Superman 14

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?

13 comments on “Superman 14

  1. I didn’t think Clark’s leap to violence was all that unfounded; he knows exactly how powerful H’el is, and he was about to brutally murder a boy. I have a sneaking suspicion that Earth is something that could stand in H’el’s way, so fighting was kind of inevitable anyway.

    • Isn’t that all the more reason to use his words? I get that punching things is part of Superman’s appeal, but I still feel like that should be his last resort — especially if his villain is powerful. Like, why start a potentially city-leveling fight if negotiations might make that unnecessary? Shouldn’t he at least try to reason with him first?

      • Maybe he was really afraid for Superboy’s safety. He did just admit H’el was so fast that he, SUPERMAN, did not see how/where H’el came up with Superboy so quick.

  2. I keep neglecting to mention H’el’s powerset, but he has all of these psychic abilities — does that mean anything? I have a vague suspicion that H’el’s story is bunk, and that he may actually be a fugitive from the phantom zone with some kind of Helsinki syndrome fascination with Jor-El. He’s pretty quick to being a not-so-nice guy, to the point that I wonder if he’s being dishonest in his goals as well as his motives.

      • Well, we know his plan involves going back in time — I wonder if he actually wants to go back to before the destruction of Krypton just to kill Jor-El. That could have all kinds of dangerous consequences for Kal getting to Earth, which could add an extra layer of urgency to stopping his plan. This is all conjecture, but I have my suspicions of H’el’s story.

  3. I feel sort of bad for Superboy. Has he even come in contact with Clark before this issue? And they meet with him being laid out for slaughter. He’s really just become a bargaining chip in the grand scheme of things, with very little to no dialogue so I wonder where Lobdell plans to take the Superman/Superboy relationship. (I’m not-so-secretly hoping for a Big Brother/Little Brother dynamic similar to what has been displayed in the Young Justice animated show.)

    Final note: I am a little surprised Clark even managed to get his name sort-of right. Poor Superkid.

    • Haha! I didn’t even notice the Superkid line. I suspect that Kon will play a pretty big role in the event — H’el clearly doesn’t think much of Kon, which is a sure path to underestimating (and being undone) by him. We’ve just concluded the first act here, really, so we can only guess how the actual conflict will play out. I totally second your hopes of a Young Justice-like brotherly dynamic between those two, though.

      • I’m curious witch what little we know of H’el’s complete power set just what did he do after doing the genetic readout on Superboy? It involved that green CAT scan-esk aura to injure Kon, but to what avail? I keep wondering if he brought out more inherent Kryptonian powers just to simply toy with Kon and his frailty, as even Clark is no match for H’el alone…or did he mute the tactile telekinesis abilities Kon possesses?

        With Act 2 heading our way, I’m crossing my fingers that Lobdell touches on this.

  4. Mik, I’m curious how you felt about this issue. I know you weren’t thrilled with the idea of Lobdell on Superman, but I’m wondering if this issue has changed your mind at all — I thought it was really good. Is this as bad as you feared it might be? Better than you hoped?

    • IGN really didn’t like this issue: Joey Esposito called it “overwritten, out of character, and sloppy.” I can see overwritten — though I actually see that strained, over-the-top narration as a fun throwback — but I’m curious what people’s thoughts are on the suggestion that Clark is acting out of character here. I thought the Clark scenes were awesome, and while I thought he was a little punchy-punchy in the H’el scene, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it out of character. What do folks think?

      • The only thing that I really found out of character is how dismissive Superman was about He’l’s claims that he is from Krypton. There is the line that Supes has been confronted by 3 aliens claiming to be from Krypton in the past so I suppose there is that. But I think what a lot of writers forget about Superman is that, as an El, he is a scientist. His entire family line is from Krypton’s science guild so that kind of thing is in Superman’s blood. I feel that Superman should be more curious about He’l initially instead of dismissive.

        I liked the Clark stuff just fine and I really enjoy Lobdell’s portrayal of Lois quite a bit. I totally believed the conversation they were having and I felt like they both had valid points.

        Like Shelby, I’m interested in the character dynamics between the Super-family. And don’t worry Shelby, this is a brand new Superman/Supergirl/Superboy so I’ve actually been waiting anxiously to see how they would all interact. I’m hoping that by the end of this event their bonds will be stronger and much more family like.

        Drew, I’m liking this event more than I thought I would. I still wouldn’t say this is “great” storytelling but it is perfectly serviceable and WAY better than what we’ve been seeing so far in Superman. Lobdell doesn’t quite capture Superman perfectly but I wouldn’t classify Lobdell’s writing of him completely out of character either. I am interested to see how this series will end and I feel it’s definitely going to change the status quo of the Super-family once all is said and done.

        P.S. I have a theory that He’l isn’t moving fast at all in those instances where Superman/girl can’t see him move. I think he’s actually time traveling or perhaps just manipulating time somehow instead.

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