Superboy 17

superboy 17 Hel

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.

Superboy Stands

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.

Space oddities

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.

Ooh! Shiny!

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?

32 comments on “Superboy 17

  1. Yeah, I’m looking forward to the end of this event. In that, I’ll be glad that it’s over. The only thing I feel that I’ve gotten out of it so far is that one scene with Lex and Superboy starting to act more like, well, Superboy!

    • It’s interesting, I often blame events for piquing my interest in bad titles (cough*Red Lanterns*cough), but I think this event has demonstrated very clearly that a crossover issue might not give you the best sense of what that a regular issue of a series might actually be like. Having never read an issue of Superboy that wasn’t part of this event (I’m including the zero), I want to give DeFalco the benefit of the doubt about the padding, which strikes me as being the result of an event where each issue only gets so many story beats. My experience with this title hasn’t made me want to stick with it, but I’m not sure I’ve really gotten a fair sample.

      Mik, you’ve been with this title since the start — sometimes to your dismay. Aside from featuring a character you care about, has there been much of value to this series?

      • Unfortunately, I’d have to say no. I’ve made this comparison on my own blog before, but with this series and Teen Titans, I feel less like a fan of the current book and more like a mother hen, attempting (in vain) to make sure that the current creative team doesn’t do too much damage to my beloved characters.

        I’m not sure where all of the creative decisions have come from, but I feel that the New 52 has mostly damaged these characters. This could just be me being a stodgy old fan, but I don’t really think that’s the case as I’ve appreciated other changes to characters so long as I liked the story that supported those changes. Animal Man and Wonder Woman immediately come to mind.

        For Superboy, this series has felt like a huge step back for the character. In the Pre 52, he spent 20 years learning to be more than just a clone. He developed a personality all his own and friendships that were completely endearing and fun to read. It took many writers and artists decades to get Superboy to the point he was at before and the N52 threw all of that away. It was heartbreaking to see that.

        That’s the reason why I enjoyed seeing him act more like a hero in this issue. It actually is exciting to see that growth in the character here, and so the closer he gets to who he was before, the happier I’ll be. Ugh, I feel like I’m coming off stodgy again!

        • The Young Justice line at DC is certainly in dire, shitty straights. After May, it looks like there’s only going to be TWO of them (plus Superboy, but he normally gets counted among the Supers.) Now, I know that having sister books is no mark of quality (see everything Amanda Waller appears in for examples of terrible books that are interconnetected, and the examples of isolated wonderful series are many: Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Flash, Dial H), but that does imply to me that there’s just not a lot of passion to direct these characters, either from writers or editorial. I hate the 52 quota – it means so many of these characters and teams get books just to fill the shelves. If we could just wait until someone came along and said “Oh, I actually have a really good Kid Flash story,” that’d be fucking awesome.

        • Yup. DC is planning on introducing more books into the YJ line, but no one knows what yet. I’d appreciate a solo Tim book, he’s certainly proven capable of supporting one. Especially considering that he was the first Robin to ever support his own solo title.

          As for passionate writers, I know there were plenty of writers in the past who you could put in that category. I’d put Marv Wolfman, Peter David, and Geoff Johns on the top of that list. I’m sure others could name a few creators as well. We just need a writer interested in producing a super powered teen drama. Add in a bit of comedy as well (like the original Young Justice), and you’ve got a good book on your hands.

          I think it’s a bit tougher right now tho because one of the cool things about the TT’s has always been that they were sidekicks being given the spotlight. The N52 version isn’t quite that. Sure, you have Red Robin, but none of the other characters in this iteration have anything to do with their adult counterparts. I don’t even think Wonder Girl or Kid Flash have ever met Wonder Woman and Flash, and up until recently you could have said the same thing about Superboy. I think that could be an interesting direction to take the book tho, seeing everyone meet and interact with their grown up counterparts would be a lot of fun.

        • Well and that bit about them originally being sidekicks is an excellent point: the Teen Titans are not a start-all-over concept. Teen Titans is a “oh we have so many characters that have developed, the need a new home” concept. Each of these guys could have been seeded as sidekicks in their appropriate books for a couple years before it made sense to give them their own book again. Look how ill-defined their histories are at this point.

        • Right, but you “have” to have a Teen Titans book right? Nope. Even tho, it would be my preference to always have that kind of book on the shelf, there’s truth in when you say a writer should have something to actually say with the characters. I think it would have made a lot more sense to rest this book for a while until the teen characters came out of the N52 naturally. Come to think of it, this is the first time that hasn’t been the case for this title.

          The first TT’s series was just a fun excuse to put all of the kid sidekicks together in one book. Then, when those characters got too old they just became “Titans.” Young Justice came about in order to do the same thing TT’s did but with a more comedic spin. Then Johns brought it back, emulating what Wolfman did and giving the title a sense of prestige again.

          Now, the title feels like a badly plot driven mess featuring characters who have no clue who they are or, as you point out Patrick, where they come from.

        • I would read the hell out of a solo Tim book, especially if it was just a straight-up detective procedural. Like, teenage Sherlock Holmes (with a cape). He could occasionally serve as a consulting detective for other heroes, allowing for some fun cameos. I don’t really know who could write something like that, but I really want it to exist.

        • Chris Yost and Fabian Nicieza did a really good job with the original Red Robin series. It was a strange time for Tim as Bruce was thought dead. He basically took the idea of the Bat global (before Batman, Inc.), and nearly took down the League of Assassins. Ra’s Al Guhl even gave him major props at one point by calling him “detective.” It was a fun series.

          Honestly, I’d give anything for Chuck Dixon to return to the character.

      • It’s interesting how frequently I see incorrect editors notes. I don’t understand the mentality behind getting that wrong. “Oh, shit – that’s sort of a confusing concept… better explain it by referring the readers to a previous issue. It was probably in… uh… just say 1.”

      • Wow. That’s too bad as I was actually impressed by that. Here they made me think that DC had an actual plan with the Superman books from the start. I’m excluding Action from that of course.

        • I can check my Superman #1 when I get home tonight, but I’m fairly sure it’s incorrect. There was a connecting set of stories about elementals through those early issues that ended up tying into the introduction of the Kryptonian biotech armor in Action Comics, but I don’t recall any Herald or hornblowing nonsense. I don’t have the greatest memory, though

        • I’ll be fuckin’ damned! The Herald is in Superman #1, blowin’ that damned horn! Art page number 8! I didn’t remember that, like, at alllllllllll. I wonder if what’s going on right now with The Herald has anything at all to do with what George Perez had planned when he included that page

        • Okay, shit, so I don’t have time to re-read all of this tonight but if you read that Superman #1 page it references that you should find out more in Stormwatch #1… which I have. So in Stormwatch #1 there is some whole crazy shit where a giant eyeball-thing claims to be the being a first responder to the horn. This is going to take a free day to figure out

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  3. Just got finished reading through this story arc last night (kinda been squirreling away issues for the past several months just to sit down in one night and blaze through them all in one go).
    Something that confuses me is about Kon. So H’el messed with him on an atomic level. Superman gives his armor to Kon to stablize him and keep him alive.
    Then later Superman gets his armor back to be in battle.
    What I don’t get is (and maybe I read through it a bit too quickly and missed this?) WHY did Superman get his armor back from Kon? Wasn’t that armor the only thing keeping the teen alive?

    • Well, I don’t recall exactly why he got his armor back, but I’m pretty sure it was H’el that restored Clark’s armor. I don’t really think there was an in-story reason for it so I think it was just that Clark could look like Superman in the final issues of this event. There may have been an explanation in the book itself, but you could say that by the time that H’el restored Superman’s armor, Kon was healed enough not to need it anymore. We weren’t a fan of H’el on Earth here at Retcon Punch (if you can’t tell) so I’m not surprised that you found holes in this story as the overall plot was just full of them.

      • Ah, I see. And yeah, it wouldn’t look right to have Superman in the midst of battle wearing that t-shirt and blue jeans combo. It just seriously wouldn’t look right. (Dang it. Ever since the reboot, most every time I see ‘Superman’ in that t-shirt, blue jeans, and boots setup, my mind just goes ‘that’s grown up Conner’. reboot Clark is trying to steal old Conner’s Superboy look! …and isn’t doing the best job of it.)
        But still, it would’ve been nice if the writers would’ve, at least, clarified ‘hey kon, need my armor back’ ‘sure supes, here you go. I’m stable enough now that I don’t need it’.

        I agree with you guys here. This H’el on Earth story really wasn’t one of the better ones.

        Thanks for helping me out with this, Mik! ‘Tis appreciated!

        • I hear ya on that one. On both counts. (Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad if MAYBE Clark’s super tee was skin tight, not all loose and flopping around.)
          As much of an arrogant little punk as 90’s Kon was, and how much he grew up since then, I ended up adoring him because of it. (And loved how much the trio of Impulse, Superboy, and Robin were. The just ‘clicked’ together.) I’ve been having a heck of a time getting use to reboot Kon. I can understand his pissy / angsty thing going on with him but still. It’s like a new pair of shoes. Haven’t quite broken them in yet. Or like the Doctor Who’s 6th Doctor on tv. It’s understandable WHY he was so ggrrr, but it just made him really difficult to like.

          Here’s hoping we’ll EVENTUALLY get a Kon / Conner we like.

        • Agreed. I’m really not a fan of Lobdell’s “interpretation” of the Teen Titans and Kon. I know there are people who like this 90’s throwback stuff, but I’m not one of them. I’m hoping that I’m not in the minority though and that most fans want a return to something more along the lines of what we were seeing in the Pre-52. I’m all about experimenting and new directions, I just don’t like what I’m getting from Lobdell. Here’s hoping we get a new creative team to helm the YJ group of books back to something recognizable.

        • I’ll give you that one. I wasn’t exactally fond of the rather cartoony style the group had back in the 90’s, but they just sorta grew on me. (To be honest, it was the Impulse comics just a couple years back that really warmed me up into reading more into DC at all. Since then lol well I’m a DC fangirl. Let’s just put it like that.)

          Ooh trust me, you’re not alone on that one. And yeah, sure, experimenting is all fine and dandy (sometimes we’re lucky enough to find little gems we adore along the way) but still, like you said.

          I’m a little let down by the Young Justice on tv though. Really nice story arc through the 2 seasons, but dang, if I wasn’t already a DC fangirl and actually KNEW who these people were, I’d just be going ‘huh? who’s that? who’s that suppose to be over there?’ and ‘oh look at the pretty boys’. Still though, hoping for a season 3 eventually.

          It’s almost sad to admit that I kinda like tv’s YJ Conner better than the new 52 Kon.

        • Oh I’ve said almost the exact same thing about TV’s YJ being so much better the the New 52 versions. This is just my opinion, but Lobdell is mostly incapable of writing likable characters. Every once in awhile, we’ll get something good from him, but it’s rare.

          And as for all of those characters on the YJ tv show? I’m so glad they were there! How else are people going to get to know them? Well, I guess there’s always Wikipedia 😉 Seriously though, the first DC book I ever read was Crisis on Infinite Earths which featured just about every character DC ever published. I’ve been climbing down the rabbit hole ever since and there’s no sign of stopping!

  4. lol Glad to know it’s not just me then (about the tv version YJ).

    Oh I second that. Definately glad that they were there. (Kinda rare to see them otherwise on the small screen.)

    OMG Your first read was Crisis on Infinite Earths?! Lucky you! Heck of an awesome place to start off at.

    “I’ve been climbing down the rabbit hole ever since and there’s no sign of stopping!”
    lol I know exactally what you mean. I love it. I just kinda wished I’d really started getting into this further back than just a couple years ago.
    All these years I could’ve been reading comics… and I never knew… (well I knew. My first real, physical comic books I ever got were Iron Man and ST Voy. Once the subsriptions ran out on those I just sorta lost interest. Man, am I so glad I got back into it. And a nice plus, I don’t HAVE to go through all of the titles I follow. I can just hop, skip, and jump around and read the best ones back to back to back.)

    Gwahh! Didn’t mean for this to get so long! lol

    Thanks again Mik! If nothing else *bookmarks retcon-punch before I forget*, now I definately have another website to regularily check out.

    • Yeah, I’ve been reading comics for like 10 years now, but I stopped for a year at one point for reasons I can’t quite remember now, lol. I’m glad I got back into it too!

      And hey, thanks a lot! We appreciate all of our readers and, in case you can’t tell, the comments section is probably our favorite part of the site! It’s so much fun to get to talk to everyone about something we love so much.

      I’m glad you enjoy the site, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from ya!

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