Superman #14 came out this week and was the next chapter in H'El on Earth. We finally get all the members of the super-family together, dealing with the wild card in all this, H'El himself, and the conflict he represents.
Pulling off a crossover probably isn't easy. But this is a three title crossover, all related - not something company-wide. It should be relatively easy to bring the creative teams together to make sure that everything in the story is smooth. I say this because everything that I loved about Supergirl #14 ... the cousins slowly becoming closer, Kara slowly accepting Earth, wanting Kal to be part of her life, rushing to her Earth friend to tell her what happened, recognizing Kon as a person ... it all is basically undone by writer Scott Lobdell here. And as a result, this issue has a completely different feel to it, even though it is the next chapter, picking up immediately where the last one left off.
Say what you will about New Krypton, James Robinson, Greg Rucka, and Sterling Gates all presented the characters in the stories the same way. Thara was Thara and Zod was Zod and Supergirl was Supergirl regardless of what book they were in.
But here we get differing personalities of the main characters in each title. Add to that the continued characterization of Clark/Superman in Superman portraying him as a sort of emotionally stunted and clingy individual, a sort of whining and insulting guy. And that isn't Superman either. I can't believe how he interacts with the people around him, whether it is Lois or Kara or even H'El.
Kenneth Rocafort provides the art here and it is truly stunning in some places. In particular, his H'El looks monstrous with massive scar tissue marring his face.
The opening scene has been previewed lots of places on the internet. In it, Lois confronts Clark about his quitting the Planet and Clark confronts Lois about her new living arrangements. And Lobdell actually starts out okay with a splash page of Lois and some exposition showcasing just what an amazing woman she is.
But the dialogue quickly changes, Clark sounding petulant, like a jilted potential suitor who can't understand why Lois can't love him. It is initially passive aggressive and kind of creepy.
Here, for example, Lois says Clark's bed is untouched. He responds 'just the way you left it' meaning Lois hasn't rumpled Clark's sheets. Really??It sounds like something in a bad teen drama. There is plenty to cringe about here.
And when Lois tells Clark he should come back to the Planet, he gets a bit snippy and asks why she didn't tell him she was moving in with Jonathan, something he learned when he creepily read her texts. He can't own up to that so he has to back track and say he was able to infer what was happening.
At least Lobdell has him question why he did that bit of stalking! That feels like damning with faint praise. How about having Superman not read her texts instead and respect her privacy.
And it gets worse. Lobdell actually has Clark say that Jonathan seemed like a 'booty call' for Lois only to suddenly become 'the love of her life'. Did Clark just say 'booty call'?? It is clear throughout all of this that Clark feels dismissed as a potential suitor because of this. If Lois loves Jonathan where does that leave him? Again, it reads a little too Gossip Girl for my tastes in Superman.
As for Lois ... she thinks Clark is her best friend. It is clear she doesn't look at him romantically at all. It unfortunately makes most of what Clark said even more cringe-worthy. And she pushes him about his own love-life. She also can tell he has found someone ... and she is right. After all, he has been kissing Wonder Woman.
So does Superman love Lois and Wonder Woman is a fling? Does he have feelings for both? If so, can he begrudge Lois from having feelings for someone else too? I am all for a Clark and Lois relationship. I want them to be together. But this seems uncomfortable. And the dialogue seems juvenile or tawdry. Why would Lois want to hang out with this guy?
And that takes us to where Supergirl #14 ended. You might remember that in Supergirl #14, Clark told Kara to call him anytime. Kara thought that she should let Kal into her life. And she was going to Clark's apartment to tell him about H'El.
Okay, so this is a bad time for Kara to show up. But read the captions. According to narrator Clark, Supergirl is 'awkward at best' and 'antagonistic at worst'. Does that sound like the Kal from last issue, the one who has time and again tried to welcome Supergirl into his life over in her title?
After rushing Lois out (she assumes he is interviewing comely cosplayers for his blog), Clark gets downright irate with Kara. He shushes her! Then he whisks her away as Superman, insulting her by asking her if she was denied oxygen in her pod, and then yelling at her saying it is 'an INSULT' to 'FLY INTO MY DOORWAY and blow a lifetime of secret identity'. It seems rash and harsh and not at all like the Kal in Supergirl.
As for Supergirl, last issue she seemed unsure of H'El and his plans. Here she seems to have bought into it hook, line, and sinker.
Here is a great look at Rocafort's H'El. Disturbing, scarred to the point of being horrific.
And he again tells his origin as a test pilot for a prototype rocket Jor-El made to escape Krypton's destruction and head to Earth! The path sent him to black stars and quasars and that hard trip made him who he is today.
Clark is appropriately skeptical of all this, reminding Kara that Krypton had no space travel program. H'El is lying. Maybe these are implanted memories? Maybe he is the failed 01 clone from Superboy? It would explain the similar powers and his increased animosity to Kon.
Ready for more bad Supergirl characterization?
She sternly tells Superman that H'El arriving and promising to go back in time to stop Krypton's destruction is the first good news she has heard. Earth is a 'floating ball of mud and sweat'. And then she has him talk to the hand.
I don't think I have seen this callous or flippant a Supergirl in her own book. It doesn't sound right.
It is clear, Lobdell is going to make Supergirl be the patsy in this story, the character easily swayed by the bad guy.
H'El offers Superman the same proof of his loyalty that he offered Kara, by producing Superboy out of thin air and promising to kill the evil clone, just as he did last month.
Superman acts quickly and decisively, punching H'El away from Kon, sending him flying into a used car lot where H'El's flying body causes explosions and flying debris.
Supergirl chastises Superman for the move since it jeopardizes his 'precious humans'. I can only assume that Lobdell hasn't read Supergirl's book at all since from the very beginning she has always valued human life. She stopped fighting in Supergirl #2 when she saw it might endanger bystanders. She defended the city and its people from the World Killers. She befriended Siobhan. She also seems to think their lives are valuable.
And Superman defends his punch saying he knew exactly where H'El would land. So he knew he would wreck cars and come close to hurting people?
When H'El pushes the attack, Superman flies off after he makes Supergirl promise not to hurt Superboy. She dehumanizes Kon by calling him 'the clone'. Again, remember just last issue when she saw him as a person and told H'El not to kill Superboy? Here she 'acquiesces' not to hurt Kon until Superman comes back. It is completely different from the last chapter!
Of course, H'El isn't happy with this response. He anticipated that Superman wouldn't be in on the plan. And so a brawl ensues.
So here is the deal. H'El just compared humans to insects. How could Supergirl back him?
And did Superman just say he was going to kick H'El's butt back to space?
And a brokeback pose for Superman!
During that fight, Superman emerges out of an explosion and yells at Supergirl saying this situation is all her fault. He calls her a 'peroxide brat' (would Kara even know what that means?) and a variety of other insults.
It turns out this is H'El who feels he needs to divide the cousins. He needs Kara to help him and therefore he needs her away from Kal.
Here is the deal ... I was honestly surprised that this turned out the be H'El. Because, unfortunately, I could completely see Lobdell's Superman talk like this to his cousin. Isn't that horrible that this wouldn't seem out of character for Superman these days?
With Supergirl unconscious and out of the picture, H'El begins hammering Superman. Superboy decides to jump in, defending Superman, only to also be crushed by H'El's presumably psionic power.
The dialogue about being less than a clone as well as the look of his powers makes me think he is a failed NOWHERE project both jealous and angry at how Kon was created.
I put this up because somewhere in all the interviews Lobdell has done he said he had a moment where H'El took Superman to someplace in the city and said 'in one year your greatest failure will happen here'. I wonder if that was changed to this 'three years ago you failed here' moment instead. I suppose if H'El knows the future he might realize he wouldn't be successful, especially if Kal is still on Earth a year from now.
Disgusted with Kal, H'El simply leaves.
Okay, maybe I have been a little rough here. Superman sizes up someone powerful and unhinged and tries to stop him. That skeleton is fine I suppose.
But the whining 'why don't you like me and mess up my bed' talk to Lois didn't feel right. That whole scene was odd to read. And Supergirl's characterization here seems almost opposite of what it was in Supergirl #14. The conversations between the cousins seems rude and over the top. They might not have ever been best friends ... but they have never been obnoxious and snippy. Where is editor Eddie Berganza in all this? Doesn't he note the different tones in the books? Didn't he see that Supergirl and Superman act completely different here than they did just a week ago?
And we didn't learn anything new about H'El in this issue. What is his plan?What exactly are his powers? Why leave when he did?
We are three issues into H'El. I'll try to remain hopeful.