Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing Superboy 17, originally released February 13, 2013. This issue is part of the H’el on Earth crossover event. Click here for complete H’el on Earth coverage.
Mikyzptlk: Ah, the Ticking Clock. This dramatic device has been used countless times in probably every story telling medium imaginable. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it’s fairly simple. If you are a writer and want to add a bit more tension or urgency to your story, just introduce a countdown or time bomb element of some kind. The H’el on Earth event has been using this particular device since the Star Chamber threatening Earth was introduced. Superboy 17 introduces yet another ticking clock, and, as it turns out, it’s fairly effective.
The Star Chamber continues to wreak all kinds of havoc on Earth. Superboy and the Justice League are deciding what to do next outside of where Superman’s Fortress used to stand. Cyborg and Batman are called away by the Flash to help with disaster relief leaving Superman, Wonder Woman, and Superboy to deal with Supergirl and H’el, who are continuing to monitor the progress of the Star Chamber. With all things in order, H’el ‘ports off to take out Superman and his allies once and for all. He immediately goes after Superboy by ripping off Superman’s armor that has been maintaining his genetic structure since H’el first mucked it all up. Superboy is then tossed away like yesterday’s garbage. Superman orders Wonder Woman to make sure he’s alright while he, Superman, takes on H’el. Superboy is in seriously bad shape but manages to get up and go after the Star Chamber. He confronts Supergirl and attempts to convince her that H’el’s plans will destroy Earth. Supergirl doesn’t trust anything the “evil clone” has to say, plus she and H’el are totally in love, right? At the last minute Wonder Woman zips in and takes out Supergirl long enough for Superboy to go after the Star Chamber which “must be in its final countdown” and proclaims that it’s time to “save the world” or “die trying.”
Let’s talk about that new ticking clock I mentioned. Now that H’el has removed Superboy from the Kryptonian armor, he’s dying at an apparently rapid pace. To his credit, however, he doesn’t take this lying down.
I actually got a lot out of this. In fact, this might be one the only good things I’ve seen coming out of this whole event so far. Before H’el on Earth started I could barely stand Superboy’s characterization in the New 52. He just wasn’t the hero he once was. This event has given him the chance to stand alongside some of the greatest heroes of the DCU, and it’s great to see that it’s rubbing off on him. If nothing else, at least the H’el on Earth event looks to have had a positive impact on the Boy of Steel.
Something I neglected to mention earlier was Superboy’s confrontation with The Herald. I’m guessing it’s a pretty big deal considering that it’s on the cover and all, but it still feels out of place with this event. He reveals to Superboy that, while he was never “anticipated,” he has great potential as a hero and could be destined to save countless worlds. Then he just vanishes to leave the Earth to it’s fate and returns to The Oracle where we get the following scene.
Alright, so they are establishing that these characters go way back to issue 1 of Superman, but it’s still unclear that this really has anything to do with H’el on Earth other than the fact that H’el’s plan for Earth’s destruction has attracted The Oracle. There’s also this business of “The Five Anomalies.” What’s this all about? Will this somehow play into the H’el on Earth conclusion? I suppose that it very well could and probably should as it’s being explored more and more as the event continues, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is going to be the subject of the next Super-story arc. If that’s the case, then this whole thing just feels completely out of place to me.
Lastly, I’d like to discuss something that completely stopped me in my tracks while reading this. I present to you the following panel:
I’m sorry H’el, WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL WONDER WOMAN?!? I know that he’s a villain and is supposed to be a dick, but reading Wonder Woman referred to as “your woman” is simply something I cannot stomach. I can’t help but read this panel as reducing Wonder Woman down to “Superman’s Girlfriend.” Now, there was a whole book based around that very concept in the Silver Age. However, where that book served to elevate the character of Lois Lane from a supporting to a starring role, this panel serves to make the character of Wonder Woman somehow dependent on Superman. It’s like she’s not just her own character anymore, she’s become “Superman’s girlfriend Wonder Woman” and that just doesn’t sit right with me as it implies ownership of the character and NOBODY owns Wonder Woman. Some of you may think I’m overreacting, and I very well may be, but if this is how Wonder Woman is going to be referred to as in any situation, then I call for the immediate dissolution of their relationship. Like yesterday. Oh, also, I feel that Diana would have cut H’el’s head off in off in a second for that remark. CUT. HIS. HEAD. OFF.
Well Drew, what did you think of the issue? I certainly felt it had it’s highs and lows, but what about you? I’m mostly curious to know what you think of the whole “Herald/Oracle” aspect that keeps cropping up in this event. Also, I meant to talk about R.B. Silva’s art contribution, but I got a bit carried away with my Wonder-rant. I thought there were some decent moments art-wise, what about you?
Drew: I like Silva’s chunky, clean linework quite a bit, but the thing that has me most excited for this issue are the visual tics the art team has picked up from Superman. As much as I like Kenneth Rocafort’s work on that title, I think most of the similarities here come from colorists Richard and Tanya Horie, who give everything the signature sheen that has been a such big part of Superman‘s look.
Silva also cribs Rocafort’s signature decal-esque gutters/borders. It all serves to align this title with Superman for the event. Intriguingly, those details slowly disappear as the issue progresses, enhancing that sense of Superboy’s agency that Mik described. Kon is becoming his own man, both in ideology and in style.
I agree that Kon’s rapidly deteriorating health adds a sense of momentum to his scenes, but unfortunately, that doesn’t come until about halfway through the issue. Between detours to the Kennedy Space Center, H’el and Kara’s private conversations, and the meeting between the Herald and the Oracle, the rest of the issue is largely lacking in direction. What’s worse, some of those sequences hit the brakes distractingly hard.
Don’t bother to read all of that text — my point is mainly just that there’s A LOT of it. This takes up a full page, and with no action in the art (literally just two characters looking at something), it reads more like prose than a comic. Add to that the fact that the dialogue doesn’t introduce any new ideas, and you have a page that feels distinctly like padding. That’s a pretty embarrassing problem to have in a medium as compressed as comics, but the fact that it was also an issue last month makes this event feel like an exercise in wheel spinning.
It might help if we had a cleaner sense of H’el’s motivations, but given that we only check in on him for these redundant monologues doesn’t help. The fact that he bothers to come back just to kill Kon suggests that he actually thinks the Earth will continue to exist after he leaves — that is, why would he bother to kill somebody on Earth if he knew his actions would be destroying THE ENTIRE PLANET within a matter of minutes? It suggests that maybe he really does believe what he’s telling Kara about the Earth being fine, except both Clark and Lex Luthor recognized that his plan would destroy the sun, and they don’t have nearly the same familiarity with Kryptonian technology as H’el. Is it possible H’el miscalculated so egregiously? Could Clark and Lex be wrong? Is H’el just being needlessly murderous by coming back? Without more knowledge about H’el, we don’t have a good sense of exactly what’s at stake here.
Kon’s death-run to save the day — against the clock, no less — gives the event a much needed shot in the arm, just barely recapturing my interest at the last minute. I appreciate the effort, but I have to wonder if DeFalco didn’t intend for this issue’s title, “Lost Cause!”, as a comment on the event as a whole. At this point, I’m glad the clock is ticking down, but only because it means I can stop checking my watch.
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?