Saturday, August 15, 2009

I have a confession: Several years after lambasting Geoff Johns for his comic, Green Lantern: Rebirth, Green Lantern has become one of my favorite superhero comics. It's got just the right mixture of Hill Street Blues, Star Wars, and superheroics. Instead of an endless string of battles against supervillains, one after another, Johns' Green Lantern is pretty much just one big story, which has gotten even bigger as it currently embraces the rest of DC Comics' superhero universe in the pages of Blackest Night.

I'll probably write more about Green Lantern and Blackest Night at a later date. But today I want to rave about Geoff Johns' newest comic, Adventure Comics #1. Certainly my favorite comic of the week. If it keeps up, probably my new favorite superhero comic.

While I try not to be too much of an old man, bitching about why can't comics be just like the ones I used to read, truth is, there are comics I used to read and love and can't find anything like any more. One of them was The New Adventures of Superboy. I liked the small-town setting, and the fact that, unlike Superman stories, the Superboy tales were less about him fighting supervillains and more about his life on the farm and his relationships with his friends and family.

(Of course, it's possible that the actual comics were nothing like that. But that's the thing about nostalgia, isn't it? You don't want to reexperience something just like you did before; you want to reexperience it the way you remember experiencing it the first time.)

I'm not a huge fan of the current Superboy. Nothing wrong with him; in fact, I really liked his earlier adventures by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett, with their neo-Jack Kirby vibe. But that's because I was a fan of those creators, not of the character specifically. I was planning on buying this new Adventure Comics series, because I like Geoff Johns and the artist, Francis Manapul, not because it was about Superboy. (Oh, and because it has a Legion of Super-Heroes backup.) It was a comic I was anticipating enough to order, but not one I was necessarily more excited about than the other superhero comics I get.

Then I was listening to the podcast of the Superman panel from this year's San Diego ComiCon, and James Robinson (one of my all-time favorite comics writers, and the man responsible for my reading Superman comics again) described Adventure as having a Ray Bradbury or Norman Rockwell feel to it. And I realized that's how I remember those older Superboy comics feeling. And while I love the comics I am currently reading--otherwise I wouldn't be buying them--I'm not getting anything that feels quite like that. So I started getting excited.

The comic totally lived up to my anticipation. We see Superboy on the farm, going to school, rescuing a girl who falls in a river, and talking to his friend/father Superman. (He's not a son; he's a clone. Not sure what the right term for his relationship to Superman would be.) No supervillains, no fights. And while there are hits of trouble down the road, they seem more rooted in character than plot contrivance. It's exactly the comic I was hoping for.

And the art is nice, too.

Plus, it's got the Legion of Super-Heroes as a backup feature. I first discovered the Legion when it was being written and drawn by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen, pretty much universally recognized as one of the team's golden ages. I kept reading it even after Levitz left, but gradually drifted away. It just wasn't the same for me, and apparently I wasn't the only one. DC has tried numerous revamps and reboots for the series, none of which have restored it to its former glory (by which I mean sales).

I think switching to the backup format may be the best idea yet to rebuild interest in the feature. It keeps the Legion in the public eye without the burden of carrying their own book. Perhaps more importantly, the short page count forces Johns and his fellow creators to focus on one or two characters at a time. One of the Legion's selling points--at least for me--has always been its big cast. However, I can see why trying to learn all those characters can seem off-putting to new readers. Giving the Legion a format that allows more of a focus on the individuals will help ease readers into the series, instead of dumping them in the deep end.

Will the series continue to hold my interest and excite me? Only time will tell. But for now, I'm hooked.

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