Revisiting Superboy And The Ravers

Back in the mid-90s there were two teen superhero team books from DC that captured my imagination: the Dan Jurgens Teen Titans and Superboy and the Ravers. Both books seemed really cool and featured new, young characters that I figured I could relate to at the ripe old age of 13. However, I was working with a pretty tight budget when it came to comics and could only get issues here and there. As such, I collected most of both short-lived series’. It wasn’t until my pal, CBR mastermind and Cool Kids Table blogger Kiel Phegley sent me a a box o’ stuff that included all 19 issues of SATR that I was able to read the entire series from front to back.

And you know what? It was a surprisingly fun read. The concept might seem kind of silly and very of-the-times today — an intergalactic party that teenagers with super powers can teleport to on a whim centered around one of the most 90s characters around, Superboy — but it actually did some fun stuff with characters who weren’t really being used, based new ones on existing ideas and dealt with issues like coming out of the closet and trying to fit in.

The run was written by Karl Kesel and Steve Mattsson with artists Paul Pelletier (1-9, 13, 14) and Josh Hood (#15-19). It also boasts fill-ins by Aaron Lopresti (#11, 12) and Ramon Bernado (#10, the Meltdown crossover) and even a back up story by Jim Aparo and Todd Nauk pencils on the final issue. In addition to

One of the things that impressed me most about the book is that it actually doens’t focus too much on Superboy in favor of original characters Hero Cruz (who eventually gets the H Dial!), Rex the Wonder Dog, the magnetically powered Aura, the only good guy on Qward Kaliber, New Blood Sparx and alien-created ectoplasmic goo guy Half-Life. The writers do an excellent job balancing each character’s story with the larger one of trying to figure out exactly why the guy throwing this rave, Kindred Marx, is doing so and why intergalactic cops InterC.E.P.T. want to put him out of business. I actually get the feeling that Kesel and Mattsson wanted to create this book with all original characters and maybe editorial liked it but wanted to see a known/popular character thrown in to boost sales.

While re-reading this run I realized that this book might have started my love of the Dial H For Hero concept. I don’t know where else I would have seen it and definitely read some of these issues well before I got into Will Pfeifer’s excellent series HERO. I just think it’s such a neat concept with all kinds of potential. Speaking of which, anyone read the current series? I’m very curious to check it out. I also think this might be one of the first comics I read with a gay character and was surprised at the honest reaction Sparx had when Hero came out to her, difficult as it was to read.

At the end of the day, I had a good time reading this series again, but I don’t want it to sound like I unearthed a forgotten classic. A while ago I realized that there have been teen team comics that appeal to the younger generation reading said comics for decades and that while those books can become all-time favorites for those kids, they might not read well for people from other generations. For me, this is a nice little time capsul that did some interesting things, but I don’t think I’d hand it to a younger or much older reader and expect for them to dig it as much as me.

DUMP, KEEP OR BIND: When it comes to loose comics like this, the question I have after reading through them is first, “Do I want to keep these comics?” followed by, “Do I want to get them bound?” I’ll definitely keep these issues around, but they’re incredibly low on the list of books I want to pay to get put together in a nice hardcover package. I would however consider using them as a test run for trying my hand at home binding. I mean, these issues aren’t that hard to find, I could replace them for cheap if I screwed up the binding and I actually have at least half of them in my collection back home, making SATR a great self-binding project.

Killer Comics Trade Post: Suicide Squad Trial By Fire & Uncanny X-Force The Apocalypse Solution

Suicide Squad Volume 1: Trial By Fire (DC)
Written by John Ostrander, drawn by Luke McDonnell with Bob Lewis, Karl Kesel & Dave Hunt
Collects Secret Origins #14, Suicide Squad #1-8

Sometimes I plan these Trade Post columns out really well and sometimes it just so happens that two books I’ve read within a given time have a similar theme. The latter happens to be the case with this particular one. I’ve been sitting on this first (and possibly only) volume reprinting John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell’s excellent Suicide Squad run. I had a little experience with this comic while coming up in comics and an iteration of the idea became very prominent in DC comics around Infinite Crisis and the surrounding events, but it was my pal Ben Morse who turned me on to this book specifically. He’s a big fan and has all the issues. A few years back, when we were still at Wizard he let me borrow a big stack of issues and I tore through them. Luckily, my memory is pretty crummy, so I didn’t remember everything when I sat down to read this book recently. As a nice bonus, this trade not only brings the first eight issues of the series together, but also the team’s origins that were printed in Secret Origins. I love when companies put a little extra time in to do something like that.

The idea behind this book is essentially The Dirty Dozen with superheroes and villains known from throughout the DC Universe. Amanda Waller rejuvenated an old idea with the son of a former leader in Flag who wants to prove himself and also die a little bit. These early issues feature characters like the original Captain Boomerang, Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, Enchantress and the Penguin, some of whom are part of the regular team while others pop in to help out in certain cases. Their early adventures are actually pretty real world-based, even if they do still involve people with super powers. You’ve got them taking on a foreign terrorist group, the Female Furies, a white power group and vigilante and Russians.

I really like how grounded the stories felt even given the more super elements. It reminded me a lot of the Mike Grell run on Green Arrow or Dennis O’Neal’s run on The Question. This series would go on to have a healthy 66 issue run. I hope that DC decides to collect them all, including The Janus Directive a crossover that involved books like Checkmate, Captain Atom and, I believe, Firestorm. It looks like they solicited a second volume, but it has yet to come out, so it’s probably not looking good.

Uncanny X-Force Volume 1: The Apocalypse Solution (Marvel)
Written by Rick Remender, drawn by Jerome Opena with Leonardo Manco
Collects Uncanny X-Force #1-4, Wolverine: Road To Hell

Much like Suicide Squad, I was encouraged to check out Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force by Ben Morse. I recently read his first arc on Venom which, while well done, just wasn’t the kind of book I was looking for but had also really liked what he did with Punisher and the wild FrankenCastle story. From what I’ve read, Remender’s excellent at coming up with capital A awesome ideas that sometimes might not get to be as cool as you want them to be because he’s working within the Marvel Universe, which can have it’s fair share of constraints, as do all of the shared, multi-book, multiple creator ones. That’s just how those work.

So, I was curious about his X-Force and when I saw it on sale for a reasonable price from an Amazon seller I was buying a few other things from, I bit. I knew that this first story was about a new X-Force team consisting of Angel, Wolverine, Psylocke, Deadpool and Fantomex deciding whether or not to kill a resurrected Apocalypse who came back as a child. I think I wrote something about it for Marvel.com, otherwise, I probably would not know all that. And that’s basically what this book is about. I don’t know how the previous X-Force team ended and it doesn’t really matter because this is an all new direction, so none of that really matters. All you need to know is that X-Force is a team of mutants who send themselves on the dirty jobs that Cyclops and the X-Men don’t want to deal with personally, as it has been since the wonderful Messiah Complex.

And the story is as straightforward as I mentioned. Sure there’s inter-character things like Psylocke helping Angel keep his Archangel persona in check and Deadpool being, well, Deadpool, but the main thrust of the story is first finding this new Apocalypse, fighting his new Four Horsemen (or Final Horsemen as they’re called this time around) and then deciding whether or not to ice the kid. The four issues did a weird thing where they at times felt rushed and at other times stretched out, but I think the end result is a well balanced story. I have questions about some of the technical stuff, but I’m guess that’s because I don’t know much about the X-Men and even less about Apocalypse.

Overall I did like this comic, it was a fun, interesting read that got me interested in Fantomex, a character who is so weird, he clearly came form the brain of Grant Morrison. An external neural system that can also turn into a spaceship connected to a guy genetically created to murder but instead pulls of elaborate capers and based his life on a French novel character? Yeah, that’s Morrison. I will also say that SPOILER I was really surprised with how they ended this arc. Seeing as how Apocalypse was a kid, I really did not expect them to kill him. As they were discussing the possibility of taking him with them and training him to be good, I was excited to see where that would go and then, literally, bam. It’s over. And that’s essentially where this trade ends too. I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to purchase the next volume, but I will definitely keep my eyes peeled on Swap to see if anyone’s got an extra.