Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Superman 14, originally released November 28th, 2012. This issue is part of the H’el on Earth crossover event. Click here for complete H’el on Earth coverage.
Shelby: It’s the holidays again, which means we must all learn the lesson: families are hard. As an adult, visiting your family forces you back to the person you used to be when your were a child. Sometimes, that’s a hard thing to reconcile with the person you’ve become. I’m super lucky; my family understands I’ve become my own person, and respects the choices I’ve made. I know there are LOTS of people for whom that isn’t the case. Clark Kent, on the other hand, is super unlucky in this regard. He spent all of his life thinking all his family was dead. Suddenly, he’s got a cousin who hates everything he loves and an adopted brother who not only hates everything he loves, but is also hell-bent on destroying it. Oh, and a clone. That makes for a real awkward Christmas dinner.
Poor Clark, he just can’t catch a break. All he wants to do is sleep off the ass-whupin’ he got from the Kryptonian dinosaur, but Lois comes knocking. She tries to talk him into coming back to the Daily Planet, but he just gets all whiny about her moving in with some dude and not telling him. Before things can go much further, Supergirl shows up. Clark sho0s Lois out and whisks Kara away as Superman so they can talk about how she shouldn’t go around saying his civilian name. Before things can go much further, H’el shows up, outlining his backstory and plans to bring back Krypton. He even offers Clark the gift of a dead Superboy, which Clark politely refuses by throwing H’el a few miles away. A fight ensues, H’el makes himself look like Clark to tell Kara that he hates her. Superboy tries to help, but doesn’t. With everyone mostly defeated, H’el storms off, telling Clark that he and Kara will restore Krypton, and the Earth itself will not stand in his way.
I really like the dynamic established between the children of Krypton. Now, I know a lot of this is old hat to long-time Superman readers, but it’s new to me, so shut up and let me enjoy it! Kara and Clark especially have such interesting views of Earth and their home planet. For Kara, she fell asleep in her pod on Krypton and woke up on Earth, and is somehow supposed to believe that years have passed, and everyone she’s ever known and loved is dead and gone. For Clark, though, Earth is everything he’s ever known and loved, and to have Kara show up and neither understand nor care is frustrating to say the least.
Then there’s poor old Superboy, who doesn’t really have anything. He’s not from Krypton or Earth, really; of the 2 people most like family, one is guarded and cautious, the other openly dismissive. Earth may only be the place where he was made, but if Kara and H’el represent what life on Krypton would be like were it to be re-made, Kon is certainly going to work to stop them.
We’re basically leading up to what everyone in the DC Universe has to be dreading: a two-on-two Super-family tag-team cage match. This is the sort of fight that, even if/when Superman wins, could do more harm than good for our boy Clark. I can easily see this turning into just a list of reasons why Superman should leave Earth. If the general public knew the dinosaur was from the same planet, that would have probably been enough right there; they tolerate Superman because he does good and saves the day, even though he has a frightening amount of power. But, if there are other supremely powerful beings out there, ones who are less friendly and want to come say hello to Superman, that’s going to make a lot of people very nervous.
Kenneth Rocafort continues to do no wrong in my eyes. This issue doesn’t have quite the same kind of action that makes Rocafort’s dynamic panels and unique sense of scope as powerful, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t shine. Clark makes a point of telling us he can’t understand how H’el is so fast, which means he is fucking fast; Rocafort manages to very elegantly convey this notion with one blurred panel and zero motions lines, which is an impressive feat.
By just taking a piece of the background image and blurring it, Rocafort seamlessly transitions from one place to another. We almost don’t even notice at first, so just like Superman, we have no idea where we are or how we got there.
Despite my dislike of Superman, this title is growing on me. I find I’m far more interested in what Scott Lobdell does with Superman’s relationships with those around him. Big fights and scary villains are all well and good, but I want to know how Clark Kent the person deals with Superman the alien. Fighting someone who can give him a run for his money is fine, but how does Clark really feel about the possibility of having his birth-home back? Hopefully, Lobdell can continue to deliver these sort of character moments throughout this event. Drew: I was chatting with Paul, the owner of my LCS (JP Comics and Games), about secret identities today. I suggested that where DC is very superheroics-focused Marvel tends to be a more balanced between costumed and non-costumed storytelling. My argument mostly hinged on Spider-Man, the quintessential problems-in-and-out-of-costume character, but Paul was skeptical of my broad generalizations, noting that many Marvel heroes — BIG ones like the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Captain America — don’t even have alternate identities. Moreover, he pointed out that the balance between Superman and Clark Kent is essential to the character, as he truly is both of those people. He was absolutely right, and being reminded of that immediately before reading this issue made me relish the Clark scene at the top of this issue.
It’s pretty good, though, isn’t it? His behavior with Lois is totally childish (he even expresses regret at having snooped her text last issue), making it pretty clear that he looOOooves her. Clark and Diana may be the status quo in the DCnU — and it is fun to see him sweat having to tell Lois about her — but Lobdel is clearly a classicist at heart; he just wants to see those crazy kids get together. And it’s hard to disagree, which makes Kara’s ill-timed arrival all the more uncomfortable.
Lois thinks Kara is the person that’s been putting the pep in Clark’s step. Clark obviously wouldn’t want Lois to think that, but the alternative — coming clean — is out of the question, so instead, we get this super awkward exchange:
It’s a fun little bit of tension between Clark’s two worlds, serving to complicate an already complicated situation.
The costumed action that follows is enjoyable enough, though I’m less fond of Superman being so quick to violence. Like, I appreciate that he wants to save Kon’s life, but is knocking H’el across the city really the best way to accomplish that? H’el’s reaction — that this is no way to treat a guest — seems pretty well-founded, even if he was about to kill somebody. That is, until he reveals that he sent the Kryptonian dinosaur to “test” Superman. Punching is no way to greet a guest, but deploying mile-long dinosaurs is no way to greet a host, either.
Basically, I don’t really understand why there needs to be any conflict between these two. Superman can not believe H’el, and H’el can do what he needs to without Superman. There’s really no need for them to interact at all. I really question this initial violence, since I think the question of Clark’s loyalties are interesting in and of themselves. Even if H’el wasn’t a dick, I’m not sure how Clark would feel: he may be curious about Krypton, but Earth is his home, and perhaps more importantly, it’s where Lois is. I’m sure we’ll see that conflict play out in due time, but I kind of wish cooler heads had prevailed here.
Otherwise, I enjoyed the heck out of this issue. This continues to be the only title I’m reading with both omniscient narration AND thought balloons, both of which lend it an old-timiness I find quite charming. I know not everyone is thrilled with the pairing of Lobdell and Superman *coughMikcough*, but I thought this issue was great — enough to happily cement this title on my pull list.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?