This book blows a number of things out of the water, such as the decent plotting, intriguing characters and engaging artwork of what came before it. It blows away the hopes I was getting that, between its predecessor and that new Teen Titans run, maybe comics aimed at a slightly teen-ier audience were actually taking steps in a direction that made them appeal to anyone over the age of 20. It blows up almost any feelings of sympathy or interest I had in its main character.
In short, it just blows.
I had slightly unrealistic expectations that I figured Superboy: Extraction wouldn’t be able to meet. After all, last year’s Incubation was a surprise pleasure that dealt with a story far above average for teen superhero yarns, a character that actually garnered feelings of engagement from the reader and artwork that, while nothing too standout, was nonetheless visually pleasing. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, and I was waiting with bated breath – avoiding all the spoilers, which is a rarity for someone with days of Wikipedia-perusal under his belt between then and now – for the follow-up to the book itself and the cliffhanger that I really didn’t see coming.
Thank you so much, Extraction, for pissing all my hopes against the wall and giving me a story only marginally better than unanesthetised brain surgery.
It’s almost impossible for me to summarise Extraction‘s story in a few sentences or less since the plot goes in so many directions it ends up just being an incoherent mess. Roughly, the first half of the story deals with The Culling, a crossover event similar to Batman’s Night of the Owls between Superboy, the Teen Titans and some idiots from the future called The Legion. After this stupendously messy and unintelligible portion, the second half follows Superboy adjusting to life with the Teen Titans (wait, weren’t they, like, massive enemies with each other? How’d that get sorted out?). He does this by hitting on his landlady, beating up a robot that seems to like ripping off the Borg from Star Trek, and stealing billions of dollars from a bank vault.
I’m not even kidding with any of that. The plot is so disjointed and schizophrenic that nothing is explained, or resolved, or followed up on from any earlier story or plotline. The chunks ripped wholesale from The Culling don’t make sense on their own because they’re missing vast tracts of the rest of the story, which is kind of like trying to watch a season of Game of Thrones but skipping every second episode. What meagre plot elements do make sense are so stupifyingly awful, cliche and a bunch of other mean words that you’d get a more satisfying reading experience checking out the instruction manual for a dishwasher. Seriously, who the hell cares about Superboy possibly getting it on with his landlady? Who gives a feckless lump of duck crap if he and Wonder Girl have so much belligerent sexual tension you’d think they were the lead characters from Castle?
What made Incubation such an effective first volume was that it treated Superboy as an other, a character the audience was distanced from because of his alien nature, yet still relatable with because he experienced that distance and alienation (no pun intended) from his superiors and his peers in a way that made him interesting. I got sad that he was treated like crap by N.O.W.H.E.R.E., and that people like Rose Wilson and Caitlin Fairchild were equal-opportunity asshats to him. I felt remorse that the only way he knew how to express his disheartenment and desire to find a purpose was through intense physical violence and levelling cities.
Now, all those personality problems and deficiencies in his character have been almost completely solved with little to no explanation. He’s buddy-buddy with the Teen Titans, got a good friendship going with Bunker (who still wins the prize for “Most Awkwardly Crowbarred-In Humorous Dialogue of Any Comic Book Character Ever”) and even has his own apartment that he leases for free from a drunk socialite who can’t decide if she’s Paris Hilton or Holly Golightly. There is absolutely zero engagement with the character whatsoever, and all the things that made him interesting (and set him apart from his pre-reboot cookie-cutter-Superman self) are gone or forgotten. More usually both.
Connected to a rambling and inconsistent plot is a lot of rambling and inconsistent artwork. As well as R.B. Silva and the team from Incubation we’ve also got Brett Booth from Teen Titans and a few guest artists whose work in this book is pallid at best. The illustrations are all full of the usual bright colour and poppy imagery featured in the volumes preceding them, mixed with some new costumes ripped straight out of the TRON movies. I don’t recall ever seeing the characters enter a computer world or do anything that necessitates the use of Tron Lines on their outfits, but then again it could be part of the big chunks of The Culling that are missing from the book. Presumably those chunks would also explain how the team ends up stranded on a question-mark-shaped island with dinosaurs for company.
Dialogue is AWFUL. Seriously, the last time I read scripting this teen-y and OC-reminiscent was during The Children’s Crusade, and at least that had Scarlet Witch and her sexy sexiness to distract me from that facepalm-fest of wording. Bunker still talks like every joke he makes is crammed in to be as racially insensitive and awkwardly “hilarious” as possible, almost all of the characters are now reduced to two-dimensional cardboard cutout personalities (most egregiously Wonder Girl, who is only a bottle of red hair dye and calling Superboy “an idiot” away from basically being a grouchier version of Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion) and the forced warmth between team members seems like it was pretty realistic in the same way botox gives you a pretty realistic smile.
Don’t read Extraction. It’s rare that I come right out and say something like that, and usually I try to find a redeeming quality or a thin reason to add it to your shelf, but I can’t with this one. It’s just dreck, plain and simple. I can’t even recommend it for kindling or toilet paper, because that would mean you’d still have to spend money on the damn thing – stick with two-ply and random sticks, respectively.
Wait, I think I meant those the other way around.
BEST QUOTE: Like Faces of Death before it, this book has no good quote. You want a quote?
“This book is so awful it makes me want to shoot my face off.” – Chris Comerford, the Perturbed Writer.