the secret origins of superboy but without superboy?
After a long slumber I return with wit and banter and all those other things that the cool popular peoples have… ok that last part (from the word “wit” to “have”) was a lie. But I have indeed returned to cast upon you my thoughts on Scott Lobdells’ last issue (so far) of Superboy with issue #19.
The plot overview is simple: who is harvest, what’s his objective and how does he plan on achieving it + the secret behind Superboys DNA. Now as a singular issue and a self-contained story this issue works well. Harvest comes off as a villain, yes, but a sympathetic one. At the beginning he doesn’t enjoy what he ‘has’ to do, yet he does it anyway for the sake of his family, and ‘family’ is the big part of his story. He quite literally tears the time space continuum apart and turns himself into a monster so that his son(s) may live (sacrificing for your children seems to be a theme this week with DC ala Batman and Robin #19 and Batgirl #19) and in doing so we also learn the identity of the second genetic donor of Superboy (but during H’el on Earth it was revealed that Superboys genetic makeup was comprised of 3 sets of genetics, Kal-El, the person identified here and a third party to whom we all most likely know).
Now as a single issue, without bringing in the rest of the New DC universe this story is good, YET when the rest of the universe is brought in the problems do arise (from this point things do get confusing, so if your new to the series/comics in general just skip to the conclusion at the bottom). The issue starts off in the late 30th century, which unfortunately for any writer in the DC universe isn’t the writers playground where anything you want can happen due to the “legion of super-heroes” being set around that period (their 3013, so early 31st century, yet it does cause problems). Lobdell writes that Harvest was part of the war against the “metas” who decided to rise up and take the earth for themselves. The problem with this is that, and I don’t mean to be harsh but “this is not the Marvel universe where everyone hates mutants for no properly explained reason”. Lobdell has written X-men, and he’s known for writing them, and though metas may be the DC equivalent of mutants the DC universe doesn’t treat them the same (in fact they’ve treated them much better with no persecution as the average Joe of the dc universe isn’t the ‘normal’ citizen of x-men books). Here though, metas are painted as the scourge of the human race who must be eliminated which just doesn’t fit any M.O. of the DC universe, especially the DC universe of the Legion of Super-heroes where aliens from across the galaxy with their own natural powers (titans are naturally telepathic, Coluans naturally super-intelligent, people from Braal are naturally magnetic) live on earth as peaceful citizens of the united planets. Now with this said the explanation could be as simple as “this is how Harvest views himself in his time line” while the truth may be that none of these events on the 30th century occurred as he says (an unreliable narrator?). No war with meta-humans has EVER been mentioned in any Legion book (and take into consideration that the current Legion of super-heroes title DIDN’T reboot with the new-52, but continued maintaining its previous continuity) and in fact it’s stressed that earth has been at peace within the U.P for 327 years according to the “Legion secret origins” mini-series (which is a reintroduction to the legion origin within the new-52).
Other issues also include the time travel problems (though I’ll only focus on one of them so as not to bore you all even more). Harvest claims to have travelled back in time from the late 30th century, yet (and this once again is in opposition to what has been said in the legion secret origins) the secrets of time travel weren’t unlocked until the early 31st century with Braniac 5’s arrival on Earth (this also causes the continuity problem of “how did Harvest know about the legions existence during the culling storyline” as the legion formed during the 31st century NOT the 30th). And the final continuity issue is the true identity of Harvest: During the final story arch of “Legion Lost” it’s heavily hinted that the character “Captain Adym” was actually Harvest, with Harvest allowing the Captain to use his time bubble to travel to the past so that he could build an army to deal with their current problem. After Adym travels back into the past Harvest muses about how things get interesting this point forward as he now has no idea how things will develop anymore, heavily suggesting that he is in fact the future Adym. Yet here, though his name is not given, he’s shown to be a Colonel (not a captain) with black hair (not yellow), in other words not Adym (leaving even more plot threads loose).
I would also like to point out that Harvest claims that his intention of travelling back to the past is to “eliminate the first generation of metas” starting with Superman “the first Meta”. The problem with that plan is that Superman isn’t a Meta. He’s a Kryptonian whose powers are natural due to the power of earth yellow sun. Metas are humans who genetically develop powers. So in short Harvest might plan in wiping out the metas is to get rid of the first meta-human Superman who is neither “meta” nor “human”… GREAT PLAN HARVEST! I foresee no complications arising with this at all.
All in all I can’t help but see the continuity issues (and this isn’t any pre-52 continuity issues which we’ve all been whining about, but issues involving the established New-52 continuity) when reading this issue, and as such it ruins my enjoyment of it, which considering the nice father-hood elements was really sad. The character of Harvest is one that I do not like, I must be honest. His plans have had so many flaws from a readers perspective that even my suspension of disbelief couldn’t make up for it (bunch of super-kids go missing and neither the Justice League, Stormwatch or the DOA notice but a 16 year old former sidekick of batman does?) and this origin story just seems out of place (feels more like the issue 0 than anything else) and too far down the line to be relevant IMHO. I can see what Lobdell is trying to do with his swan song for this issue, and I can respect that, but it just doesn’t work. This run of superboy has not been great, with the title (from the get-go) being pulled into various crossovers which have left the character undeveloped and this issue, which focusses on Harvest and not superboy, is a perfect example of this. The interior art by Silva and Neves is nice, with some lovely colouring from Richard & Tanya Horie to compliment it.
In conclusion (really this time) I give Superboy #19 a 3/5. The story is good on its own merits and when taken out of continuity its a good read, but alas it is the continuity which causes my issues with the title here, not to mention the lack of focus on the titles main character the boy of steel (who was still fighting plasmus as of the last issue). If you've been following this series for a while you may want to pick up this issue as it's Lobdells final outing with the boy of steel (in his own title). If you are a new reader, or just new to superboy I would give this issue a miss (and not becasue of those complicated continuity issues which i listed out above) as this issue doesn't focus on our boy of steel at all, but rather the origins of one of his enemies, in which case i would suggest possibly picking up the next issue (#20) where a new creative team shall take the reigns of the book.