By: Jon M. Wilson
This column series takes a look at the appearances of all the Superfolks across the new DCU, focusing on what we can learn of their continuities and mythologies in each issue. This time out, I’m taking a look at Superboy #1 and Supergirl #1. No full-on Superman title these last two weeks, but there is still a lot of interesting stuff to be learned.
Superboy #1 has presented an interesting conundrum. At San Diego Comic Con, Scott Lobdell described Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. as superhero abductors and said that they have abducted Superboy as the story opens. But only the strict reading of what’s on the page allows for a slight bit of wiggle room in that regard. The natural reading of this book is that Superboy had his beginnings three months prior, and that Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. either created him or obtained him while he was still undeveloped. Is Lobdell trying to write so that he can have his past continuity and eat his fresh start too? I dunno, but since this column is concerned with what we learn from the actual books, until we read on the page that Superboy has any past history, I’ll assume that he doesn’t.
So what DO we learn here? Well, the series is definitely retaining its mystery elements for now, providing a lot of questions but not giving many answers yet, but let’s see what we can pull out. As the story opens, Superboy has existed for three and a half months in a vat of neonatal amniotic solution with no externally discernible brain activity. Regardless of instrumental detection, though, Superboy’s mind is alive and active, and the whole time they have been studying him, he has been studying them. He is the first successful fusion of Kryptonian and human DNA, with Superman being one donor, and the human agent deliberately left unknown for now (though many of us are ahead of the writing on this one).
When Superboy realizes his existence is about to be terminated, he busts free and Dr. Redhead is surprised to see that he is able to hover. Interestingly, this seems to be instinctual and when his attention is called to it, he falls to the ground. Another power is some limited telekinesis, but this seems to go beyond the tactile telekinesis we saw pre-Flashpoint. Also, perhaps some telepathy? He definitely gets a thought transmission from Dr. Redhead at one point. But whether that’s her fault or his remains to be seen.
I call her Dr. Redhead because she receives no name in this issue, though her first name begins with “Cait–” Rumor Mill is pretty convinced, though, that she will turn out to be the Wildstorm character Caitlin Fairchild from Gen13. Since I know nothing about that character, team, or book, I’ll have to take their word for it and see what we learn about her in her new role in The New DCU.
Another member of Superboy’s supporting cast is Rose Wilson, who is involved in the examination of Superboy’s ethics a month after he busts out of his amniotic chamber. Before Flashpoint, Rose Wilson was the daughter of Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke the Terminator, and had the costume identity of Ravager. We don’t know if either of those facts still hold true, but it comes as no surprise that she’s on hand to kill Superboy if he goes rogue. Meanwhile, in Superboy’s VR world that Dr. Redhead is putting him through, Rose Wilson is a petite cutie who makes friends with a schoolboy version of Superboy. (Also, is that romantic tension between Rose and Dr. Redhead?)
Also in that VR world, Superboy has created a home for himself with a Kansas farm family very similar to most modern interpretations of the Kent’s. Dr. Redhead wonders whose memories he could be pulling these concepts from, again suggesting that she doesn’t think Superboy should have any memories of his own (i.e., that he has no history prior to what is now four and a half months ago).
Connecting this book back to Superman’s world is a spy among the Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. staff, named Umber, who is reporting what he learns back to Lois Lane. But while Lois knows that N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is up to no good, he hasn’t made her aware yet that they “have their own private weapon of mass destruction named Superboy”.
To wrap the Superboy discussion, the final character we meet for Superboy’s world is a man named Zaniel Templar, who seems to be a Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. bigwig. He’s the only big character (assuming Umber is as minor as he seems) who didn’t exist in some form pre-Flashpoint. And he appears to be in charge of the Superboy project, tasking him to solve Templar’s problem of the Teen Titans, against Dr. Redhead’s better judgment of course.
Next up is Supergirl 1, which is quite decompressed compared to Superboy, but we still learn some neat things in what is there. First, I should mention that this issue does have a Superman cameo at the end, so if you’re only in it for Superman, this is a story to read.
Let’s talk costumes. Supergirl says that she is too young to be wearing the outfit she has on. It’s something she wasn’t expecting to wear until after graduation. So the reason that the aesthetic is something a bit bizarre is that it’s of Kryptonian design, which I rather dig. This is also the first hint we’ve had on the page that Superman’s new costume design for the “present day” stories bears Kryptonian significance, and is more than just a clever outfit.
Supergirl crashes within a meteor in Kansas, but the meteor penetrates the mantle and continues burrowing through to Siberia. If I were a nitpicker, I’d have to wonder just how much geological damage such an impact would cause (since a meteor strike in Mexico killed the dinosaurs, and that wasn’t powerful enough to penetrate through the planet), but I won’t nitpick because the script itself acknowledges that it’s impossible, so that makes it okay. (And that was my only problem with the book, AND this column isn’t really intended for review purposes anyway.)
A minor tidbit that we learn is that in this new DCU, aliens have been visiting enough that there are international “visitor protocols” in place, which are the basis for the armored attack.
Supergirl herself thinks she’s dreaming as she emerges from her shell. She seems to have been in a dream state for the journey and isn’t sure if she’s awake or not when she finds herself in Siberia. She doesn’t realize her newfound near-invulnerability because she thinks she’s in a dream, but she does feel pain when the soldiers lasso her with the energy ropes, so a) the invulnerability isn’t absolute and b) this happens before the sun comes up. Does this mean that Superman had invulnerability as a child before his other powers developed? We don’t know a lot yet about Superman’s first onset of powers, only that in Action Comics #1, they’re still growing.
Speaking of growing powers, though, Kara’s all seem to hit her in rapid succession. We don’t see her fly in this issue, but heat vision, super-strength, and globally sensitive super-hearing are definitely present. There’s a very cool panel where Supergirl hears lines from Birds of Prey #1, Nightwing #1, and what I assume is Aquaman #1. So if anyone asks, those issues are exactly synchronous with these events.
The red-hooded Flashpoint woman appears on the deck where Dr. Redhead meets Templar’s helicopter in Superboy #1 and right there in the battle but hanging back a bit in Supergirl #1.
In the first issue of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Father Time mentions Superman in passing when ranting about how times are changing, and scientific ethics need to change to accommodate, continuing to remind us that, in this post-Flashpoint continuity, superheroes are newer than tablet PCs. Batman #1
has a scene where Vicki Vale uses the phrase “Man of Tomorrow” to allude to Superman, so that nickname exists in the new continuity. Also, Karen Starr appears in Mr. Terrific #1 and may be a regular supporting cast member. It’s been a while since she was really considered to be a Superman character, and it’s unclear if she is Power Girl or Kryptonian or any of that in The New 52, but if you want to see her, follow her over there. Speaking of Super-characters in other places, Maggie Sawyer, formerly of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit is with the Gotham Police Department, as she has been in recent years pre-Flashpoint, and she has a bit of a flirt with Batwoman in that first issue, so she can be followed in that series.
Next time: Superman #1 and the fate of the Daily Planet!
Next month: Superboy #2 and an alien prison break! And Supergirl #2 with the House of El divided!