Today, Patrick and Scott are discussing Superman 15, originally released January 2nd, 2013. This issue is part of the H’el on Earth crossover event. Click here for complete H’el on Earth coverage.
Patrick: The title page for Superman 15 contains the name of the series, but you have to really look for it. The title of the issue, “Because I’m a Scorpion” dwarfs iconic “Superman,” but it’s all dwarfed by the splash page of Superman and Superboy punching rockets out of the air. It’s symptomatic of one of the problem’s this series faces: Superman’s personality is being over-shadowed by that of artist Kenneth Rocafort.
It is, therefore, appropriate that everything that happens in this issue can basically be summarized by the stunning image on Rocafort’s cover. Superman and Superboy visit Lex Luthor in the most maximum maximum maximum security prison ever conceived by man (evidently designed by Lex on a dare from Superman). Lex teases Superboy, implying that he is both evil and part-Luthor — which is something fans of the character already know — and then proceeds to tell Superman that which he already knows: H’el plans to create a reverse-big-bang and harness the electromagnetic energy to necessary to protect H’el’s vehicle — as powered by the quantum crystal from Kandor — as it travels through the chronal-nexus to a point in time before Krypton blew up. Make sense?
Let’s stop right there, because I feel like anyone’s enjoyment of this issue is going to hinge on how they react to Lex’ explanation of H’el’s plan. This is science fiction nonsense stretched to the point of being extremely silly. I’m going to venture my own opinion: it’s too silly. I suspect that reasonable minds will disagree on this. While I can stomach all the gee whiz! enthusiasm and cheesy third-person narration, my bullshit detector starts to register at this shitty shitty pseudo-science. The fact that Luthor — the smartest man on Earth, mind you — refers to an event that is localized to a solar system as “something of a reverse big bang” makes no fucking sense to me. Further, it doesn’t make sense that H’el would need an energy source in addition to the explicitly infinite energy source he pulled out of Kandor two weeks ago.
I get that this is mumbo-jumbo and it shouldn’t bother me so much — but the entire point of the visit (and by extension, the entire point of the issue) is to learn about how H’el is planning to travel back in time. Lex suggests otherwise — that Superman came to see him so he can be properly motivated to kill H’el. You know how sometimes, you watch Fox News for the express purpose of getting angry? That’s what Superman’s doing here, hoping that the resultant anger will allow him to take down the other Last Son of Krypton. Essentially, the only way this issue furthers the narrative is that is spells out in-narrative what has been spelled out on covers and in the solicits for months: bringing back Krypton will result in the destruction of Earth (and Mars too, I guess… probably should let J’onn know about that one).
There’s also this crazy insinuation that neither Batman nor Cyborg knew about Luthor’s prison facility. Oh, right, I was recapping: After parting Luthor’s company, Superman assembles the Justice League who — having never responded to a distress signal from Supes before — rush to the hyper-prison. This is on the heels of Superman scolding Superboy for hanging out with the Teen Titans, and it’s hard to miss Clark’s hypocrisy here. His specific criticism is that the Titans are “a bunch an unsupervised super-humans” which is exactly what freaks people out about the Justice League. Rocafort even goes through the trouble of showing us the Titans in Kon’s imagination – and it’s remarkably to note the similarities between the groups.
Look, they each have a Flash, a member of the Bat-family, a super-strong woman with a lasso… even Bunker and Cyborg look similar. It’s just weird that Superman makes such big deal about this. It all kinda traces back to Superboy’s observation early in the issue that “everyone from Krypton [is] a colossal butt.” I’m with you Superboy, I don’t much care for them either.
What do you think, Scott? Did you find something of value beyond the massive info-dump? Maybe I’m judging Superman too harshly, but I suspect we’re supposed to see him as the colossal butt Superboy sees. Maybe the issue suffers from lack of H’el, which marks the first time we haven’t seen that dude in a Super-book in months. Tell me what you thought, I’m dying to get a second opinion.
Scott: I thought this was a greatly informative issue — at least, from Superboy’s perspective. For most readers it was merely a bunch of unnecessary explanation. I don’t know that we’re supposed to see Superman as a “butt”, but it did seem like Superboy was acting as a proxy for uninformed readers, and even so there was too much spoon-feeding going on. His presence almost feels like a burden on the issue, something Lobdell seems to recognize but is unable to do anything about.
Patrick, I agree with you, the overly technical mumbo-jumbo we get from Lex was silly. But that’s forgivable. I mean, really, it had to be silly. The mistake was taking what should have been a couple of throwaway lines of dialogue explaining the crazy science stuff, and making it the central message of the entire issue. What else even happens in this issue? The justice league shows up? Superman and Superboy are “going to have to have a talk” about the Teen Titans? This was really half an issue stretched out to twice the length because of long-winded explanations of stuff we already knew, or stuff we would have found out soon enough.
Again, it’s like Lobdell knows he’s making this issue drag, but does nothing to stop himself. On a side note, there was something else about Lex’s appearance that was distracting me. I know this might sound strange, but when I see Lex I immediately think of a character from one of my favorite Adult Swim shows. Anyone who’s a fan of “Delocated” likely noticed that Lex is the spitting image of Sergei Mirminsky, right down to the white tank top, which makes it awfully tough not to read Lex’s lines with a Russian accent.
A big reason this issue didn’t work for me was because it was unbalanced. Most successful Superman issues have the character splitting time between his two personas, the intrigue stemming from whether he can maintain an ordinary human life while still protecting the planet, and vice versa. This issue was all superhero without any ordinary guy. And no, the fact that he’s wearing blue jeans throughout the issue doesn’t count.
I know what you’re thinking: “There’s no time for Clark Kent, Superman has to stay focused on saving the world from H’el.” I get that, but then why isn’t H’el anywhere in the damn issue!? I liked the idea of Superman psyching himself up for his clash with H’el by paying a visit to Lex, but what a tease. Maybe Superman only has 30 minutes to stop H’el, but it’s still a month until we’ll get to see the payoff. I’m not sure that seeing Lex’s face will still feel like proper justification for trying to kill a guy after all that time. That is, assuming the next issue covers 30 minutes of the timeline. Maybe that’s wishful thinking.
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