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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Co-Review: Invincible Iron Man #500


Tessa: Howdy.

Geoffrey: Hi. I'm trying to fix up my books on my phone, but it keeps deleting my music. I'm trying to kill print media, not my music. It's rough out here three hours into the future.

Tessa: TRY 41 YEARS IN THE FUTURE.

Geoffrey: WHAAAT?

Tessa: Riiiiight?

Geoffrey: So I don't think I'm off base when I say that Iron Man #500 was probably the biggest, most ambitious Iron Man story I'd ever read, right?

Tessa: No arguments here, there was A LOT going on.

Geoffrey: 3 generations of Stark! 3 generations of destruction! One deadly secret! ALL IN THE MIGHTY MARVEL MANNER!

Tessa: Yes! What I loved is that we're seeing two big comics tropes at work here: the team-up and the dystopian future. And damned if I'm not a sucker for seeing them both done well.

Geoffrey: Yeah, I loved this issue because it centered around my two favorite superhero comics tropes, but what made it better was that they were pushed further than the standard "fight and team up" and "let's see how shitty the future is" moves. On the team-up side of things, we had a team-up with Spider-Man and Iron Man, but we also got to see them team up in their secret identities, and every time we get to see Peter Parker being smart I have a great time.

Tessa: Yes, it's so fun to see those characters interacting with each other, both as superheroes and civilians, but in some ways more so out of uniform.

Geoffrey: And in the future dystopia we get all the standard future tropes AND another team-up of sorts this time utilizing the whole legacy of Tony Stark to push it along.

Tessa: And of course, both team-ups in the future and the past are intrinsic to each other. The Spider! That's one of those things that you see coming, but it doesn't make it any less rewarding. It's just nice, clean storytelling.

Geoffrey: Definitely, and having Peter be the one to suggest it to Tony was just gold to me. He also got to sneak in that Human Torch joke which is just classic "Peter Parker being a funny dork." People usually remember to write Peter Parker as a funny guy, but they usually don't play up the smart guy angle, so I'm glad we got that in this issue.

Tessa: Yes! I love the way Fraction writes Peter Parker/Spider Man. My issue with Spider-Man is he so often comes off as just quippy for the sake of being quippy. Like, he makes jokes because that's in his character description. But what I liked in this issue is that his joking came off so naturally. It didn't seem like forced superhero banter, which was so refreshing!

Geoffrey: Yeah it seemed to come from a nice place of being frustrated with what Tony had done to him, but still wanting to help him anyway because he's a good guy. Man, I don't Tony's ever going to stop looking for redemption. That seems like all he does anymore since the Marvel Civil War event a few years ago. I guess he's been doing it ever since he stopped manufacturing weapons, but it seems like ever since Captain America died that's all Tony ever does. Being indirectly responsible for wars and the deaths of countless people is his Uncle Ben.

Tessa: Yeah, I guess I would find it tedious, except Tony's brand of redemption is always so whiz-bang.

Geoffrey: Yeah, Tony's plans are always great to see, but Tony's never going to get over it.
my fear is that this will be the only kind of Iron Man story, the one where Tony feels guilty about something that's in his past so he unveils a flashy plan that nobody really gets at first, but once it starts working they're all like "Well, we should have trusted Tony because he knows what he's doing-- hey, he's not such a bad guy after all."

Tessa: Right, I think if we're talking specific formulas, I could stand to move away from the "Tony puts out fires that he indirectly started by repurposing his inventions for good" plot,
BUT I don't know that he really should have to get over it in the broader sense. We could maybe stand to lose some of the literalism in terms of redemption plotline, but he kind of does have a lot to atone for. That's part of what makes the Spider-Man/Iron Man team-up so interesting--Tony Stark and Peter Parker have such a great balance of similarities and contrasts, so you get the distorted mirror effect. They're both funny, guilt-ridden science geniuses, but here's Tony who (being rich and good looking) has had the opportunity to fuck up on a way more global level, compared to Peter, whose guilt is more personal. So I don't know if bringing them together is a way of signaling that this is kind going to be the tone for a while or if it's a sign that we're going to kind of broaden those themes, but I think it's an interesting way of addressing it.

Geoffrey: Totally. But I'm not calling for Tony to stop feeling guilty all together I'm just concerned that that may be the one thing that every writer of Iron Man to come will be latching onto forever.

Tessa: Right.

Geoffrey: I mean, Batman just now got over being written by Frank Miller.

Tessa: Yeah, I think the movies play a role in that as well. You end up seeing comics parrot storylines that sell well as movies because they received so much exposure that they take precedence over other interpretations. Which was absolutely the case with Batman--if the Joel Schumacher movies had actually been any good at all, Batman probably would have regained his sense of humor a lot sooner. And for movie audiences, I think the "Tony Stark is sorry and he's going to fix it" angle is an easy one to latch onto. So I think you may be right in worrying we'll be seeing that for a while.

Geoffrey: Right. How else are you going to root for a billionaire/industrialist/mass murderer if not by giving him a guilt complex?

Tessa: Yeah, and the mustache doesn't help.

Geoffrey: That reminds me that Matt Fraction made it clear at Comic-Con that he made sure that Tony had that mustache. He said that they had told Sal Larocca to make Tony look like RDJ, so he was gonna draw him with the goatee, but Fraction made him keep the mustache.

Tessa: You know what? I respect that. Wholeheartedly. Tony Stark deserves his 'stache. Everyone else may endeavor to deserve theirs.

Geoffrey: Also by that same token, how'd you like Jake Gyllenhall as Peter Parker?

Tessa: Nothing much to say on that score. It wasn't too distracting.

Geoffrey: Sal Larocca takes a lot of shit for his photoreference. RDJ (and later Sawyer from LOST) as Tony Stark, Tommy Lee Jones as Norman Osborn, he had Nicole Kidman as Pepper Potts. But I don't really mind the photoreferencing, especially since it usually comes out on time.

Tessa: Right? I hate to use a quasi-fascist rationalization for anything, but punctuality covers all manner of sins.

Geoffrey: If it didn't come out on time it'd be a different story, but the title's been pretty consistent for Fraction and Larocca's run, which is much appreciated in these times.

Tessa: Yeah, what are we supposed to do while we wait, BLOG about it?

Geoffrey: Oof.

Tessa: Sorry, that was a groaner.

Geoffrey: But speaking of the bleak future--dystopia, right?

Tessa: Yeah, nobody ever seems to have fun in the Marvel future.

Geoffrey: Yeah, I was thinking about this, and I'll probably expand on this in a future essay, but Marvel futures are usually dystopian and not a lot of fun. They're much different from DC futures. I mean, kingdom come wasn't any fun for anyone, but any other time we get a glimpse into a DC future it's always markedly more optimistic than Marvel ones, and I think this stems from the core differences between Marvel heroes and DC heroes. Marvel is all about the underdog. Marvel heroes have big, human flaws. The whole "they're just like us" mentality. "They're just like us, and they're being heroes, so it makes it more heroic." So the natural progression is a dystopian future where everything is against the hero and the odds are tangibly insurmountable.

Tessa:
Whereas DC is more of an aspirational brand.

Geoffrey: Yes, DC comes from a place of aspiration and legacy. If Marvel is who we are, DC is who we want to be. Therefore the legacy angle is played up in DC futures. We see the future versions of the heroes we want to be, descended from the heroes of the present. The very fact that there's a legacy means that heroism has won in the end, that the fight for good will continue, and in a Marvel dystopia it's a wonder that the fight for good is still even happening.

Tessa: Right, and moreover a sense that even acting with the best of intentions, the good guys could have contributed to the disasters in the world.

Geoffrey: Which is a big key of this future in Iron Man #500. I read a review up on CBR where the reviewer described it as another adventure of Tony Stark and "the brain that always gets him in trouble," which is probably the most apt description of Fraction's Iron Man plots thus far.

Tessa: Motivations aside, I think it's pretty compelling watching Tony Stark play chess with himself, which he's been forced to do a lot. In this case, even more compelling because of the anticipation involved. He has to figure out how to beat moves that haven't even been made yet.

Geoffrey: I think what hit hardest about this future is that there was no insistence about it being a "possible" future.

Tessa: YES.

Geoffrey: There's a very real sense that this is something that WILL happen, no matter what Tony does.

Tessa: And that's borne out not just in the future segments, but in the fact that his solution, in the end, is not to prevent disaster, but rather to create a failsafe in the event of, which is pretty grim.

Geoffrey: Right, Spidey's suggestion of a failsafe is just delaying the inevitable.

Tessa: I think there's something so uncomfortably adult about this issue. Taking responsibility in the event that you really can't cut corners anymore. It's very anti-escapist.

Geoffrey: Yeah, that's something that's really been missing from a more "adult" look to comics: the accountability.

Tessa: It's kind of thrilling to see it, but also pretty damn sobering.

Geoffrey: If there's something that Tony Stark's always needed it's sobering. I mean AMIRITE?!! HEY-YO! I'll stop. But I am kind of serious about that. Tony's actions have gone unchecked for the most part. He's made a crazy huge amount of destructive weapons, he was director of SHIELD, he's super rich, and i think he got off kind of light with an alcohol problem. He kicked that, but now it's time for him to deal with everything else. And all at once, at that.

Tessa: Right, up until now he's always been one step ahead, even when he's in deep shit. For the first time, there's no easy fix. And that's a different kind of struggle than we've seen before.

Geoffrey: The most "one step ahead" he can get is a haphazard failsafe. But I mean, that being said about Tony being one step ahead even in deep shit-- he does come up with a pretty great plan.

Tessa: Well, it'd be a drag if he didn't.

Geoffrey: I mean beyond the actual failsafe thing, the plan with Ginny, Howard, and himself is pretty great. Maybe not the most clever plan, but definitely ballsy as fuck, especially considering that a large part of it involves having his son Howard get repurposed as a soldier in the Mandarin's army, and that furthermore a large part is contingent on Howard retaining his humanity.

Tessa: Well, and that the whole endgame here is just "We'll start from scratch when it's all over!" Not that Tony Stark has ever shown any qualms about that, given that he erased his own brain that one time.

Geoffrey: Yeah, I like that Tony's victories are largely damaging to himself and his legacy. It's a different kind of selflessness in that it's as destructive as it is heroic, which is a nice commentary on Tony Stark.

Tessa: Absolutely, bit there's a lot of ego to it as well. In the sense that he gets the last word on who he is and what he's done. Reputation be damned.

Geoffrey: It's sort of like the kid getting fed up and taking his ball home with him, although more heroic than immature, but still a little bit selfish.

Tessa: I think that one of the strengths of this issue is that it really does get into the meat of all those complexities in his character.

Geoffrey: Definitely. And we see some reflections of different aspects of his personality in his descendants. It's the DC approach of legacy filtered through the Marvel lens of dystopia. We get his heroism and stubbornness in Ginny, and Howard acts as a look into one of the things that Tony fears he'll turn into.

Tessa: Right, it really gets to the heart of the fact that, even without the suit, Tony's wealth and intellect basically make him a weaponized human, whose work can be used for good or ill.

Geoffrey: speaking of reflections and weaponized humans I love the use of the Mandarin as a dark mirror to Tony Stark's empire. Tony had an industrial empire, the Mandarin has an empire of world domination. Tony has his technology, the Mandarin has his rings and now Tony's technology. Tony has a parade of hot models for meaningless sexual encounters, the Mandarin has a harem.

Tessa: Absolutely. And again, looking at reputation, he is the reverse of Tony, in that, as we've seen in the past, he is very concerned with having a positive image and is meanwhile committing huge atrocities. He's kind of the iron fist to Tony's velvet glove, ironically enough.

Geoffrey: Yes. And Tony's eventual victory over the Mandarin is of course, a victory over himself and his flaws.

Tessa: I am so resisting the urge to compare this to both Tron: Legacy and Black Swan.

Geoffrey: Well, don't because I haven't seen either of them.

Tessa: I won't (I will, however, shamelessly link you to an essay I wrote about those two films), but the point I'm making is that this kind of dark double is kind of having a cultural moment right now.

Geoffrey: Why do you suppose doubles are back in the zeitgeist?

Tessa: If I had to venture a guess, I'd say right now, at least in America, we're in a mess of our own creation, economically, environmentally, globally, and in some ways we fear ourselves as much as, if not more than, anything else. Both the fear of our capacity to destroy and the fear of the responsibility and potentially ruinous self-sacrifice it may take to repair our mistakes.

Geoffrey: Sounds an awful lot like a certain Tony Stark.

Tessa: It certainly does, doesn't it? Except I don't think our generalized cultural anxiety is quite so handsome and charismatic. But I guess that's the escapism part.

Geoffrey: Yeah, our cultural anxiety would be a lot easier to deal with if we could just wear our iPhones. Or maybe it'd make things worse. SPECULATIVE FICTION.

Tessa: SCIENCE! OUTER SPACE! THE FUTURE!

Geoffrey: I think that means we've reached the end.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Co-Review: Casanova Gula #1


Tessa and I follow a few of the same books and sometimes we'll talk about them over GChat, copy and paste it, then call it a post.

Geoff: Hi.

Tessa: Hello!  Let's talk Casanova!

Geoff: CoolI haven't finished reading the backmatter yet.  But they're talking about Kanye, which I'm always interested in.  

Tessa: It's great, but it will make you kind of miserable.

Geoff: Miserable how?

Tessa: I think the Scott Pilgrim media blitz and subsequent lack of success had really got to Bryan Lee O'MalleyWhich makes sense, but I keep forgetting that the movie tanked because it was such a huge thing for the circles we run in.

Geoff: Pfft... did you ever read his twitter before the movie even?  Dude is usually a downer.

Tessa: Man after my own heart then. 

Geoff: But I am surprised to find that Fraction used Kanye as an Iron Man villainI don't think it's any of the ones we've seen so far, is it?  Maybe Zeke Stane?

Tessa: The Mandarin???

Geoff: Nah…

Tessa: He talked about a bad experience on a video set…

Geoff: Really?

Tessa: Come on, image control freak, self-aggrandizing, my money's on The Mandarin

Geoff: That'd be insane.  And so good.  What'd you think of this issue?

Tessa: Dynamite.  Casanova is so rewarding to read in single issues.  I think with so many books, if you have the patience, it doesn't make much difference to wait for the trade, but Casanova is so dense and energetic, the small doses don't feel unsatisfying.

Geoff: It helps that Fraction's approach when it comes to writing each issue is to cram in as much shit possible.

Tessa: Yes, and I think if you do it right (which he does), "more is more" is a totally viable style.

Geoff: True.  Minimalism is for weenies.
How are you liking Fabio Moon's art?

Tessa: Pretty gorgeous.

Geoff: I'm not as keen on it as I was with Bá, but I do like Moon.  I feel like Fabio Moon is better with people, but Bá is better with the high action sci-fi shit.

Tessa: I think where Bá had the advantage as well is that his style is a little cleaner, I guess you'd say, which is good when there are already a million things going on – but I feel nitpicky even saying that.

Geoff: I'm with you there. Both of them are brilliant.

Tessa: And both stylish, which is so necessary for this kind of material.

Geoff: But I think that Bá's more stylized stuff is a better fit.

Tessa: AgreedHe really nails that sophisticated, yet cartoony thing, which is basically the crux of the whole book.

Geoff: Yeah, I think the main selling point for this book is just how big all the ideas are.

Tessa: Yes, how big and how many.

Geoff: The whole deal with Sasa Lisi is that she works for an agency that ensures the "survival of the multiquintessence" — doesn’t get much bigger than “everywhere and everywhen and everything in every way.”

Tessa: Yes, but what I love about it is that there are no demands on the reader to understand.  It's "welcome to the party," not "I see you haven't done your homework."  It rewards re-reading without strong-arming you into itYou don't have to "get it" to get it

Geoff: It's amazing that Fraction can build an entire multiverse with its own context and history without being entirely alienating.  He's also really good at pulling out those action one-liners and over the top "comic book" phrases that would normally be too cool/silly.  And he uses them effectively in that he makes all these characters seem so huge and big and important.

Tessa: Absolutely.  It's the right combination of sincerity and self-awareness, which is a tough line to walk without ending up being too cutesy or too arch.

Geoff: Too arch?

Tessa: Like, smug and pretentious.  Which would be sooooo easy to do.

Geoff: Definitely.

Tessa: But Fraction's always just having such a good time, and that's totally infectious.

Geoff: Right, by any other count it may be smug, but because it's totally apparent that Fraction is into it and he believes every word he writes it just comes off as insane, big-ideas fun that you’re happy to be a part of.  Compelling and ambitious stuff.  Yeah, ambitious is probably the word for it.  Fraction's going for something huge, and what I like best about it is that we can feel how big it is.

Tessa: I know, it's like watching a really smart, creative kid play with legos.

Geoff: In a character sense and a plot sense it's huge and unpredictable.  With some of the mainstream superhero stuff, it's huge, but we've seen the story so many times, it's difficult to get surprised.

Tessa: Right, and there's not nearly as much leeway when you have to adhere to continuity.

Geoff: And I don't want to shit on mainstream superhero stuff, but most of it just doesn't carry the same feeling I had reading that stuff when I was a kid.  That's how I feel when I read Casanova.  I feel like I did when I was ten reading x-men comics for the first time.  I'm surrounded by these characters and I'm immersed in this world that is so much bigger than me, and i HAVE to find out what all of this is 

Tessa: There's also an immediacy to it that's really great.  Instant gratification and infinite mystery combined.  See, I didn't read comics as a kid, and while I've read a lot of great ones, the ones that have really sucked me in and taken me out of myself have been few and far between 
this is one of them.  The word "escapism" gets tossed around a lot when people talk about comics, but I think true escapism is more rare than it's made out to be.

Geoff: Explain.

Tessa: Like what you're talking about, the ability to sit down and devour something without distraction and actually feel the real world melt away, like sentimental literacy PSAs are always talking about.  As an adult, that can be really hard to come by.

Geoff: Yeah. If I can borrow from another TV commercial: the kid in me likes the escapism that I get from reading, the adult in me likes being able to deconstruct and map the influences.  That would make a pretty shitty TV commercial, I’d bet.


Tessa: Man, that sounds so cheesy, but it's really true. 
I'm glad newman xeno is back.

Geoff: Zephyr and Xeno being awkward was gold.

Tessa: Hahaha, yes.

Geoff: I also really liked Cornelius Quinn's desperate father bit.
For a dude who's the super-gruff director of E.M.P.I.R.E. he's awfully emotional about his kids.

Tessa: Indeed.  Probably my favorite thing in this issue is zen crime

Geoff: Yeah, that's another one of those big ideas that makes this series so cool.

Tessa: But I love that while it's a big idea, it's so low-stakes and yet not treated any differently than anything else: "It's like crime, only there're no victims, and really, no crimes," but there's still a body count to put a stop to it.

Geoff: I also really liked skipping past the inevitable Short-Round sidekick phase and seeing Kaito come into his own, blowing up experimental aircrafts and fucking Ruby Seychelle.
Also that reveal that it's Kaito in the spy suit is just gold.

Tessa: Yeah, his introduction was kind of a groaner, but then the stuff I was dreading was just bypassed totally.

Geoff: Plus, that action sequence with Kaito and Cryptomech was so cool.  The two panels with Cryptomech flying and shooting his missiles in particular.  I still wish we'd gotten Bá on art for moments like that, though.

Tessa: Oh well, it's like that Rolling Stones song -- "Street Fighting Man."
Also I'm in love with the cliffhanger ending.  Xeno gets the best asides apart from god.  I could go all day on this, but I don't know that a panel-by-panel breakdown of things that I find delightful would be particularly stimulating to read.

Geoff: Why not?  Too much good stuff?

Tessa: Yes!

Geoff: That page with the trees going through the seasons was just the best.

Tessa: I can't tell if you're joking or not.

Geoff: What?  No.  Entirely serious.  I loved that page.  Time passing without a narration box, Kaito disrupting the peace of nature with big action spy chase – that page was great.  That page was good comics work.

Tessa: No disagreement here.  I find it hard to point out specific things I like in this series because it's so overstuffed with things I like.

Geoff: I know, but we're just talking about this issue.

Tessa: I mean within individual issues!

Geoff: Ha, well that's a good problem to have.
Tessa: Right?  The in-house batman curmudgeon is not without a heart.  Her advice to all creators of comics is to put everything she likes into them.
PROBLEM SOLVED.

Geoff: You're the only person who calls you that.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Review: Superboy #3

Superboy #3
Jeff Lemire (w), Pier Gallo (a)

I really want to like Superboy.  And I do, but let me explain:  I am a child of 90's comics.  My first experience with Superboy was with a Superboy who wore round sunglasses, a leather jacket, and a stupid haircut.  My Superboy lived in Hawaii and partied with a group of space teenagers.  Maybe it wasn't high art, but damned if it wasn't some fun comics.  So I think it's pretty safe to say that the Superboy we've been privy to since Geoff Johns's run on Teen Titans isn't quite my version of Superboy.  Sure, I guess it's the same Kon-El, but gone are the sunglasses, the leather jacket, the stupid haircut, and the exotic locales.  And, sure, I'll say it: gone is the fun of being Superboy.  Johns introduced a Superboy who was more filled with self-doubt, angst, and ennui; a Superboy who didn't party in space because he was busy whining about how he was a half-Lex Luthor clone, a Superboy too paralyzed by the fear of someday growing up to become the man he hated rather than the man he admired.  A compelling inner conflict, yes, but not one that stays fresh when it's the only sort of inner conflict that Johns put Superboy through for four or five years.  It always seemed that when he wasn't busy whining about being different from Superman he was busy whining about being afraid of turning into Lex Luthor.  Whatever happened to the carefree, self-promoting party animal who just wouldn't shut up about how great tactile telekinesis is?

Which is why I come into this iteration of Superboy with an "Okay, I guess this will do" mindset.  While I will eternally be a fan of 90s Superboy, I am pretty interested in the emphasis being placed on the weirdness of living in a small town.  The fact that it's Jeff Lemire writing it is the main selling point for me, as I hear that Lemire is who to go to for small town drama (if you haven't read his Sweet Tooth yet, where have you been?).  Having a cameo appearance by David Lynch in the first issue has already earned this book the benefit of the doubt.  Lemire's Superboy seems like the logical next step from Johns's Superboy in that he's stopped whining about the things he's been whining about since 2004 and he's moved on to other things.  Thankfully, those other things are presented in an entirely readable and relatable fashion thanks to the work of Lemire.

While it lacks the fun and excess of the 90s Superboy, Lemire's version gives us an updated presentation of stories with a silver-age feel, one of its main strengths.  We get the whole "aw shucks, being a teenage superhero is hard, but being a teenager is harder" vibe that the silver-age stories would present, but with the added emphasis on emotional impact that has developed over time in comics storytelling.  And!  Special bonus!  We get all of this without having the drama come from a tacked on drug addiction or rape trauma.  (That's the sound of my sigh of relief.)

We've got a nice handful of silver-age teen superhero tropes that Lemire works with: over-eager/mostly unwanted sidekick, love interest, wacky sci-fi elements, and unexpected guest stars.  The opening page is even a nice throwback to the old silver-age splash pages that would tease you with the action to come.  Superboy's familiarity with these tropes is one of its most charming elements, and the way Lemire wields them with confidence allows him to throw in some modern complications -- namely those that arise in the supporting cast's relationships with Superboy.  Love interests will always be a complicated thing, but Lori Luthor being Luthor's niece and Conner's sort of half-cousin gives it that extra degree of difficulty, and Conner's rejection of Simon looks like the kind of dick move that will make Superboy wish he'd just given him a signal watch and called it a  day.  It's fun stuff like these weird relationships that I hope to see more of in this book.

The hook of the series is apparently that there are some weird things going on beneath the surface of Smallville.  We're getting hints of it, but I think so far what's been driving this story is the fact that Conner Kent is just a good kid.  Yeah, he's got superhero and teenage problems, but despite all the angst, he is, at his core, a genuinely good human being.  In these first three issues so far, he takes care of Ma Kent and the Kent farm, he plans to clean up all of the damage done to Smallville after school, he sets up a charity event -- really the only less than good things he does are rejecting Simon's friendship (but that's out of that desire to protect his friends) and being skittish with Lori (and that's because any teenage boy acts weird around girls, nevermind a teenage boy who is the clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, and nevermind that the girl in question is the niece of Lex and sort of his cousin so getting together is a double taboo [or at least a taboo and a half]).  And that's what I'm liking about Lemire's Superboy: sure he's not outrageous and fun like the Superboy of the 90s, but it's nice to see a character that has evolved from both the silly 90s version and the angsty Geoff Johns version into a character who has his priorities in line, not allowing himself to be sidetracked by his own hangups about who he is and where he came from.  It's great to see that Lemire allows Conner Kent to be a hero first regardless of whether he is working in a teenage capacity or a superheroic capacity.

I do have some gripes with the series so far, though.  Pier Gallo's art being the main one.  Gallo's art is serviceable, and the storytelling is clear, but it lacks the kinetic excitement that I'd want from a superhero book, and it's too middle-of-the-road to convey the weirdness of Smallville that Lemire is trying to hint at.  Each character looks a bit plastic-y and I'm not sure that emotional moments are rendered strikingly enough to convey the weight behind some of the character moments that Lemire writes.  And while we're on the topic of Lemire's writing, there were parts of this issue as well as in the previous two issues where the largely teenage cast of characters sounded pretty far off from a cast of bored small town teenagers.  This issue in particular had a line about Simon seeing the world as a videogame that had Conner sounding like your dad after he just picked you up from the Sheriff's office or something like that.
One particular point of contention I had with this issue was its narrative structure.  Lemire opts to go for a fragmented timeline sort of approach where we start with some action and we go back and forth between the in the moment action and the events leading up to it.  I just didn't particularly understand the reasoning behind this choice, as there would have still been a mystery as to what was causing all the headaches/fainting should the story have been told literally.

But these are, of course, small gripes that can be set aside due to the strength of Lemire's promise of the underlying weirdness in Smallville and his completely enjoyable version of Superboy.  He may not be writing the Superboy I'm familiar with, but Lemire has already established such a strong mission statement with his handling of Conner's character that I am more than willing to get to know this more Smallville-centric version of Superboy.  But if we get a guest appearance by the Ravers, I'm definitely not saying no.