Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Very Special Issue of Superboy

This isn't a comics blog, mainly because there are a thousand of those on the web, if not more, and most of those people are better at reviewing, poking fun at, or giving serious thought to comic books than I am. Since I read comics, though, and I like to talk about myself, they're bound to come up from time to time, especially when I'm walking through the comic store and see something like this on the top of the 50 cent bin:

Superboy #189 (1)

What the hell? This is the cover of a code-approved comic written for children? And what's actually going on in the story? Why is Jonathan Kent dead? Why do the Kents have holes in their walls with slats visible? Did he hang himself? Was it because he tried to watch "Smallville: The Complete Seventh Season" in one sitting, and/or while sober? And why did the editor think it was a great idea to juxtapose the hanging body imagery with the headline for the delightful "Adventures of Super-Baby" backup feature?

I had to know, so I pulled Superboy #189 out of the 50 cent bin and carried it to the register with my other purchases. I could have flipped through it right there, I guess, but it's a store, not a library, and Mike, the owner, has to eat, too. When I walked up with it on top of my pile, he smirked.

"I knew if I put that on top of the bin someone would buy it."

"I just want to know what's going on. I mean, look at it! I have like a billion questions!"

"And for only fifty cents, you can have answers!"

Fifty cents won't even buy me a candy bar, but it can buy me the strangled corpse of Jonathan Kent. When I got home, I still had questions, so I set about finding answers.

Our story opens, as so many stories do, with Superboy showing his parents a gift from friendly aliens. It's the kind of present that fits in every home and decor: a metal bust of Superboy with glowing red eyes that shoots telepathic beams of unknown radiation into nearby people.

Superboy #189 (2)

I wonder if Superboy #190 is the equally special issue where his mom's brain explodes.

Anyway, like all people with telepathic metal busts of themselves, Superboy immediately uses it to remind his mom to get some dinner on the table, because the whole Women's Lib movement hasn't caught on yet. While we're looking at that picture, I'm also kind of confused by his mother's updo. Where's all that hair going? It's not pulled into a bun or a twist or a knot or anything. It just seems to be "up". Maybe it's just standing on end from too many doses of telepathic alien rays.

Before Superboy can use the telepathic metal bust of himself to order his dad to give him the car keys and some money for a pack of smokes, there's a knocking at the door, and when Jonathan Kent answers a magic noose flies out of nowhere, wraps around his neck, and tries to strangle him before Superboy saves him. In most houses, a disembodied flying rope trying to strangle the patriarch would be kind of a problem, but Jonathan calmly explains that it's just the Kent Family Strangling Curse:

Superboy #189 (3)

That last guy, if you didn't click the picture to check, was strangled BY HAIR. That's a pretty determined, pissed off ghost they're dealing with, and Superboy responds in the best possible way: by flying off to another, more important emergency. Twice. Rather than staying home to guard his dad, who is promptly half strangled by a tree branch, a garden hose, and a piece of industrial cable from a giant spool that just happens to be laying around the neighborhood. Smallville is a booming center of industry, you know, what with the general store and the bank and all.

Superboy makes it back to save his father each time, to the point that you kind of wonder if maybe he's letting his dad get choked a little on purpose. I mean, that roast beef dinner he wanted still isn't on the table, and fear is a great motivator. Really, though, he's just figuring out that they're not fighting a vengeful ghost, but rather than vengeful disembodied spirits of the Phantom Zone criminals, who were trapped in a hellish bodiless existence for all eternity by Superboy's birth father.

And what are they using to enact their revenge?

Superboy #189 (4)

You got it: the telepathic metal alien bust of Superboy with glowing red eyes, which Superboy must then destroy to save his father from alien criminals imprisoned in another dimension by his other father.

And this is why Superboy can't have nice things.

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