This graphic novel begins with a brief background on Superboy - which was very useful for us as neither my son nor knowledge of his story - although this is a bit confusing. I will not put the confusion down to the writer, but rather the strange nature of the DC Universe. Superboy is classed as clone, but made from the DNA of two parents - Lex Luther and Superman, with Lex apparently being the one who created him. He was created to be a weapon - and brainwashed from birth, but somehow was able to overcome this heritage with the help of his friends - the Teen Titans. As if coping with being the child of the earth's greatest hero, and an evil genius were not enough, he must also cope with the fact that he was killed a year before saving the universe. Of course in comic books, the heroes never stay dead - so he has been resurrected and returned to his friends and adopted family a year later, where he lives under the name Connor Kent.
With all the weird comic book bits wrapped up in the first page, the story opens with a very confused young man searching for himself. He wants to be like Superman, and has chosen to live in Smallville with Martha Kent in an attempt to become like the "parent" he wishes to emulate. But he is afraid he will be like Lex Luther instead. Will he be able to deny the darker half of his heritage? This question torments him as he wonders if he was born evil. He even keeps a notebook, ticking off traits he feels make more like Luther, or Superman, as he desperately tries to prove to himself that he can be good. No one else seems to doubt him, the demons Superboy must fight are of his own making - at least in the beginning. In addition to trying to find his true nature, Connor is also trying to rebuild his relationship with his girlfriend - Wonder Girl and his best friend Robin. Meanwhile, Krypto makes great company - but also a fair amount mischief, and trying to prove himself, Conor attempts to help a troubled girl - who turns out to be Luther's niece. With all this going on - Connor gets a surprise visit. Daddy's home and it isn't the good one.
Reading this, the story sounds incredibly complex and hard to follow, but in fact it had a smooth and easy flow to it, and my son and I both really enjoyed this book. The illustrations are very good - although I did prefer the Krypto from the Superman/ Batman series. Francis Manapul is a well known illustrator and this book is a very good example of is work. Although this is not the very best I have seen in graphic novels, I do think it is very good and would give this 5 stars out of 5 for artwork.
My son really enjoyed Krypto's antics, as well as some of the ordinary teenage situations. There were also a few fight scenes to keep his interest, and the Brainiac, in addition to Luther made for some interesting adversaries. There is even a scene with a dinosaur - but I won't go into that as I am carefully avoiding any spoilers. He also really liked a rather odd schoolmate of Connor's - Simon Valentine. While my son enjoyed this, it isn't favourite, just a good comic and he gives it 4 stars out of 5.
Although this was bought for my son, I did enjoy this as well, and once again finished reading this myself after both children had fallen asleep. I especially liked the fact that this brought up a lot of questions with my son - especially about good and evil, and we spent quite a long time discussing this. I like that the ending shows very much that no matter what a person is born with - ultimately they must make their own path and choose good or evil. I think there was a lot in this book about growing up, coming of age, and finding yourself.
As far as story goes, this was good, but not great. The author was trying to pack a lot into this story, and I feel that I may have missed something by not having read previous books or comics in this period. But most of all, I felt that this comic was developed as a starting point. Although there is a good conclusion to the book, as Conor finds an answer to his immediate question, I felt very much that this book is just volume one, or the beginning and there should be more to follow. We did enjoy the book enough that we immediately looked for a volume 2, but there does not seem to be one. It did interest my son in the characters enough that he does want another book with Superboy, and even more so with Krypto and Red Robin. Although Robin's part is fairly small, my son did really like this Robin. We have ended up ordering a Teen Titans book so we will be reading more about these characters.
I wavered a bit as to whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars. I can't say I enjoyed as much as some of the Superman/ Batman books, or The Green Lantern, but I did still like this quite a bit. The story is good and the art is top notch, but the deciding factor for me in rating this was simply the questions my son asked. I feel when a book provokes serious discussion and thought it has proven it's value, I think this book could be of some use to an older child or teen who is also going through struggles with identity. For this reason I have gone ahead and given this 5 stars.
I would also note that this book is suitable for very young children. My son is only 7, and I have found modern comics are intended for a much older audience, but there is nothing in this to make unsuitable for young readers apart from some very mild violence / fight scenes which I do think any comic book reader expects. I was lucky enough to pick this up for £5 from ebay, but new copies from Amazon cost £7.69 delivered, with used copies only being a few pence less. The cover states that this story was previously published as indvidual comics Adventure Comics 0-3, 5, 6 - Superman Secret Files 2009.