Superboy #14 came out earlier this week and was the opening chapter to the super-crossover H'El On Earth. As such, it had a big task. I mean, this is supposed to be the story that brings Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy together for the first time. It is going to probably define how they interact with each other moving forward. The job of the first chapter is to get the ball rolling.
Now part of this was accomplished in Superman #13, with the appearance of a Kryptonian dragon, the argument between Superman and Supergirl, and the hovering and invisible H'El. But this was the first chapter where H'El does more than float and gloat. So I was hoping that I would just be grabbed by the throat and eager for the next chapter.
I don't know if it did that.
Now part of the problem is that Superboy has been so involved in other titles, popping up in Teen Titans, Ravagers, and Legion Lost. We have to wrap up those things a bit before H'El even shows up. I have said before, I don't want to read Ravagers or Teen Titans. This Superboy book, I think, has suffered because it seems to depend on me buying those books rather than be a true stand alone solo title.
RB Silva and Rob Lean provide the art for the book. There is a kinetic feel to the action sequences in the book augmented by odd panel shapes and slashes of color behind the panel. But the art themselves seemed a little rougher than I am used to seeing in the team. It's as if more lines, as detailing, has been added here.
That reliance on other books is never more evident than with this opening splash page. Last issue ended with asking me to follow Superboy to Ravagers #5. This issues starts with Superboy running out of the pages of Legion Lost. How can I follow this book if it's stories aren't resolved here? In fact, looking back, many Superboy issues end with a cliffhanger resolved in another book. That just shouldn't happen.
Now luckily, I read Legion Lost so I know that Superboy is running from a major battle and that Harvest at some point used a key phrase to send Superboy beserk. Of course, he is leaving the end of the battle which happens 2 months from now in Lost. So this aligning of things is a bit tricky.
Still, this book seems to hop around other titles too much.
One good part about this is the slow rebuilding and rehabilitation of Kon. Since his bank-robbing bling-laden issue, Supeboy has been slowly realizing the kind of guy he wants to be. He has helped out his friends, he keeps promising to return the money he stole.
Here, back at his apartment, talking to Bunker, he laments the fact that he can't trust himself any more. If Harvest could turn him into an automaton, can't anybody? It makes him feel more like a thing than a person. It is good to see more emotions from Kon than just anger and sarcasm.
I like the silhouette feeling to the last panel. Adds to the emotion.
Bunker tries to help, reassuring Superboy. Superboy has friends, has people he can count on.
At last, Superboy says 'call me Kon'. So at least he has another name besides Superboy. A name, even if it is an insult, also humanizes him.
After these opening pages, H'El finally decides to show up.
He can immediately tell that Superboy is a clone and wonders how Earth's simple science could pull it off. Interestingly, he is invisible to Bunker but visible to Kon. Makes it confusing for poor Bunker.
One thing I did notice is that the 'green energy' power H'El is emanating looks suspiciously like Superboy's red TK power. Could it be that telekinesis is somehow Kryponian based?
Whatever the power is, H'El is able to pretty much thrash Superboy, tossing him around like a ragdoll and torturing him in the sewers, away from prying eyes.
Bunker is unclear just what the heck is happening, so calls upon the Titans for some backup.
And when the Titans arrive, Superboy is in rough shape, being pulled apart. H'El must have significant super-senses because he can read Superboy's genome. It is a pretty vivid image with Kon's limbs being unraveled and peeled away. Disgusting!
It is unclear why but H'El has dropped his cloak so the Titans can see him. But H'El is extremely powerful, sending them flying with his green TK.
It is nice to see the Titans rally around their friend.
You can get a hint of the page set-up by Silva here, with H'El and Superboy living outside the panels above, the arc of Superboy being tossed outside the panel border, purple blocks radiating. This sort of stuff keeps me visually interested in a book.
And here we get a little glimpse into H'El's hopes. While he considers humans 'chattel', he needs the people of Earth alive so Krypton might live. Hmmm ... is he thinking of some sort of gene-bomb, rewriting humanity's DNA with Kryptonian DNA? Does he need the organic material for a cloning machine? Hmm...
As for the Titans, they aren't going to give up ... especially Cassie.
Superboy helped her. She will do the same. It is, again, nice to see these interactions, these relationships between Superboy and others. He isn't just a weapon; he is a person who has done enough good to inspire loyalty in others.
In a well-worn ending, H'El decides to take Superboy and leave rather than 'crush the Titans' with a thought.
Now what he needs with Superboy, I have no idea. Maybe if he is thinking of recreating Krypton through cloning Superboy is worth more study.
So how does this fare?
I find it amusing that the parts of this issue I liked the best had nothing to do with the H'El character. Superboy's worrying about his feelings, whether he is a 'real boy', Bunker's attempts at helping him, Superboy's accepting the name Kon, Cass's loyalty ... all that worked, slowly washing away the bad taste of Superboy #11.
But really, this opening chapter was nothing but a clumsy brawl between H'El and Superboy and the Titans. I know he is incredibly powerful. I know he needs humanity alive. But I know little else about H'El or his agenda. So I don't know if the book worked on that level.
Still, DeFalco is rebounding nicely, slowly improving the book and the characters. They're baby steps but at least they are in the right direction.