By: Adam Basciano
“It’s their worst nightmare: a creature of unknown Kryptonian origin, more powerful than Superman, smarter than Supergirl and more lethal than Superboy–and his actions will change the course of a planet’s fate! The moment is finally here: Superboy and Superman, face to face! But with Superboy dying from the wounds H’El inflicted on him, they may not have time for a heart-to-heart! H’El takes Supergirl on a whirlwind tour of Earth and even space, all in an attempt to sway her to his cause. On the surface of the sun, Supergirl must make a choice: Earth or H’El?” (DC Comics)
These three issues have equal amounts of action as the first three issues of the crossover did, but there’s far more character moments between the four principal combatants this time around. Before we get to that, I must say I really enjoyed the exchange between Lois and Clark here. From the start of the New 52 it was clear that Clark had repressed feelings for Lois, and a specific earlier issue suggested Lois may have similar feelings. Superman #14 gives a clear picture that while Clark pines for Lois, she see’s him as her best friend. Forget the Phantom Zone, can anyone say friend zone? Truth be told, I find Clark’s reaction to Lois moving in with another guy hypocritical. After all, he’s knocking boots with Wonder Woman. It’s all good right? Lois and Clark’s conversation is interrupted by Supergirl that sets us on course for the main focus of the plot for these issues. The rest of the three issues gives us several interesting moments and character reveals. H’El and Superman finally meet. Here’s where we learn, according to H’El, that he was a protégé of Jor-El and Lara. Apparently he was an interstellar traveler, scouting other planets in anticipation of Baby Kal-El’s departure. Typically, unforeseen circumstances cause Superman’s ship to arrive before H’El’s. Superman is skeptical of H’El, while Kara latches onto his story. To prove his loyalty to Krypton, H’El offers to kill the clone….aka Superboy, and promises to save Krypton by travelling back in time. Superman takes the exception to this, and a fight ensues. H’El gains the upper hand, wounding Superboy and absconding with Supergirl. Meanwhile, Superman takes Superboy to the fortress, heals him using his battle armor. H’El sends Kara into the bottle city of Kandor, to retrieve the relic they will need to save Krypton.
H’El’s personality shift called to mind two other iconic Superman villains. The way he referred to Kal-El as his brother, even though their not actually related kind of reminded me of the way Bizarro referred to Superboy in a similar way on the live action tv series in later seasons. When H’El was rejected, he was reminiscent of General Zod in “Man of Steel.” It’s pretty clear that H’El is approaching Supergirl first because he could prey on her longing for Krypton, which makes her more receptive. Speaking of Supergirl, it was a shame to see her and Kal at odds again, just when you thought they were about to find common ground. Makes for good drama though. Plus, the flashback to Kara’s time on Krypton with her best friend really sells her emotional longing for Krypton. H’El has the makings of a great adversary. As a reader, I can’t tell if he’s sincere or not, which makes me partially sympathetic to his cause, yet weary of him. I found the exchange between Superboy and Superman to be both enjoyable and infuriating. On the one hand, Superman discovers Kon-El’s true lineage so to speak, to which I say it’s about time! I also appreciated Superman’s reaction and general rapport towards Superboy, especially since I was disappointed with how “Young Justice” handled that aspect. My problem with the Superboy segment of theses issues is he’s still the same as he was in issue one of his own book….a whiner! Constantly whining about the cards life has dealt him, instead of actually forging his own destiny and trying to change his circumstances. It gets annoying after a few issues.
The art mirrored the story in that I found myself really enjoying the Superman and Supergirl art, but I didn’t really care for the Superboy stuff. Love every aspect of the Superman issue, from the coloring to the panel layouts. The fight scenes are given room to breathe and demand attention. Conversely, brief flashbacks to H’El’s past are crammed in the smallest panels of the page, yet I was immediately drawn too them. The reason I didn’t really like the art in the Superboy title is because it was the model of inconsistency. Then again that’s what happens when you have three or four artists with different styles on one book. The last four pages where Superboy decides to take Superman’s armor are the best of that issue. They’re clean and detailed. The Supergirl issue had a of a Leinil Yu/animated vibe to it, but looked a bit grittier at times. The one thing I appreciated most about the art in that book was the look of Krypton/Kandor. The New 52 has brought a more sci-fi look to Krypton, and anytime I get to see that is a positive. All three covers were extremely effective and indicative of what to expect from each story. They really make you want to read these three issues.
These three issues are definitely an improvement over the first three installments of the story. We finally know a bit more about H’El and his motivations. There are now reasons and consequences to the events that are happening in this crossover, instead of just being one massive slugfest. I get the sense that now that the groundwork is all done, we’re set to see the true thrill ride of this story. These issue give me a sense of potential for this story, the rest is dependent on the execution going forward.
Overall Grade: 7/10