Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: Superboy #25

Superboy #25 was released this week, the second part of Krypton Returns, the sequel to H'El on Earth. It is a sort of strange crossover mostly because we know much of the ending. Krypton has to explode. And Superboy, our titular character, is going to die.

The book is plotted by Scott Lobdell but scripted by regular Superboy writer Justin Jordan, ex-Supergirl scribe Michael Alan Nelson, and Lobdell. I can't help to believe that the mix of talent here has smoothed out some of my expected dialogue woes.

And I found the format a little interesting as well. I assumed that with each Super having their own 'mission' in the past, that each issue would be dedicated to the title character. But instead of this whole issue being Superboy's mission, we look in on all the characters, keeping the entire story moving forward. I suppose this makes a little more sense, keeping readers engaged in the entire story. It also means that Superboy is only in a small portion of his own book.

Ed Benes is on art and I will admit I haven't seen his art in a while. His style seems just a bit rougher than I am remember. He inks his own pencils here which might explain things. The books I bought with him on art (Supergirl, Birds of Prey) had Alex Lei on inks.

I have lots of worries about this overall story. I will admit this issue was better than I expected although there were a couple of things that struck me as wrong.

As in H'El on Earth, Superboy actually gets some of the better bits of the story, acting like a hero. His mission is to go back in time so Kara gets sent to Earth so that the timeline where she stabs H'El with Kryptonite plays out.

He thinks what I am thinking.

I am not really clear on exactly what the point of this is.

What timeline is Superboy in? Is it the timeline where H'El saves Krypton? Because if H'El has saved Krypton, Zor-El wouldn't be making a rocket to begin with. We are told this scene takes place a week before Krypton explodes ... so we know it isn't the re-written H'El timeline.So already I am a little confused.

The only explanation is that the H'El/Jor-El save is a last second thing. Thus, everything would be proceeding as before ... including the Zor-El rocket. But if Jor-El saved the planet before 'a week before' than we are on the other timeline.

I don't even know if I understand what I am writing.

So I am hoping for some more explanation here.

And then there is this new wrinkle. This is one of those things that on first blush seems a little off.

The new Eradicator in the New 52 is a living embodiment of Entropy. But he was born in the heart of Krypton and is hell-bent on making sure that Krypton explodes. And for some reason, he decides to attack Kara. Luckily, Kon is there to protect her.

All right, now I have a lot of questions.

Is this some Kryptonian that has been transformed and is insane? Or is there really a physical embodiment of Krypton's destruction?

Is he the embodiment of Entropy (like the Time Trapper)? Or just Krypton's entropy?

Is he made of Kryptonite?

And why attack Kara? Unless he wants to kill Kara to stop her from going back in time to stop her from stabbing H'El so that he can't go back in time and save the planet? Whew. Why not attack H'El instead?

I hope Lobdell explains this (although he often doesn't do that, asking the readers to simply 'go with the flow). Because whenever I have this many questions, the story won't work unless I get some answers. At least I know why Kon was sent back a week before the planetary destruction (assuming we are on the non-H'El-saving timeline); the Eradicator was going to kill her.

I actually liked the old idea of the Eradicator.

I also wanted to point out that there is a lot of indicia these days, tagging all the supers as created or based on Siegel and Shuster. I wonder if Siegel would want to be associated with this Superboy.

Lobdell has always treated Supergirl poorly in his stories and this doesn't change here. I am trying read the Supergirl parts with a less jaundiced eye but it is hard. I am expecting the worst so even small slights seem to stand out.

Kara is sent back to the Clone Rebellion to try to stop some portion of a battle called Sky Core which would make Krypton explode earlier than anticipated. The Oracle plops her into the middle of a group of clones. We have read how Kara (and I assume most Kryptonians) considers the clones as abominations. Here they are shown to be crude, almost sub-human beings. Laden down with weapons, speaking in broken phrases, they immediately try to kill her.

Supergirl has always wanted to 'go home' so here, trying to assure Krypton eventually blows up, she considers herself a destroyer. More Supergirl angst.

I do think the way the clones are shown is a decent wrinkle. Maybe they are unstable, violent creatures. I assumed the point of this mission was to show Kara her prejudice. Instead, it might verify her feelings.

Maybe I am old-fashioned. I like to think of my Krypton as a bit more Utopian, a nice place to live.

As Kara engages the pack of clones, she thinks back to battle training she got from her Aunt Lara. Here Lara intends to strand Kara in the middle of nowhere with a broken vehicle unless Kara can get the spare power cables in Lara's backpack. It is obviously an exercise. But do I really need Lara to hand Kara a knife and say 'get them from me'. Do I need Lara to say 'Kryptonians are always at war'?

It really is just another example of the dark nature of the DCU. Here, an aunt gives her niece a weapon and asks tells the niece to attack her. And that is because the world they live on is such a dangerous place.

No wonder this Supergirl is so angry and isolated.

And then we get to the Superman mission. Now he has been sent back in time to months before Krypton's destruction. Remember his mission is to stop H'El at H'El's 'moment of success'. So I guess if Kal is successful then Kon is in the normal timeline where the planet dies. Wha ..?

Kal ends up in his father's lab and gets smacked around by his mother. Luckily his armor morphs to reveal the El crest halting the brawl.

In another decent wrinkle, Superman is weakened by radiation poisoning. Maybe his cells are being effected by the Kryptonite simmering in the planet core as it nears destruction?

We head back to Kon's mission. Of all the supers, he is the least effected by the change in environment. His telekinesis isn't effected by a red sun. He uses his powers to perforate the Eradicator. I have to assume the 'spirit of Entropy' isn't bound to one body. But for the time being this form is down for the count.

The one moment that I really liked was this one. As Kara notes the quakes are worsening, Kon knowingly just says 'yeah.' He knows what those quakes mean.

The panel works well. It is dark evoking the funereal mood. Kon is looking down sadly. But best of all, the bottom of the panel seems to just fade away, adding a sense of loss or that things are ending. I know it is smoke from the Eradicator ... but it works. Art and words complementing each other.

Meanwhile, back in Kara's mission, she wakes up to find that she, even without powers, was able to battle all the clones and defeat them. She is a bit battered but she is victorious.

Did she kill them? I hope not.

But she doesn't get far before you-know-who shows up.

That's right, we finally see H'El.

Remember, he has time travel abilities. So going back in time centuries before Krypton's explosion is child's play. So how will a powerless Supergirl fight him?

Time travel stories are always dizzying. And moving the three characters into three different times makes it more confusing. And wondering which timeline is the 'true' timeline versus any of the myriad of ones altered by H'El makes it even more befuddling.

And I still don't quite know why the Oracle didn't just send the Supers back together to fight H'El when he arrives on Krypton, before Jor-El can even save him. Isn't there an easier solution?

Despite all the questions, I suppose this was an okay issue, moving this story forward on all threads, and with only a couple of odd moments. The Benes art is pretty slick. I don't know if this story will end well ... or will even be comprehensible. But if I can look past the 'why' questions and the 'when' questions, I can appreciate this as a middle chapter. It does what it is supposed to do.

Overall grade: B-


Jay said...

I haven't gotten around to this yet (surely the future has dampened my spirits). But I will say I like at least the new visual look of the Eradicator. From what you summarize though I would agree that his origin needs a lot more fleshing out than just this.

Martin Gray said...

This really does sound like Scott Lobdell at his 'making it up as he goes along' - so far, I'm not regretting buying this crossover for a minute. Comparing this kill-crazy Lara to the serene, yet strong Lara of old simply makes me sad.

And I bet you a dime to a dollar that you get no further explanation of the new Eradicatior. Still Lobdell will make up a new one next year.

AndNowInStereo said...

"Better than expected" is about how I'd describe it too after the pretty rubbish first part. I did think Jordan and Nelson would make a big difference in how this would turn out and I was right. Everyone felt more like real people and less like annoying cardboard cutouts, except perhaps Superman himself - perhaps each writer scripted the dialogue for their own characters. I liked nearly everything in this issue outside of Superman's scenes which felt a little dull and are clearly just treading water for him confronting Jor-El, even if it is nice to see Lara - her conversation with Kara was far more interesting. In fact all of Kara's scenes give us something to chew on here - it feels more like this book is about her than Kon even if it has him on the front! Clearly Krypton was not a utopia in the New52, and once again like the Doomsday issue we get more signs that Lara is the hard-nosed one in this family, probably alongside Alura, in contrast to the two El brothers. I appreciated seeing Lara and Kara interact because it's the first time I've ever seen that (except in Smallville).

Ed Benes did good here. Actually the first time I've read something he's done, I'm very impressed with his work. On the whole I liked this issue quite a bit, I just wish it didn't need to be so fast - Lobdell wasted an entire annual dumping exposition on us and now the actual meat of the story goes past like lightning. And yes, like you Anj, I have no idea how the mechanics of the time travel are working. I'm concentrating on the character parts instead - at least this book has some, again unlike the Annual, and that's all I need to be a little engaged.

One interesting thing. "You have to EARN the right to wear the family crest of El" - I don't know if I'm giving too much credit to the writers and editors here, but wonder if this is an attempt at foreshadowing. Kara has been wearing the S constantly for the majority of this books' run so far, but we know that in the near future Kara will not be wearing it for at least a short time.

Anonymous said...

I would have preferred Kara to go back and help her younger self, so we could have seen some comparison with the younger version asking what the heck happened to have turned her into someone so bitter and overly headstrong.

Pretty sure she killed those clones.

I have a theory about this over-complicated time travel business. Usually, sending multiple people back to different times is meaningless and no different from sending all of them back to time A, then B, then C as a group. However, making changes in the past will effect the future, including the lives of the people you sent back.

Unless you send other people back to correct any consequences.

So let's say Kal's influence and stopping of H'El's scheme causes him to not exist as Superman in the future. Kara's been put in place to put Superman's future back on track, but her work will mess up her own future. So Kon is there, to keep her younger and divergent self safe from Entropy. You've got to have all three effects happening "at the same time", because one of the changes will cause the other two travelers to vanish or fall into a paradox.

This "logic" could even explain why Kon has to die, since someone has to be unprotected from their own changes - maybe his work (which is occurring nearest to the present time) helps to keep Kal and Kara's existence on track, but at the expense of his own future?

I dunno, just thinking out loud :)

Anonymous said...

I want to see Lobdell explain how Supergirl can't remember Superboy helping her in the past on Krypton.

Anonymous said...

Agreed pretty sure she snuffed the Clones as well..."SuperHulkette Smash Puny Replicants!"

BTW its pretty ironic Supergirl is joining the Red Lanterns, The Incredible Hulk gets his power from his anger as well....


Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

It will be interesting to see if all these ends get wrapped up in a satisfying way.

Great thought about Supergirl not remembering Kon. Could all these 'new' timeline be erased somehow such that even they didn't happen?

Superboyfansince93 said...

This kon/Conner is the new cir-el, snuffed out by a time shennanigan,and the worst part is he is being replaced by a evil mass murdering version. Ugh, if any of you read Lobdells latest interview at newsarama you will see how much he actually cares for this character, which Is none.

Hopefully when all is said and done we get a clone with touch TTK, who wants to be a hero and looks up to superman,with a lot of attitude and jokes for his adversaries.until then let's see how grim and dark we can get the Superboy name UGH.

Anj said...

As bad as Kara fans have had it, I think Kon fans have had it worse.

This book has been a mess.

Anonymous said...

Scott Lobdell here!

Since you asked so politely about the Eradicator, I thought I would a gentleman and answer those questions. Or, more accurately, I would point to the answers in the script:

Q: Is this some Kryptonian that has been transformed and is insane?

A: No, not sure why would think that. He says he is the living embodiment of entropy... not that he was Kryptonian, insane or otherwise.

Q: Or is there really a physical embodiment of Krypton's destruction?

A: Yes, as he indicates -- he is is here specifically to help Krypton pass over, end.

Q: Is he the embodiment of Entropy (like the Time Trapper)? Or just Krypton's entropy?

A: This particular Eradicator is the embodiment of Entropy as it manifests on Krypton. We will learn, eventually, that each planet has its own Eradicator, birthed at the planet's core, where it will eventually rise when their individual planet dies of natural causes. (If, say, Galactus came to Earth to eat it, an Eradicator would not be born on Earth because the planet has not reached its natural conclusion. Whereas, in the case of Krypton, as it is almost dead at this point in its lifespan, the Eradicator has arrived now.

What happens if one planet's Eradicator arrives on another planet? We may know the answer to that sooner than later.)

Q: Is he made of Kryptonite?
A: No. At least not in the "radioactive Kryptonite" that resulted from the destruction of Krypton. Though, as Krypton actually birthed this Eradicator, one might argue that he is, indeed, made of Kryptonite. But the Green Kryptonite that dampens super powers? No.

Q: And why attack Kara?
A; Because he knows Kara's father is preparing to have her leave Krypton very shortly. And as his reason for being is to let Krypton (and its society and its people) pass on, then he can not allow her to leave the planet before it dies.

Q: Unless he wants to kill Kara to stop her from going back in time to stop her from stabbing H'El so that he can't go back in time and save the planet? Whew. Why not attack H'El instead?

A: Um. You give him a reason other than the reason he has and then exhaust yourself trying to make your reason make sense. He can not "attack H'El" because at this moment in time, H'El does not exist. Eradicator is not a time traveler, he is here at this particular moment in time (the final days of Krypton) -- unless H'El were to arrive, Eradicator could not battle him, let alone kill him.

Now, I know this is going to bite me on the butt and people are going to shout "What a terrible writer! Lobdell actually had to EXPLAIN his story!" I didn't actually explain anything, though, I only answered questions that were raised by looking for story elements that weren't there (1. He's not Kryptonian, insane, nor does he give any indication that he is. 2. No, he's not made of Kryptonite, nor does he claim to be. 3. He can't kill H'El because H'El is not here in this time. Etc...) But, again, you asked so I felt compelled to answer.

(Also, if one were to go back and read SUPERMAN #0, for example, Jor El comes across the very birthing matrix that spawned Eradicator (in the first two-page spread of that book). It is referenced that it is a mystery, that Jor El recognizes in this moment the plane is,indeed, dying and there is nothing to do about it. Now, admittedly I did not reference that in this issue -- or anywhere in Krypton Returns -- but I am from the Old School of Comic Writing where readers are rewarded for putting together the pieces for themselves.

Okay, back to work!

Peace out!

Anonymous said...


Did that just happen...?


Anj said...

Assuming that was Scott Lobdell, I thank you for coming her and placing the comment.

As you said, everything about the Eradicator was said in his statements. So perhaps I was flailing a bit with my questions.

Some of my thoughts came from the visuals - he looks like Kryptonite.

Some come from the outcome of the fight - an embodiment of entropy might be able to withstand being perforated by things. That's why he thought he might be someone insane who has been altered. We know there are death cults on the planet.

As for killing Supergirl elsewhen, well as I said in the review the multiple storylines is throwing me for a bit of a loop.

And as comic readers, we are asked to put the pieces together sometimes and I was trying.

I guess that was an attempt to defend myself.

Seriously, I thank you for coming by and filling in the gaps. I'll look back at Superman #0.

Hope Kara gets some moments to shine in this story.

Martin Gray said...

Well good on Scott Lobdell!

Looking back at my earlier comment, I wrote: 'so far, I'm not regretting buying this crossover for a minute'

That should have been: 'so far, I'm not regretting NOT buying this crossover for a minute' Slight difference!

Anyway, I'm flouncing off, jealous that you get a visit from Scott Lobdell! All those nice things I said about his Superman ...


Anonymous said...

Nice of him to drop by, if that was him, but it does not alter my opinion one bit.

Crossover events should in some sense advantage marginal books, not feed said characters thru a creative wood chipper to spike the A-List's Sales. Almost all DC's crossover events have this aspect though, which is why anyone who loves a B-C-or-D list character is wisely apprehensive whenever DC announces another one of these events.

tony said...

I do appreciate Scott dropping by,and I like his Eradicator idea,and I bet The Eradicator will start stalking Kal and Kara now on earth,which is pretty cool,kinda like Final Destination.

I would love to have heard something about Superboy though,atleast more than "he is great,but his time is over".

Norm Cheff said...

Reading comics shouldn't have to be so extraordinarily exhausting. Yes, I'm several years behind and still working my way through some New 52 titles, but regardless, after repeatedly giving Scott Lobdell's stories the benefit of the doubt and trying my best to just go along for the ride, I'm about ready to give up on his New 52 work.

Reading "Krypton Returns" is beyond frustrating for me, as I find much of it incomprehensible and so unnecessarily complex & reader-unfriendly, and I'm stunned by how underdeveloped as a writer this man was. Hopefully, after Rebirth, his skills have improved.

Typically, I'm much more accepting of creators and their work, whatever discipline or industry they're in, but here, I just can't do it anymore. There's no joy at all for me in reading Lobdell's New 52 titles.