Superboy #15 came out last week, the next chapter in the H'El on Earth storyline. I have yet to be floored by this crossover yet. The opening prologue with the Kryptonian dragon was a decent hook. The Supergirl issue was a good character driven chapter. The Superman issue was loud and brash but was so different from the Supergirl issue that if felt off.
And now we have Superboy #15. And like this entire arc there are some good things and some bad things about this issue. This is the first prolonged meeting between Superboy and Superman and that carries some weight and importance. And, for the most part, Superman is treated nicely here, doing whatever he needs to do to help. As for Superboy, he also has some nice moments, suppressing his brainwashing and dealing with some bad news. And Supergirl makes a brief appearance which has creepy overtones. Still, despite that, this whole issue had an uneven feel to it. And I don't know if it necessarily moved the big story forward that much.
Perhaps adding to that is the artwork of the issue. There is no RB Silva here. Instead we get a hodge podge of artists: Ron Frenz on breakdowns, Roger Robinson on finished work, with a hand from Iban Coello and Amilcar Pinna. We go from murky thick-lined shadow art, to fine-lined precise, to somewhere in the middle.
The issue picks up in the aftermath of Superman #14. There is a fair amount of property damage from the battle with H'El. Superboy is dying on the street. And Superman is still engaged with H'El.
As I said, one of the high points in this issue is the characterization of Superman. This is pretty over the top dialogue, but it is still good to hear Superman say that no one threatens his planet.
It's funny but I don't know if H'El has threatened us per se. He definitely thinks Earth is below Krypton. But maybe his plan is actualized in a lab. Anyways, Superman is here to help. And not only help the big picture, but individuals as well. His super-senses tell him Superboy is dying.
Here is the one mini-misstep in how Superman was portrayed.
As he is trying to whisk Superboy away for medical attention, a crusty sort of Harvey Bullock-type cop tells him that he can't remove a 'suspect' from the scene. Perhaps the old Superman would have got a 'thanks for taking him away for us Superman!' But not here.
And instead of Superman replying, 'I am taking him for medical attention and will return him if warranted' he menacingly glares at the cop. Yeah ... that's a nice way to foster trust and teamwork.
I suppose one view would be this humanizes Superman. How else to respond to a jerk trying to stop you from doing the right thing. But I want Superman to be the model.
I still don't quite get the overall stance on Superman in this DCnU. And Superboy's thoughts don't help matters. As he is being whisked to the Fortress for medical care, Superboy calls him arrogant and reckless. Superman ... arrogant?
He also says some people think that Superman is the point person of an alien invasion. So after 5 years of heroics and not leading an alien armada to take over, there is a segment of people who still think him as a vanguard. I don't get that either.
At least we get 'some people consider him the world's greatest hero'. Some people. And they consider it.
Look, I get that in the current world people would naturally have some trust issues with someone like Superman. But here is the deal, I read comics to escape the current world. Can't there be some heroes in this universe?
In the Fortress, Superman scans Superboy in discovers that his DNA is a three stranded model that is disintegrating. Three strands ... interesting. And more on this later.
One thing that I did like here is that Superman's first thought are for the well-being of his cousin. It is bad enough that H'El has duped and kidnapped her. Now we know he has the power to unmake her. Again, I will stress how nice it was to read this especially coming off of Lobdell's
As for Supergirl, she is back in Sanctuary with H'El.
There is something oily about this whole scene starting with the rather coquettish and vulnerable position she is in. But then the cringe factor gets dialed up when H'El cradles her head in his hand, looking her in the eyes, and talks about how she will always be protected by him. Does H'El have romantic aspirations too? Yeesh. It just continues to foster this feeling that Supergirl is the patsy in all this.
Luckily, Supergirl looks a little creeped out by the whole thing as H'El teleports away. I also thought it was nice that Supergirl couldn't believe that Superman would say the horrible things said last issue (by a transfigured H'El).
Superman's scanning of Superboy gets a helping hand from Cyborg and Professor Veritas. The three strands of DNA are human, Kryptonian, and something else, something unidentifiable. So the mystery of Superboy gets some new information. I guess if it unidentifiable it might be something new. So guesses like DNA from the Saturnians on Titan (to explain telepathy/telekinesis) are probably wrong.
Since at least 1/3 of Superboy is Kryptonian, Superman theorizes that his Kryptonian armor, a genetic based nanotech, might help. Not a bad idea I suppose.
I am on the fence about Dr. Veritas' provocative comment that Kryptonian DNA might mean Superman was 'busy'. I suppose she has shown some attraction to Superman so this might be some flirting.
The armor works in a sense. Superboy is suddenly feeling better. His strength is augmented. But it completely cuts off his tactile telekinesis. It is so jarring that Superboy initially can't stand the feeling and rips off the armor. Of course, that means eventual death so he eventually puts it back on.
My guess is the armor suppresses the other genetic strands and only augments the Kryptonian part of him.
But this was one of the weakest panels of the book. Superman says the armor is 'concentrating and condensing' his telekinesis. He then immediately says 'don't ask me where that came from'. When a character apologizes for the dialogue he just said, the writer should know it isn't right to have them say it. I don't know where that came from either.
The bottom line is Superboy is stable.
And then, a nice moment which hopefully will help Superboy deal with his brainwashing. Superman extends a hand of help and decides to team-up with Superboy to fight H'El. There is a simplicity to Superman's plan. Track H'El and defeat him. Again, for the most part, the characterization of Superman was very good here and that might influence Superboy tremendously.
It won't be easy. H'El shows up in the Fortress and tosses the two heroes out.
So this is a decent issue. I have some worries about Supergirl (I always do). And some of the dialogue seemed off. More importantly, there wasn't much progress on the storyline itself. Plus the art was so mishmash it was a bit rattling. But the mystery of Superboy deepened a bit. And Superman proved himself to Superboy as a force of good. That part was solid.