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Into the back issue box #53

And … we’re back! I’d like to do these every weekend, but simply can’t. So just be overjoyed when it does show up! I know that you are!

Oh, those wacky kidz!First of all, let’s peruse the ground rules. Salright? Salright!

Superboy #7 is written by Karl Kesel, drawn by Tom Grummett, inked by Doug Hazlewood, colored by Tom McCraw, and lettered by Richard Starkings and Comicraft. It was published by DC, natch, and it has a cover date of August 1994. Oh dear … the Nineties.

Before we even get to the story, a banner across the top of the first page proclaims, “Wait! Don’t Read This Until You’ve Finished Worlds Collide #1!” Yes, as you can tell from the cover (which, yes, spells “kids” with a “z” at the end instead of an “s”), this is a crossover between DC and Milestone. It is, in fact, the eighth chapter of this crossover. So my ground rules are probably going to be pushed, because a first-time comic book reader would find him- or herself in the midst of a giant crossover. Does Kesel do much to accommodate that theoretical first-timer?

Well, no. This isn’t a good comic, but worse than that, it’s a confusing comic. Even someone who knows some of the characters (like your humble author, who is only pretending to read these as if he were a first-time comic reader) would be a bit puzzled. Basically, this issue is one long pseudo-fight, as a tidal wave stretches across two universes (the DC one and the Milestone one), threatening to swamp Metropolis and Dakota, where the Milestone heroes are based. A bunch of heroes in both worlds are trying to stop it. So the basic story is easy enough to follow, but Kesel doesn’t really give us much information about the characters and who they are and what they do, and when Superman is really the only well known superhero in the book, that’s a problem.

So this giant tidal wave is about to hit Metropolis and Dakota. We learn on page two that some dude named Rift caused the wave by picking up Paris Island and throwing it, which defies some geological constants, I’m sure, but okay. In Metropolis, someone called “Wise Son” says that a rock came out of the fog and caused the wave. The fog obscures a “bridge” to Dakota. So somehow these two worlds have become linked. Got it. Superman tries to assess the powers of the people he’s with – he sees a “water elemental and a super-strong woman” as well as someone who some sort of control over time. He asks if anyone has freezing powers or force fields, and Wise Son tells him “Listen up, ‘Superman’ – you deal with the Blood Syndicate through me – Wise Son – or you don’t deal!” Um, really? Is it really the time to engage in territorial pissing contests? Superman doesn’t think so, telling him that the wave won’t really care who it kills.

Back in Dakota, we learn that the heroes are Superboy, Rocket, and Static. Rift is standing right next to them, talking about how dreamlike their rescue efforts are. He’s kind of weird. Rocket tries to use her inertia power to absorb some of the wave’s energy, but that doesn’t work. Static separates the water into hydrogen and oxygen with his electrical powers, but causes a big hydrogen explosion. Superboy uses his telekinetic power, but that doesn’t work either. He’s pulled clear from the wave by Icon, a Superman-kinda dude. Good job, Icon! Unfortunately, Rift grabs Icon with his powers (we still don’t know what those are) and, confused, says he thought Icon was Superman. Rift is weird. But that’s a good segue back to Metropolis!

Superman’s X-ray vision can’t see through the fog, so he can’t chance crossing over the “bridge.” He tries to break up the wave, trusting the Blood Syndicate to do the rest. The water elemental, Aquamaria, jumps into the water and becomes a counter-wave. Meanwhile, in Dakota, Rift can’t decide if Icon or Superman is “real” (apparently the Dakota heroes think Superman is fictional), so he blends their costumes and decides that he created both of them, because he has that power. He also decides that two worlds are too many, but he can fix that, too! Rocket goes to save Icon, but Superboy stops her while Static tries to convince Rift to stop the tidal wave, as they realize he’s probably the only one who can. Rift grabs Superboy, saying he dreamed him into existence. Static says that maybe he did dream them all, but now they’re alive, and only Rift can save them from the wave. Rift wonders if maybe, instead of drowning, they’d like to burn, and he turns the water into flame. Well, that’s not good. This doesn’t go over well in Metropolis, where Aquamaria is suddenly hit by a wall of flame, which apparently kills her (although we never get confirmation in this issue, so who knows?). Flashback, who can turn time back three seconds, tries to do it and save Aquamaria, but she can’t. Superman flies back to the group, telling them that the wave is gone. Wise Son is angry at him for sacrificing Aquamaria’s life to save his “bombed-out toon town.” Wise Son is kind of a jerk, isn’t he? Superman says he’d like to help by finding out who’s responsible. Sounds like a switch back to Dakota is in order!

Story continues below

Rift is speculating whether Dakota deserves to survive. Rocket and Static, meanwhile, see that Rift might have trouble concentrating on Icon if his attention is divided. They attack him and knock him down, but before they can capitalize on their success, Rift turns them into stone. A giant stone tombstone, that is. Oh, that Rift – such a sense of humor. That done, he says he can now proceed without interruption. Which means it’s time for the crossover to continue in Hardware #18!

As a single issue, this is a fine chapter in a massive crossover. For a first-time comic book reader, it’s a bit of a mess. Kesel doesn’t make it too difficult to figure out who’s who and what their powers are (except for Wise Son, whose power seems that of smart-assery), but because this is a part of a crossover, he doesn’t do anything to explain what the greater plot is. As always, I get that if you’re reading the entire crossover, you don’t want to read two or three pages of recap every issue, but that’s why this is fairly insular and wouldn’t attract new readers. Even if you’re willing to go along with the entire crossover if this was your first comic, Kesel doesn’t really give us any reason to do so. The characters aren’t terribly interesting or intriguing, so there’s not a lot of reason to find out more about them, and the action is fairly dull. Rift might be the most interesting character in the book, but that’s based more on the potential in this issue rather than anything else. Other than that, this is a fairly dull superhero meeting in which they battle a tidal wave. It doesn’t do much to showcase the characters. First-time comic readers who vaguely know a bit about superheroes might think it’s odd that most of the Dakota heroes are black, but they’re still fairly bland characters.

There’s nothing horribly offensive about this comic that would make people not want to read any others, but there’s also not a lot to recommend the medium. This is a short, rather boring chapter of a larger story that, one would hope, was better in toto than this single issue was, but based on this, there’s no reason to get the rest of the tale. So sad!


I can’t, offhand, think of a single crossover issue I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot of them) that makes a good first comic for someone. Not even if it’s part 1.

This brings an interesting point: just how much exposition should a comic book story have?

It’s true, from a business point of view, that every comic book could be someone’s first and it should be as clear as possible. But on the other hand, the fact that these are SERIAL publications, which are also part of larger continuities, should not be ignored. We fans need to give the comics a break in this sense. I’ve been reading comics since the 70s, and yes more than one was confusing, but I focused on enjoying what I could at a time and then look for explanations later (it really helped that in the old days, most comics had little aids such as boxes that said things like “for more details, see issue #X of series Y!” I miss those.)

It is true, though, that this issue isn’t a stand-alone story. WORLDS COLLIDE would have worked much better if it had been confined to its own mini-series rather than sprawled over several comics. (It IS possible for this kind of crossover to work, however, but it needs a story that has smaller stories occurring by the side that can be better explored in other series.)

Oh Tom Grummett, you button-nose drawing pride of Saskatoon, what are you up to these days?

He’s drawing X-Men Forever.

I have never been confused about a cross-over (or tie-ins) that I’ve never read! ;-)

Worlds Collide was all kinds of terrible, mostly because they take the Milestone characters, slap them into the tonally-different DCU titles, and have them treated as inferior and somewhat useless characters. At least, that’s what I remember from reading this crossover more than 15 years ago.

How slow was that tidal wave moving, that the characters had time to have conversations and try multiple tactics to divert it while within view of the cities it’s threatening?

The first time I ever saw the Milestone characters was when they popped as guest stars in another book, and I found the fact that their hometown was called “Dakota” terribly confusing. It was mostly because they just dropped the word into conversation without explanation. I mean, if a character you’d never seen before said “We need to get back to Carolina as soon as possible!” with no further context, would you assume they come from a city called “Carolina” as opposed to needing to get back to a person named Carolina or the state of either North Carolnia or South Carolina (presumably omitting the “North” or “South” for brevity, because the person to whom they were speaking knew what they were talking about)? Couldn’t they have at least called it “Dakota City” or “Dakota Heights” or something, so it, you know, sounded like the name of a city?

I also remember thinking that several of the characters themselves were pretty cool, but many of them had the most atrocious costumes I’d ever seen. One had a plaid cape, if memory serves.

“Wait! Don’t Read This Until You’ve Finished Worlds Collide #1!”

I’m still waiting. But it won’t be in this lifetime.

I wonder if I went in a comic shop and just picked up a random issue from a long box, much like you do for the purpose of In the Back Issue Box, I would find some comics worth reading. I’ll have to try that next time i’m in and hope it goes well. Chances are it won’t though, a lot of the stuff you’ve pulled out doesn’t seem to be very good regardless of how it would affect a new reader (or a seasoned reader at that).

I enjoyed the Superboy series as it first started, but don’t have this one. And I guess that’s a good thing.

Kesel’s Superboy is amazing, but even I have to admit that this was a terrible way to introduce a crossover. Thank goodness the companies have learned how to handle company-crossovers– Better Advertising!

I love Kesel’s Superboy!!!

I remember this being a very good comic book. It still seems so to me. It was fun, exciting and didn’t take itself too seriously. In fact I’d say the Worlds Collide issues of Superboy were probably among the best issues of that title’s existence.

Love me some Kesel/Grummett/Hazlewood/McCraw.

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