Friday, February 1, 2013

Review: Superman #16

Superman #16 came out this week, one step closer to the end of H'El on Earth. There is only one more month of this crossover, one more issue in each title. Given the rather dramatic ending to this issue, I wonder just what will be in the next 3 issues. At least there will be enough time to wrap up this leg of the story, knowing the 'time travel' piece is probably months away.

I have had some issues with this arc, mostly in the shabby characterization of Supergirl. Superman and Superboy recognize H'El is demented, realize he is going to implode the solar system, and battle valiantly as a team against everything that H'El has thrown at them. Heck, they have even grown closer to each other, revealing some secrets and becoming almost chummy. Superboy has had several key moments in the action, breaking into the Fortress, saving Superman from the internal prison device, and here eradicating an alien monster. Superman has saved Kon, donating his family suit, and is fighting what seems to be a never-ending battle.

Meanwhile, Kara has been bratty to Superman, swooned over H'El's promises, not asked any natural questions about plans, and has basically fallen in love with the villain. It is pretty clear that writer Scott Lobdell, who wrote Superboy and currently writes Superman, has his favorites.

At least in this issue, Kara starts to see some of the gaps in H'El's story and maybe is questioning her loyalty and love for him. There is even a nice moment in the heat of battle where she shows some control. That said, it is hard to read this as a Supergirl fan.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Rocafort continues to just shine in these issues with very kinetic art and page composition. While I still think there is a lot of negative space in some places, his stuff is gorgeous.


The issue opens with H'El telling more of his origin to Supergirl ... at least what he claims is his origin. Again, he is a celebrated scientist, a one-time student and now colleague of Jor-El, about to be blasted into space. It isn't a small event. Kryptonians have flocked to the launch site, hoping to see this foray into space.

And part of the story is Jor-El accepting this scientist into his home and family, being given the S-shield, the family crest. Even Lara seems to be taken in.

I do think it is an interesting twist here. Superman gave Kon his armor, sharing the family crest. It mirrors this scene. I don't think H'El is telling the truth so this might be replayed, maybe explaining another reason why H'El seems to hate Superboy more than anyone.


And maybe the first glimmer of doubt seems to creep into Supergirl's mind. If this was a planet-changing event, if H'El was famous for this flight, why doesn't Supergirl remember it? H'El says it is because of her suspended animation. But we just saw a few issues ago that Sanctuary returned all of Kara's memories. She remembered it all.

Of course, in line with all that has happened before, Supergirl not only accepts this excuse for her selective amnesia but also gives H'El a big old kiss. it seems ludicrous.


One thing I have really enjoyed about this arc has been the sort of madcap tour of the Fortress. It really smacks a bit of the Silver/Bronze age Fortress complete with interplanetary zoo and weapon cache.

Here a self-replicating and ever mutating monster is set upon Superman, Superboy, and the JL, stalling them from finding H'El.

There is a sort of galactic policeman feel to Lobdell's Superman as he uses the Fortress as a place where dangerous things from around the universe are held safely.

This is a nice interaction with Kon.


Now I read the Azzarello/Chiang Wonder Woman and that title seems completely separate from the Diana I see in Justice League. I almost feel like that is an Elseworld or 'Other Earth' book. For the most part, I like that book.

Now here, she is a lover, defending Superman from the most meaningless slight, and seems very much like the girl sidekick. Don't get me wrong, her battle prowess is nicely on display. But her words seem off just a bit.

With the heroes being slowed down by this creature, Superboy jacks up his tactile TK and obliterates the monster. Another nice moment for Superboy.


And then there is more for Supergirl to chew over. When she questions if H'El is being honest with her, he pauses. And then she ... FINALLY ... asks what the machine does and what Earth will need to sacrifice.

It should be obvious to her that something isn't right here. But before she can push the matter, Superman and the rest of the heroes show up.


Okay, here is one small shining moment for Supergirl. She doesn't attack Superman to stop him. Instead she grabs is fist, I assume to talk about things maybe convince Superman that H'El isn't all that bad. At least it wasn't a 'fists first' Kara.

Unfortunately, rather than Superman saying 'H'El's machine is going to blow up the solar system!', he states "take your hand off me or I will be forced to hurt you". So as much as Supergirl is to blame for buying into all this, Superman is at fault for not telling her his concerns. The bottom line is, the deck has been stacked from both ends against Supergirl in this arc.

To make matters worse, Superboy has a score to settle and pulls Supergirl by the hair and body slams her. As if being overly emotional, near hysterical, and easily wooed wasn't bad enough, she is pulled by her hair like a little girl in a playground fight. It just furthers a feeling that Supergirl is simply immature. That has never been seen in her main book. So why change it here.


We still don't exactly know H'El's powers. All I know is that he hasn't been slowed down at all by anything thrown at him. Here he actually teleports the entire Fortress somewhere, leaving Superman, Superboy, and the League in the snow.

And then, he actually turns on his machine. And the power is so great that the best minds on Earth can sense it. Veritas is intrigued. Luthor knows things aren't good. And the Oracle's vanguard, the Horn Blower, knows he has to bring his master to Earth.

I am starting to wonder if the Oracle is a sort of DC version of Marvel's Uatu the Watcher. Is be being called here only to witness a disaster? And what was the other time he came here? I actually am curious about this.


And the machine fires, supposedly draining the energy from out galaxy, having it implode and killing everyone.

So where the heck do we go from here? Nice cliffhanger!

I am of two minds in regards to this issue. It is as if we somehow turned a corner here. The action was great. The art was great. And Supergirl is starting to put it together. She even tries to talk to Superman rather than attack. All of that is good.

But Supergirl is only starting to put it together. She is still, eventually, believing H'El. She is still behind him despite all the clues in front of her. It makes her seem stupid and gullible. And then to be kissing H'El, proclaiming her love, and then having her hair pulled ... it makes her seem like a school girl, infatuated and slapping. And that just feels so wrong ... so wrong it sort of taints the other stuff.

Still, I have to say, this has been the best issue of the H'El arc. Hopefully Kara somehow is able to put two and two together and remain a hero.

Overall grade: B

17 comments:

Li Hei Bao said...

I agree on Supergirl, but she's been set-up in her own title to be diametrically opposed to Superman, and in an arse manner at that. If Superman doesn't have the moment to explain to her for the nth time why he, her cousin, should he trusted, she (and Johnson) have been driving for this reaction for over a year.

Anonymous said...

Yeah week by week it keeps getting worse for Supergirl, while the other two members of the family are ostentatiously celebrated and worshipped.
Nothing new there DC Comics...
BTW I agree with Anj WW just sounds "off" when she acts as Kal El's Supergirlfriend...its a fun idea but with little plot potential lets hope DC moves beyond it soonest.


JF

Gene said...

The hair pulling and face slamming of Supergirl is symbolic of how DC has treated her fans lately.

However, all is not lost for the trailer for Superman Unbound is here:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=43500

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

Gene, you beat me to it. My post on the trailer is up tomorrow. Looks great!

valerie21601 said...

Hmmm! As I recall Lobdell said in a recent interview H'el might develop actual feelings for Kara that might derail the time travel part of his plans.

In the kissing scene H'el looked a bit surprised when Kara kissed him like that. Is it part of setting up where H'el might sacrifice himself to save Kara? Still the scene feels way too phony.

Lobdell did heavily hint in same interview H'el might have a back up plan B for Kara if the time travel plan didn't work out. Have Kara and him become Krypton's Adam and Eve. Yuck!

Martin Gray said...

Top review, Anj. I missed the parallel between Kal's armour and the El family crest - smart.

I really hate how rough the Supers are these days - knees to the face, heads slammed on the floor - I just think the Family should be above that. It's just not Periwinkle!

Jay said...

Well, at least Kara finally got close to asking a question, lol. I still think it would have been just as convenient to the story yet at the same time made Kara look a lot less goofy to just have had her ask right at the beginning and have H'El construct a lie, but whatever. And while I didn't like seeing Kon hit her like that, at the same time it illustrated his lack of control and maturity compared to Superman, whom while in the middle of a brawl still had the composure to warn Kara to let him go before using any force.

The big elephant in the room is of course that no one else still has had the bright idea to tell Kara any of this..but yeah. Story convenience again I guess.

Still though, I enjoyed the issue too. Art is still fantastic, I'm enjoying the Kal/Kon banter, and I'm interested in finally finding out just what HE'l's story truly is.

PRgirl1294 said...

"And then there is more for Supergirl to chew over. When she questions if H'El is being honest with her, he pauses. And then she ... FINALLY ... asks what the machine does and what Earth will need to sacrifice.

It should be obvious to her that something isn't right here. But before she can push the matter, Superman and the rest of the heroes show up."

Actually, from what I read in this issue, it seems more like H'el had told Kara earlier that they would only have to siphon off the excess energy from the solar system in order to time-travel. That would explain why we never see Kara questioning his plan throughout this crossover until now. Kara apparently was smart enough to ask H'el about the details of his plan off-panel, but H'el lied to her to cover up his disrespect for Earth and its people.

Anj said...

And while I didn't like seeing Kon hit her like that, at the same time it illustrated his lack of control and maturity compared to Superman, whom while in the middle of a brawl still had the composure to warn Kara to let him go before using any force.

Thanks for the comment.

That is a great point. Part of this arc is sort of comparing/contrasting Kal and Kon as they grow as allies. So nice pick-up!

Anj said...

Actually, from what I read in this issue, it seems more like H'el had told Kara earlier that they would only have to siphon off the excess energy from the solar system in order to time-travel. That would explain why we never see Kara questioning his plan throughout this crossover until now.

Thanks for the post.

Yeah, he told her that (somewhere off panel I guess). But it is one thing to say 'we are going back in time'. It is another to say 'this is how I am going to save Krypton'.

Supergirl should be asking these questions by now rather than the crying/kissing/doting she has been doing here.

ArchJennie said...

"And while I didn't like seeing Kon hit her like that, at the same time it illustrated his lack of control and maturity compared to Superman, whom while in the middle of a brawl still had the composure to warn Kara to let him go before using any force."

Actually in an earlier issue, Superman throatlifted her, berated her, called her a "peroxide brat"... etc. So I don't think it's just Kon-el treating her like crap. She's been beat on, ignored, and basically mistreated throughout this ENTIRE H'el story arc. My opinion. Why they treat her this way? I don't know. In a way it's worse than the old "bad Supergirl" from the earlier issues. In this DCnU she's beating slapped around by just about everyone. And as Anj said, the deck is stacked against her from BOTH sides. It just sucks.

Anonymous said...

Btw in a meta-context, after an apocalyptic screw up like this, just who exactly is gonna believe Supergirl when she whines "mind control"!!??
I just don't see how this mini moves Supergirl's story arc forward in any manner shape or form.
I guess DC has decreed she is the misanthrope of the "S" Franchise. All I can say is, there are worse things than to have your fave be neglected and rejected...

JF

Anonymous said...

I really miss the Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle run...

valerie21601 said...

@archjennie When Superman beat Kara and called her a peroxide brat. It was H'el himself doing it, using a illusion to make it appear her cousin was beating the snot out of her.

H'el did it to drive a wedge between them to keep her from trusting Superman.

Anonymous said...

This whole arc sort of reminds
me of the way DC treats the Guardians
of the Universe, basically refusing
to treat the characters as heroic or
potentially heroic because the writers
are hacks with certain prejudices privilege over the characters.
In the Guardians case, it's "Authority is Bad!", so the Guardians, who spent billions of years(and decades) being good guys get rewritten as mustache twirling villains.
In Supergirl's case it's "Girls are icky and stupid and inferior" so
Kara must be an idiotic villain who blindly trusts someone she's never met.
Seriously, the Supergirl from the last reboot had her problems,and came off as
more chaotic neutral than good,but she never quite a villain,while here Kara is
basically aparty to genocide.

Lionel Braithwaite said...

Considering that Kon was beaten up by Kara because he's a clone, I don't think that Kara should be surprised that he would hit her back; fair is fair, after all.

Everybody here on this blog hates Supergirl, but I like this story line and this version of the character so far for not being the predictable stories of the 1950's and 60's (I downloaded those from Bittorrent, and have read a few, and while they're nice for the period they were written in, if I had to read those old books all of the time, I'd go nuts.) I also like it for not throwing her into superheroics so soon, but for making her go through a catharsis where she has to figure out what she is and where she fits on Earth-that's much better than just having her be a hero right off of the bat like Superman. Also, it makes the book less predictable.

As for Kara being a party to genocide,it's early days for that yet, and we should see how she see what He'l is before we all assume that.

Anj said...

Everybody here on this blog hates Supergirl, but I like this story line and this version of the character so far for not being the predictable stories of the 1950's and 60's

I have this before. And it is wrong.

If you look at my reviews of the Supergirl title (before H'El on Earth) you will find that I like the title very much, finding this Kara to be strong in the face of adversity.

Also, I don't think anywhere I say I want a return to the silly and saccharin stories of the 50s and 60s.

What I want is a good Supergirl, a heroic Supergirl, a hero on a journey, a smart and active young woman. And this arc doesn't support those desires.