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.