The Culling: Superboy #9
August 19, 2013
The battle to save– erm, the battle to preserve– uhh... the battle for– ...what are we all fighting for, exactly?
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. We continue our look at the four-part Teen Titans/Superboy/"Legion Lost" crossover, "The Culling". Although, to be fair, can it really count as a Superboy crossover, considering he's already a member of the Titans?
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "The Culling: Rise of the Ravagers")
Linkara (v/o): Let's not worry about the semantics there. Instead, let's talk for a second about the trade collection of this little crossover. Now, the problem with collecting a crossover between two or more different series is how you're supposed to label it. Here's the trade collection for the first of the New 52 Teen Titans. It says "Teen Titans" in bright white letters on the side to indicate the series; the title of the trade – in this case, a made-up phrase, because the first seven issues of the book each had their own title; the creative team; and finally, the trade number. That way, when you put it on your bookshelf, everything's arranged in a nice, easy order. But then you've got "The Culling". Since it contains issues of "Teen Titans", "Superboy" and "Legion Lost", obviously, a number doesn't really qualify for it, since the trade collections don't necessarily reflect the numbering for the others. But the marketing and packaging for this are just bizarre. Remember how I mentioned last time that nowhere on the cover did they mention that it was a crossover? Well, it's the same thing here.
(Editor's note: "I presume 'epic' as in 'epic fail.'" It is described as "the epic crossover between TEEN TITANS, SUPERBOY and LEGION LOST".)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, sure, on the back of the trade, in the print at the bottom, they mention the crossover, but on the front, it says that "The Culling" is "From the pages of TEEN TITANS!" Collecting it as "The Culling" makes perfect sense, I suppose, but why not label it with the team names and then have "The Culling" as the subtitle. And what did they put as the subtitle instead? "Rise of the Ravagers"! Yeah, in the wake of the crossover, another team book was launched based on Harvest's little minions who broke away and was called the Ravagers. We won't get into the Ravagers thing just yet, but I'd like to point out that DC thought that putting "The Ravagers" on the cover and the spine would be a better way to attract customers THAN THE FRIGGIN' TEEN TITANS!! Hey, how many TV shows have the Titans had or been featured in? And how many TV shows has Superboy appeared in? And hell, even members of the Legion of Superheroes, how many shows have they had or appeared in one way or another in other mediums?
Linkara: I dunno, maybe I just don't get it. After all, according to DC, at the mere infant age of 26... (sotto voce) Happy birthday to me, by the way... I am almost twenty years too young to be reading their comics! And yet it often feels like I'm too mature to be reading this stuff.
Linkara (v/o): It gets stupider from there, my friends. See, this trade collects all the issues of the crossover from the three books, including some of the stuff that leads into it. Makes perfect sense there... except DC then went ahead and made the second trade paperback of Titans stories, called it "The Culling"... but only included their issue of the crossover and several issues afterwards! I don't own that trade, but I've heard that they do the "Amazons Attack" trick, where they explained what happened in between issues. Hell, they don't even include the annual. They collected one part of a FOUR-PART CROSSOVER, AND ANYONE WHO'S ONLY READING FROM THE TRADES IS GONNA BE REALLY DAMN CONFUSED!! It's apparently the same thing in the "Superboy" trade, except they DON'T have text recaps! And one last thing about the trade is the promotional quote: "A Visual Spectacle," according to Comic Book Resources.
Linkara: Yeah, I looked it up. It's a quote taken out of context for the annual issue, which was given an average three out of five stars, and the review stated that the artwork only performed (makes "finger quotes") "adequately" and that it was a "visual spectacle" because of the constant fight scenes and lack of detailed backgrounds. Further, that the artist, Brett Booth, could have used some help on it!
Linkara (v/o): Is that how desperate you are for positive press, DC? Taking reviewer quotes out of context in a desperate attempt to make it seem like things are going well?
Linkara: If you want one of those, I can give you that. (looks up) When it comes to these comics, I've never seen anything quite like this before. There. I mean that in a bad way, but feel free to use it on the cover of a trade or something.
Linkara (v/o): "Visual spectacle". The only spectacle you can get out of this is if you've never seen the color red before! Ugrh! Anyway, let's continue, shall we? Last time, the Teen Titans and a lost group of the Legion of Superheroes were kidnapped by a guy named harvest to fight in his gladiatorial arena against other teenagers (dramatically) in a battle to the death! And the prize for winning?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The Price is Right revealing a prize...)
Drew Carey: A new car! (audience cheers)
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): No, because that would actually be a worthwhile prize. No, the prize is, you get to join his group of evil minions that you didn't want to join in the first place. The issue ended with said evil minions being unleashed upon the heroes because... well, let's face it: Harvest isn't exactly impressing us with his evil plans.
Linkara: So let's dig (holds up today's comic) "Superboy #9" and see what new levels of incompetence we have descended to.
(AT4W title theme plays. The title card has "The Hot Rocks Polka" by Weird Al Yankovic playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Well, I've already looked at one cover in this crossover, despite me reading it from a trade, so why not look at the rest? Not that it's anything impressive; Superboy fighting Warblade in the snow. Considering the last issue, I am highly dubious whether snow is actually present in this comic.
Linkara: I'm gonna be honest, the Superboy issue is the only one of the crossover that I didn't read when it was originally released. I cared so little about "The Culling" that the issue came and went and I barely noticed, not that it actually makes much of a difference to skip it, as you'll see.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and Dawnstar of the Legion is on the cover, too. I presume she's there because they felt that if they didn't have boobs– er, I mean, a Legion member on the cover, there'd be no other way of knowing that this was a crossover, almost as if they should've indicated that it was a crossover somewhere!
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open with a group of Titans and Legion members staring at the reader, as if they're really surprised that you actually bought this.
Superboy: (narrating) My name is Superboy. I'm a clone, created by an organization called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and designed to be a weapon.
Linkara: (as Superboy) And you do not want to know where they put the safety on me and what I have to do to switch its position.
Superboy: (narrating) I'm here in a place called The Crucible, several miles under Antarctica-- fighting side by side with the Teen Titans and a handful of people known as The Legion.
Linkara: (as Superboy) But we'll travel along, singing our song, side by side.
Superboy: (narrating) You would think there is enough raw power here to stand against any possible threat.
Linkara: (as Superboy) But then, that would mean that things made sense, and we can't have that. Better that we get our asses handed to us by rejects from the '90s.
Linkara (v/o): Turning the page and going into the sort-of two-page spread that's the actual title page, something really shocking is before us, something... really incredible. The art... looks nice! I'm serious! Just compare the spread here with the one in the annual. Despite the fact that half the heroes here are in the stupid Tron outfits, everything looks nicely bright and different and unique! The heroes are distinct and their colors don't blend into each other. It's even the same case for the villains, who all have a nice spread of colors on them, too. I didn't even realize how different and varied the villains appeared at the end of the last issue. You want to know why?
(A shot of the final page from the last issue is shown)
Linkara (v/o):: BECAUSE SOME IDIOT PUT A FRICKIN' PURPLE FILTER OVER ALL OF THEM SO ALL THE COLORS LOOK PURPLE!!
Linkara It's amazing! The heroes actually stand out from the hellish landscape and look like heroes when you don't have the friggin' FILTERS put over everything! I can't begin to tell you how much of a difference this made to my enjoyment of the comic when I could actually see things so damn clearly!
Linkara (v/o): You know, I read an essay recently about this. Comic artists these days seem determined to drain away all the color out of everything, kind of like that thing in movies where they want everything to look blue and orange. The same thing is happening in comics, building on that point I made last time about scenes either being at sunset or at night, even though logically, they should be taking place in the middle of the day, and all the other colors are washed out. This is possibly done in a failed effort to make it look more "realistic", and I would remind you that comics are the medium that features whatever the hell this brown or orange guy is smoking a cigar*! There are some areas where "realism" is not exactly necessary. Then again, anyone who thinks that the world is just orange and blue has never looked out a friggin' window and seen how many colors there are in the real world and how well you can see them!
- NOTE: The "brown or orange guy smoking a cigar" is Edgar Ridgley.
(A shot of the first scene of "Superboy #9" is shown)
Linkara (v/o): This is superheroes; they should be bright, easy to see, and visually interesting! This, is a visual spectacle for me.
(A shot of the Titans and Legion in the past issue is shown)
Linkara (v/o): NOT THIS! This, is painful to look at, overcomplicated, and has too much gradient light filters over everything that make it all blend together!
Linkara: (body twitching) I know I'm harping on this a lot, but you do not even know how much I started (makes a "finger quote") "enjoying" the comic more when the coloring and artwork were as nice as this. And bear in mind, this is still the stupid-ass storyline that introduced a popular character and then killed her off in the same issue.
Linkara (v/o): Here's another quote for ya, DC, that's actually accurate in regards to the pencillers and colorists: R.B. Silva, Richard and Tanya Horie, and Hi-Fi, you are an island of tranquility in a sea of garbage! Anyway, let's get back to the actual "story".
Superboy: (narrating) They are called the Ravagers.
Linkara: Stop laughing!
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, I'll save my thoughts on the Ravagers for next time, since we're still only on the second page.
Superboy: (narrating) They are the survivors of N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s previous cullings-- one night a year when a man named Harvest pits metahumans against each other, with only the strongest left alive to serve him.
Linkara (v/o): Except for the ones that aren't metahumans that he kidnapped just for the LOLZ! So, what does Warblade have to say about this?
Warblade: You kids are too clever by half.
Linkara: (as Warblade) The maximum amount of cleverness allowed here is three-sixteenths!
Warblade: Instead of killing each other, you teamed up and took down every other kid here to keep them from hurting each other. Pretty much the polar opposite of what Harvest intended.
Linkara: Yeah, that sure was clever of them. If by "clever", you mean "damn frickin' obvious"! Seriously, if The Culling is an annual event, are you telling me that this is the first time in years that anybody thought of that?!
Linkara (v/o): The big dude smoking the cigar is apparently named Ridge and I guess is British.
Ridge: Right rude of the lot of you!
Linkara: (British accent, holding up a pipe) I say, old boy, how very rude of you to not murder other innocent teenagers! That's just not done!
Linkara (v/o): Robin says that the Ravagers are just as much victims of Harvest as the rest of them and offers them a chance to surrender and avoid all this, but Warblade refuses.
Warblade: The only way this ends is in a pool of blood. Yours. Ravagers, on my word...
Linkara (v/o): So, let me get this straight: Harvest wants the strongest and best to join his army of Ravagers by having them kill each other. This collection of heroes has managed to take out all the other metahumans without having to kill them, something that's a lot harder to do than just killing them, and as a result, he has sent in the Ravagers to... kill them all. He wants to kill the people he went to great effort to kidnap, and force them to demonstrate how powerful and strong they are so they can join his band of idiots. And... Harvest has now ordered them dead.
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching Agent for H.A.R.M.)
Mike Nelson: I wish I had the slightest idea of what the hell I was doing.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Also, I should note that people have informed me that Warblade is actually a character from the Wildstorm imprint that was folded into the DC Universe when "The New 52" was started. Also, that he was a hero and not a villain like he is here. Just keep finding new ways to piss off your readers, DC. That'll get us to want to keep reading. Superboy, seeing that Warblade is the leader, immediately flies at him at super speed and tackles him away.
Tyroc: (to Red Robin) Your "Superboy" is rather impulsive.
Red Robin: He isn't exactly ours.
Linkara: Your decision to break into N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s headquarters to rescue him got you idiots into this mess to begin with. Don't start trying to claim he's not yours.
(Cut to an Aussie man, played by Lewis)
Aussie: The ball ain't movin', lads! (looks to camera) Oh, we'll be right back. (walks off as AT4W logo appears) Bloody 'ell!
(We got to commercial; upon return, the Aussie man returns)
Aussie: We're back now, mates. (drawing a bow and arrow and running off-screen) That pyro is a spy. (the sound of a raging flame is heard while the AT4W logo appears) OH, GOD, NO, HE ISN'T!
(We cut back to the comic as the review resumes)
Linkara (v/o): Robin wants to send Solstice after them, but Tyroc suggests otherwise, ince Dawnstar is an experienced tracker, and they'll need Solstice's firepower here.
Robin: Can't argue with your strategy, Tyroc-- but don't give my team orders.
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, just like he... wasn't. One of the Legion members, Tellus, creates a telepathic link so they can coordinate.
Tellus: Should we...link in...these Titans?
Tyroc: (thinking) Not until they earn our trust.
Linkara: What do they need to do to earn it, exactly? You're facing unknown hostile forces, and they've already proven that they don't want to kill anybody. Denying them information just makes it so that you guys will most likely step on each other's toes!
Superboy: (narrating) I slam into Warblade with so much concussive force-- our momentum carries us more than a mile away.
Linkara: Hey, remember how Superboy's powers are supposed to be restricted right now? Yeah, I think they did, too.
Linkara (v/o): He dumps Warblade into the lava, hoping that the heat would deal with the metal covering him... I think; not exactly sure what the plan is after that, since the heated metal would probably kill Warblade afterward, unless he's a robot or something. And as we'll see, Superboy is just as committed to not killing as the others.
Superboy: (narrating) It's not working! He may look like metal but he's something much more durable!
Linkara: (as Superboy) My God! He's made of MYLAR!
Linkara (v/o): Back over to the teams, it's time for another example of "missing the damn point". I complained back during the Titans history how Rose Wilson's character regressed when it came to Geoff Johnson's "Titans" run, but of course, there were plenty of fans who still enjoyed her character in that form, and I respect that. So, of course, in the reboot, they turned her evil and made her work for N.O.W.H.E.R.E. as well. Ain't that peachy?
Linkara: So our count right now is at least three different heroes in this book who have been turned evil for absolutely no reason. I can probably make another top 15 list of heroes turning villains on the reboot alone.
Linkara (v/o): While I enjoy the artwork, there are still some artistic failings here and there. For example, Robin seems to be flying in this first panel as Rose somehow falls towards him, doing the splits, because hell, you need to get in your yoga session somehow, but then her legs are together as she's falling, and finally, Robin has turned around, seemingly crashing onto the ground, and holding out his arms. There's a "SWOK" noise that I think is supposed to imply that the wings here are supposed to be blocking her sword, but it looks more like she's tapping against the tips of them and Robin is trying to catch the blade with his hands. My theory about the wings seems supported by Robin's dialogue.
Robin: These wings are pure inertron. You'll find then rather resistant to harm.
Linkara (v/o): Inertron is a fictional medal in the DC Universe, like promethium, or the Marvel Universe's adamantium; really strong substance that's supposedly impenetrable. My question is simply, where the hell did Robin get that, since it's supposed to be from the 30th century?! Did Harvest give him those?! If he did, how did Robin know he did that?! And if so, why?! And if those are his original flight wings and not replacements made by Harvest, why the hell isn't Batman using the stuff for his body armor instead of giving it all to Tim Drake?! And our final bit in this sequential fail is Robin doing a backwards flip while kicking, which somehow knocks her away. He's apparently defying gravity while he's at it, since his wings are retracted now. They need a flow chart for this fight. Then Robin's flying towards her.
Robin: Solstice tried to help you, Rose-- to give you a chance to redeem yourself and move forward. Superboy has taken a stand against N.O.W.H.E.R.E.-- you can too!
(Cut to a clip of Rocky IV)
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone): Everybody can change!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Wildfire of the Legion dumps Ridge down in between them, for no reason, while in the background, Wonder Girl fights someone else.
Wonder Girl: Focus, Red Robin! I want your full attention as I exploit this distraction...
Linkara: (more than a little confused) He's... distracted, so you want to take advantage of his distraction... by getting his full attention? (looks offscreen) Hey, Mr. T, what do you call that?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The A-Team)
B.A. Baracus: I call that dumb. You don't go and kick the snake you're trying to sneak upon.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Rose offers Robin the chance to join them, but of course, he refuses, and Flash gets him out of the way of her sword.
Robin: I need you to scour every inch of the Crucible, Kid Flash. Collect all the kids and try to find Skitter.
Kid Flash: Uhhh... sure. You're welcome, by the way.
Linkara: You're in the middle of a life-or-death fight! I think the platitudes can wait, dude!
Linkara (v/o): Back with Superboy, he uses his tactile telekinesis abilities to bring up lava to Warblade's face, desperately trying to choke him at this point, but of course, it has no effect, though I don't know why Superboy thought it would. He was completely submerged in the lava before without consequence, and I can't even tell if he breathes through that helmet or even if it is a helmet.
Superboy: What did Harvest do to turn you into this?
Warblade: You're not as special as you were led to believe. Yeah, you're a living weapon. Big deal! So is every other Ravager!
Linkara: So... he's a hipster supervillain?
Linkara (v/o): Dawnstar arrives and picks up Warblade, knocking him into some rocks while another supervillain watches nearby. Aaaand then it starts to snow. For no reason. Superboy acknowledges that it's weird that it's snowing and... end of that. The landscape is just snowy all of a sudden. Now, to be fair, in the last issue, they said that the landscape was "ever-changing", but we didn't see any evidence of that until now. But the problem is that doesn't jell with what the behind-the-scenes information stated. They said that the Colony was supposed to be a representation of Hell, with fire and lava and red caves.
Linkara: And yeah, I know, according to "Dante's Inferno", the final circle of Hell is the coldest, since it's the farthest from God's light, but why bother to have a landscape just suddenly shift now?
Linkara (v/o): Hell, this just makes me wonder what the hell this place is. Is it all holograms? Because I sincerely doubt you can just alter the entire landscape like that on a whim, unless it was some sort of false surrounding.
Linkara: Wait, why am I even complaining about this? It's not red anymore! I was actually starting to think that the color blue was a figment of my imagination.
Linkara (v/o): Dawnstar stays out of the way of Warblade's claws as he starts smashing at rocks. And here's once again some confusion in what the hell's going on. Does the dude have telekinetic powers? Because he smashes the rocks and then kinda swipes his arms around, and the rocks go shooting out at Dawnstar specifically. If he doesn't have those kind of powers, is he just swinging his arms around, and through sheer luck, it's all hitting her?
Warblade: Unfortunately for you, I've raised killing-- to an ART FORM!
Linkara: So... technically, with those claws, does that mean that you're fingerpainting right now?
Linkara (v/o): With Dawnstar down, he tries to go over and slash her throat, but Superboy punches him into another mountain. Meanwhile, Kid Flash is tackled by Timber Wolf, who claims to know who Kid Flash is... Um, he has amnesia, for those wondering. That's why there wasn't a plot hole about them not believing they're from the future because Kid Flash is from it. They don't know that. ...and that he's responsible for a lot of suffering and death. Another Legion member knocks Timber Wolf out and tells Kid Flash that the future is his to create and to ignore what Timber Wolf said. Back with Superboy, he keeps repeatedly punching Warblade, thinking that with what he's demonstrated, he'll probably heal quickly. However, before he can continue, this random guy [Hunter Bryce] shows up in his own stupid N.O.W.H.E.R.E. jumpsuit. He apparently has stretchy powers and showed in a previous "Superboy" issue. He was watching Superboy before and complains that it's Superboy's fault that he's in here.
Hunter Bryce: I had a good life until you came along. My sweetums and I were in love. We were so happy.
Superboy: You and your girlfriend were mass murderers.
Linkara: (holding up hand) Hey, now, Superboy! Let's not change the subject here. Go on, Mr. Mass Murderer, tell us how you really feel about what Superboy did to you.
Linkara (v/o): But before he can really continue, Warblade pops up behind him shoves his claws through his stomach.
Linkara: (melodramatically reaching hand out) NOOOOOO! Not the mass-murdering character who was only seen now for anyone who hasn't previously read the other series involved in this crossover! (shakes fist) NOOOOOOOO!
Linkara (v/o): Warblade says Superboy should have killed him and that he's killed before, but Superboy just stammers that he wouldn't do it in cold blood like Warblade did.
Warblade: You're not a good person, Superboy. You're not even a person.
Linkara: (holds up hand) Spoilers: The secret behind this crossover is that Superboy is actually a lawn ornament.
Linkara (v/o): Warblade runs at Superboy, ready to gut him... and then gets hit by a rock thrown by Dawnstar... that knocks him out.
Linkara: So, (holds up fingers) lava, heavily collisions, repeated punches to the face... None of those faze Warblade... but you throw a single rock at him, and he just (flails arms around) can't handle it. (shakes head and sighs, massaging his forehead) Okay. Okay. (whispers) Okay. (looks at comic again)
Linkara (v/o): And over the course of two pages, we see the other Titans and Legion members knock out the rest of the Ravagers. Robin says he feels crappy because he feels he could have saved more teens. Uh, so far, the body count is two – one who was a mass murderer and the other... well, yeah, that one sucked, but I'd say the body count is pretty low so far, dude.
Robin: Too many of them died because they chose to play by Harvest's rules.
Linkara: Did I turn over two pages at once?! Where the hell are all the supposed dead people you guys are talking about?!
Linkara (v/o): Or are all these Ravagers actually dead, and you guys have been killing them offscreen? Also, I noticed that the landscape is turning red again. Well, thanks for that brief respite from it anyway. Superboy says that they'll never be Harvest's pawns, and our comic ends with Harvest himself deciding to join in on the fun.
Harvest: A noble sentiment, Superboy... futile and impotent... but noble nonetheless.
Linkara: (massaging his forehead) I know I'm kinda beating a dead horse here, Harvest, but how do you expect to make them work for you?! THIS ENTIRE EXERCISE IS POINTLESS!!
Harvest: I do hope you enjoy your momentary triumph. I wanted you all to experience a brief flare of hope-- so that your eventual defeat would be all the more crushing.
Linkara: (as Harvest) Yes, I totally meant to have all my forces get their asses kicked by you! It was completely intentional! I'm not trying to spin this or anything!
Harvest: At long last! The time has come for you to experience-- the true power of HARVEST!
Linkara: (as Harvest) I have the power to make the artwork crappy again! None shall escape it! (closes comic and holds it up; normal voice) This comic sucks... but it is better than last week.
Linkara (v/o): It's amazing how much more tolerable this crossover briefly became just by virtue of having decent artwork, Despite the sequential fails in conveying two people exchanging blows or trying to figure out what the hell Warblade was doing with his arms here, the fact that the color palette was so much more diverse made it a hell of a lot more enjoyable to behold. And one more comment on last week's comic: for an annual issue, something that's supposed to be a special once-a-year comic, it sure did a hell of a crappy job focusing on the Titans! It showed them as distrustful idiots, and it felt like more time was spent with Harvest, the Legion, and Artemis than it did on the people the book was supposed to be about! But then we've got Superboy's issue. And while it did move along the fight scene and stuff happening between the Legion and the Titans, the focus of the book was on Superboy himself and his thoughts and feelings from his perspective.
Linkara: The entire issue was still a crappy fight scene, but at least it was a more enjoyable one. Next week, we'll see if we can continue that momentum in "Legion Lost #9".
TO BE CONTINUED
(End credits roll)
So apparently the "comics made for 45 year-olds" quote was a few years ago, pre-reboot. Considering it's still the same people in charge of the company, I doubt there's been any real change from that.
People have also been rather keen to inform me that Artemis existed pre-reboot as Tigress. True, but she wasn't the heroic version of her that was seen in Young Justice, now was she? As far as I'm concerned, it's a new character. And the point still stands: introduce the Young Justice version... and then kill her.
(Stinger: The panel of Warblade getting hit with a rock is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): Dawnstar used "rock throw". It's super effective!