While this is a jumping on point for the Superboy series the later two or three issues consist of characters and plot derived from different series and may cause some confusion toward non-readers of those series.
“Superboy: Incubation” has parts that are legitimately interesting and are different takes on the character as a whole. That said it is a book with quite a few noticeable flaws and while they aren’t as damning as I may make them sound they are distracting. While later volumes have all of the potential to turn around and legitimize the faults in this book as a stand alone volume it’s unfortunately a pass. I can recommend it to Superboy fans, but for people looking to get into a series it’s not really worth trying, at least not on it’s own.
Retail Price: $14.99
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: R.B. Silvia
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Superhero, Science Fiction
Original Release: August 1st, 2012