Supergirl 15

Alternating Currents: Supergirl 15, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Supergirl 15, originally released December 19th, 2012. This issue is part of the H’el on Earth crossover event. Click here for complete H’el on Earth coverage.

Drew: Ironically, I’m kind of a sucker for stories about con men. I like movies like Matchstick Men and Catch Me if You Can more than they probably deserve, and the scams from LOST and Justice League Dark might be my favorite parts of those series. With so many compelling, relatable con artists running around fiction, it’s easy for me to forget that they’re generally bad guys. It’s somewhat understandable that they aren’t depicted negatively more often; we like to think that we’re smart, and that the protagonists we identify with are also smart, so it’s a risky move to depict a hero being taken in by a scam. Mike Johnson attempts that risky move in Supergirl 15, with decidedly mixed results.

The issue opens with Kara reminiscing about her best friend, who moved to Kandor just before it was bottled by Brainiac (which, incidentally, was just before Krypton was destroyed). H’el startles her (as he is wont to, creeper that he is), and insists that she follow him somewhere he knows she wouldn’t want to go if she knew where it was. Kara agrees, which is essentially the last point I’m really able to relate to her in this issue. Listen, if there’s a reason I wouldn’t want to follow someone somewhere, then I’m going to guess that it’s a good one. If there’s a better reason to follow them, anyway, then why not just tell me? They’re trying to save a planet that blew up over 20 years ago, so it’s not exactly pressing that they act quickly — there’s really no reason H’el couldn’t take the time to explain himself here, but there’s especially no reason Kara shouldn’t insist that he take that time.

Anyway, H’el teleports them to the Fortress of Solitude (which he booted Kal and Kon from in Superboy 15), where he explains the secret of his plan lies in the bottle city of Kandor. He shrinks her down (again, before explaining what his plan actually entails), and asks her to retrieve the quantum crystal as a power source for whatever it is they’ll be doing next. He re-bigulates her (which is a concept so ridiculous, it makes me want to laugh out loud and chortle), then this happens:

She kissed him? Gross! His breath smells like H'el!

I get that H’el is ostensibly offering something Kara wants more than anything in the world, but he’s being so loose with the details here, it’s hard to take any of what he says at face value. The fact that Kara is taken in by this whole charade is a bit tough to swallow. Is she just blinded by her desire to return to Krypton, or what?

Johnson doesn’t give us much to go on, but, I’m inclined to believe that Kara is actually under some sort of hypnosis. This would explain her willingness to buy what would otherwise trigger even the least-developed bullshit-detectors. We’ve already seen that he has some psychic abilities (including giving Kara the ability to understand and speak English back in issue 14), so it doesn’t seem totally out of the question. In fact, she seems downright out of it immediately before they kiss.

"There. Now YOU take YOUR shirt off."

I’ll accept that this may be a willful misreading on my part, but it’s really the only way I can accept what’s going on here. I suppose it’s important to remember that Kara’s only like 16 (which makes the kissing EVEN GROSSER), but I don’t even think naiveté could explain away following a guy who tells you you wouldn’t want to go if he told you where he was taking you. That’s just straight-up dumb.

Part of my problem may be the structure of this crossover. As a subplot of a larger narrative, I’m willing to accept that one of the good guys might fall in with the bad guy, but as a standalone issue in a series where Supergirl is the hero, this issue just doesn’t make sense. Also, H’el’s threat is still largely unknown. He’s been deceitful to Kara and downright antagonistic to Kal and Kon, but he’s done nothing yet to suggest that he’s anything worse than a kind of rude guy just trying to save his home planet. The cover of this issue asks if Kara would doom Earth to save Krypton, which is where Patrick has suggested this was going, but there’s still been nothing in the narrative to imply this — H’el is a “villain,” but only because we all just kind of assume that he is.

I was excited for Kara’s role in this crossover — I would totally accept that she might throw over Earth if she could save Krypton — but we really haven’t cashed in on any of her emotions. Even if she isn’t under hypnosis (and it’s probably not a good sign if I can’t really tell), she doesn’t seem nearly as emotionally invested as she should be. We’re left with rote plotting, instead of the character work I was expecting. What do you think, Patrick, did we get conned?

Patrick: “Conned” is an interesting way to put it. We’ve been successfully marketed to, through a series of A+ concepts and buzzwords: time travel, cross-over, Krypton-revived. I mean, Christ, we’re not made of stone. I’m still holding out hope that I will end up finding more to like about this event than to dislike, but maybe we should have noticed that the only reason we’re reading any of these series is because they take part in this special event. A very special episode of Terra Nova is still only an episode of Terra Nova, after all.

Drew, you mention that as an isolated issue (or even as part of the Supergirl series), this entry doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I’ll venture that it’s even more frustrating as part of the cross-over and all of that frustration is due to the event’s namesake: H’el. While the stickiness of his motivations (and the fact that he has yet to really prove himself a villain) are problematic, H’el’s powerset is bothersome to me. We’ve already seen him take all three of the Supers in hand to hand combat, and apply a little mind control, so he’s already a formidable baddie. (Side note: if he can just superpower his way into anyone’s mind, why would he even have to bother conning anyone?) Beyond that, though, he’s able to teleport himself (and anyone near him) to basically anywhere in the world, he can astral project AND he can shrink people. Those last two are an absurdly specific set of powers that allow him to do something mysterious instead of something equally effective: just asking Kara for help.

“But certainly there’s a reason he doesn’t just ask Kara for help.” Yes, disembodied questioning voice, there is a reason stated in this issue and throughout the event: H’el’s appearance has been ravaged by his journey through space.

H'el is too ugly to trust

While this end of this issue flips this, and goes for a Beauty and the Beast sorta thing, the overwhelming evidence for H’el’s villainy is that he really LOOKS like a bad guy. That should be enough to convict him, right?

Hey, can we take a second and dissect the logic of H’el’s plan and what exactly he’s expecting from messing with time? H’el wants to go back into time to before Krypton was destroyed and prevent its destruction. Good so far. He can use the power of Kandor’s quantum crystal to achieve this, but Kara objects: “Doesn’t the city need it?” And H’el responds that if they’re successful, Kandor will never be bottled and therefore wouldn’t need the crystal anymore. There’s a paradox a-brewin’ here, and I don’t like it.

You know what I do like, though? Kandor – a living, breathing chunk of Kryptonian society, preserved forever by Brainiac. There’s already some interesting things to say about how any of the Super-family might feel about having this living relic (and how it sorta validates Brainiac’s otherwise evil acts), but I really like that Kara has a direct personal connection to the bottled city in the form of her best friend Tali. Their carefree teenage adventures on Krypton may be trite, but the difference between their present situations couldn’t be starker: Tali is miniaturized, isolated and locked in stasis, while Kara is immensely powerful. It’s a dichotomy that makes this scene seem very exciting:

Tali can't hear Supergirl

But the problem is that this doesn’t motivate Kara to save her friend here, but doom her by removing the city’s powersource. Why rush to save the past when there’s something in the present that you could fix?

Also, why is it that Superman and Superboy can go through all these costume changes and yet Supergirl still can’t find a pair of pants? For the sake of not repeating myself, I’m trying no to mention Kara’s scant panties in every write-up. I suppose it wouldn’t be so frustrating if she were also an intelligent, willful character — which I generally believe her to be — but this H’el arc has turned her into kind of a pushover.

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?

19 comments on “Supergirl 15

  1. I think this issue makes way more sense as an issue of the crossover. Functionally, Kara’s story has been hijacked by H’el (h’ijacked?), since we need to see what his plan is. Unfortunately for Kara, that means she has to go along with shit that just doesn’t make any fucking sense. She’s displaying the decision making skills of the cast of Prometheus getting really drunk and going on a reality TV show.

  2. HEY. It’s time to start conjecturing as to the identity of H’el. I’ve seen it suggested elsewhere (based on his color scheme and the backwards ‘S’ we can occasionally see on his chest) that he might be Bizarro Superman. I think there are some strong signs for that, but I’ve also seen it suggested (in the comments in…Green Lantern 15, maybe?) that he might be Ultraman (albeit, a New 52 version of Ultraman). It seems possible that he somehow traveled between universes on his voyage from whatever Krypton he started on. I’ve also suggested that H’el might be a phantom zone prisoner, whose fascination with Jor El might be less than idolatry — like maybe he just wants to go back in time so he can shank him. I actually think that read could fit H’el turning out to be the New 52 version of either Bizarro OR Ultraman, but I’d love to hear everyone else’s theories.

    • Stupid question: he can’t just be H’el? Is there something about the origin story that he presents that seems to utterly unbelievable? Even if he ends up being not as compelling as either of those characters, I’d prefer a new character to shoe-horning in a rehash.

      Also, despite the design elements, H’el’s about as far from Bizarro as you can be. If suits and martinis make Bond Bond then mis-conjugating verbs makes Bizarro Bizzaro.

      DOUBLE ALSO, who’s Ultraman? I only know that name in connection with the Japanese TV character with the silver armor that grows to skyscraper size and fights monsters. I assume that’s who we’re talking about. Yes, H’el could be that Ultraman.

      • Hey, Patrick. It’s certainly one possibility that H’el is just an original creation, but there are also good arguments otherwise – I guess none of us can know the creators’ intentions until they eventually come out and say. I would speculate that the reverse Superman symbol on the chest does suggest that Bizarro is one of the silver age characters that have been strip-mined for this new character and I think the New 52 is mostly eliminating silly things for a darker approach so while I would totally agree that Bizarro-speak is a key element of what Bizarro is to me I don’t think we’ll be getting an in-continuity “true” Bizarro for New 52. I think H’el is part Bizarro, part Ultra-Man, and part something new in the same way that Mary the Talon is part Cassandra Cain and part something new or Kass Sage is part Scandal Savage, part Kate Spencer, and part something new. They really seem to be strip-mining old characters for their new creations.

        Also, I am STRONGLY starting to believe based on discussions started on Gail’s board and carried over here to Green Lantern 15 alternating current that DC is very much breeding a Crime Syndicate in the New 52. Owlman’s original was in the Court Of Owls event, H’el On Earth is Ultraman’s origin event, and in Rise Of The Third Army with Volthoom’s stuff we are getting the seeds of a Power Ring equivalent. To answer your question, Ultraman is the Superman equivalent in the Crime Syndicate which has a kind of Mirror World-esque evil equivalent of each Justice League member and is historically relegated to a parallel earth. I think the evidence is stacking up that DC is introducing each Crime Syndicate member through an event and that we’ll be getting the team origin sometime after Trinity War.

        • Also, the Japanese man-in-suit Ultra-Man is awesome; I have loved it since I was a kid, and the beta capsule plays a key part in my favorite book Ready Player One by Ernie Cline

        • Japanese Man-In-Suit Ultraman (JMIN Ultraman) was great. There was a VERY early Super Nintendo title that played like a cross between Godzilla King of Monsters on the NES and Street Fighter II. Needless to say, I was in heaven.

        • Yeah, so I’m gonna be tracking down a ROM of that because that sounds like a whole lot of things I love mixed together

        • Hey speaking of things you love mixed together that will almost certainly be a disappointment: Injustice: Gods Among Us. I’m considering doing some pretty in-depth coverage of the game and the scene that pops up around it. Will you be getting Injustice? Are you excited for it? Did you play MK9? ETC.

        • Y’know, I didn’t get MK9 and I tend to be a strictly-Capcom and SNK guy when it comes to fighters (which I generally suck at anywa, but I play ’em cause they’re fun); having said that, I did put a little time into MK vs DCU and am 10x more excited about Injustice as I was for that game. My friends played it on the floor at NYCC and told me that they removed the MK vs DCU element that the second analogue stick needed to be used to shift directions on the 3-dimensional plane so that makes me very excited that I might actually be able to use my arcade stick with an all-DC fighting game. Can’t freaking wait

        • I also didn’t get into MK9, though I’ve heard (and read) from a lot of sources that it plays a lot smoother than basically any Mortal Kombat game and that it excellent in presentational areas that Capcom and SNK generally stick at (like story and single player modes). I’m still turned off by the hyper-violent fatalities, but I might pick it up to re-acquaint myself with Netherelm’s style (plus I can get MK9 on the Vita for a song).

          I also played some MKvDC, but mostly gave up after playing the DC campaign. Too stiff and weird for my tastes. Too bad Capcom didn’t get their hands on DC characters – I likes me the Marvel fighters, but it’d be so much more fun with Batman and Aquaman in there.

        • I’ve heard some good things, too, and I will most likely pick up a cheap copy once I get better internet service than this crappy hotspot I’m on these days. I love that Freddy Krueger is a downloadable character

        • All you need to say to me is “Antimatter Univeriverse” and I’m totally on-board. That shit doesn’t make sense, but I love it anyway. Most of my exposure to it is through Johns’ evolution of the GL universe, and it always seemed super mysterious to me – plus it’s home to Qward and the GODDAMNED ANTIMONITOR, and I love those things.

        • Yep, that’s probably the most well-known version that ran after 1986 when the Crisis story eliminated the multiverse; before Crisis, though, and also more recently when the 52 series restored the multiverse after Infinite Crisis he has been from Earth-3 (the parallel earth where Lex Luthor is the only hero and all of the heroes have villian dopplegangers)

  3. Let me just throw out there that, while this issue is a low point for me in what I think has been an otherwise brilliant run on Supergirl, I relished seeing a different design for H’el during the Kandor bit even if it was only for a few pages. I have really disliked what I see as a 90’s-throwback design for this character so far, but I do admit that Mahmud Asrar illustrating the character’s default design here has made me hate it slightly less. As for the Supergirl suit, I am usually pretty turned off by cheesecake, but considering I just love this version of Supergirl all around I have to admit to appreciating her pop-star-esque exhibitionism as drawn by Asrar, I think she’s got the strong will and attitude to make it kind of awesome and I’m pretty sure 15-year-old me would be in love

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