Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Reviewer: Rob Patey ( aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
“You take the old, you take the new, you take them both and you have the glue for Supes’ facts of life, facts of life.”
No, it’s not just my lingering boyhood crush for Lisa Welchel that made this old Alan Thicke ditty pop into my head. After a year of utter confusion for the Man of Steel I think RocLobster has finally been able to find the secret sauce to make SUPERMAN work in the context of the NEW 52. H’EL on earth is not only a great read from a solitary story perspective, but it’s the first true signs of cohesion amongst all DC titles allowing for some true honest-to-God universe building.
I applaud Perez’s and Morrison’s early efforts on both ACTION and SUPERMAN, but they were working under some crazy editorial mandates for Big Blue. I “think” the plan was to have ACTION be the introduction to “Superman” the character, where SUPERMAN the title was supposed to establish the world of Metropolis and all of Clark’s pals. But the “five years before” mandate and no consistent voice for SUPERMAN in any title made for decent solitary issues, but a messershit of confusion for Supes’ place in the DC Universe. I’m not even going to bring JUSTICE LEAGUE into this conversation because that was a whole other grab-bag of Super doldrums for Clark (me blue, me punch, me sulk).
Here’s the thing though, SUPERMAN’S world isn’t that interesting without SUPERMAN. Learning that media outlets are dying and Lois Lane will prostitute her integrity to the first media mogul that comes along will only carry a comic so far. I don’t care about Lois, Jimmy or Perry without Clark, no matter how many Lois-Nazis write me about the importance of Lois Lane in the DC Universe (yes, they exist by thousands, I would be happy to share the hate mail from my SUPERMAN EARTH ONE review).
Now, I was able to follow these stories and confusions because I’m older than Moses’ balls. At 38 I have lived through several iterations of SUPERMAN and read thousands of books that let my feeble mind easily fill in gaping chasms of logic and feeling. New readers had my deepest sympathy and anyone who asked me over the past year, “what book should little Johnny or Sally read if they like SUPERMAN?” immediately received my endorsement for ACTION, and ironically not SUPERMAN. Not because Morrison is a great child writer, but because that was closest to the essence of Supes.
H’EL on earth finally ends the confusion. With this first Super Crossover, RocLobster and the others have been able to bring clarity by not abandoning the past year, but consolidating it quickly and concisely. Yes, Lois is still an integrity whore to the whims of Morgan Edge, but there aren’t entire issues focused to the decline of print media and sacrificing real news for infotainment. Clark recently quit the Daily Planet because of this moral conundrum and all you need to know about this is plain as day in the opening panels of SUPERMAN 14. Lois is trying to bring Clark back into the media fold until their visit is interrupted by the appearance of Supes’ cousin Kara-El. Now, I will say that Clark’s former red-panties getting into a bunch about Lois shacking up with her boy-toy seems out of place since he has shown no romantic interest in Lois up until now (NEW 52 not old continuity), but I’ll let it slide, again because I know this will be an inevitable pairing…perhaps. Also since he’s smooshing face with WONDER WOMAN now, which is wonderfully alluded to in this interchange, I have to wonder why he truly does care. But the super heart wants what it wants I guess. I’ll also say the moment when Kara entered left me conflicted. On one hand it was hilarious. On the other hand, I think Lois has lost her nose for news immediately assuming the woman standing before her is a Cosplayer instead of the exact replica of the chick who’s been tossing tanks on the news. Considering this a fan-boy nit though, and a bygone since it was executed so damn well.
I had an issue with the heavy BOX OUT bubbles in SUPERMAN 13. What has worked so well in RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS felt like lazy exposition to me in the context of SUPERMAN. That’s corrected as well this issue, with only a few scant thought bubbles to draw new readers into the crossover.
The rest of the issue plays out as a knockdown drag-out between this new third Kryptonian, H’EL, and Supes. Kara sits on the fence, still not loving Earth, but certainly not feeling the disdain H’EL does. In very Zod like fashion, H’El, a former disciple of Jor-El and one of Krypton’s first astronauts (that’s how he got to Earth), thinks anyone from Krypton should be in charge of Earth and also has a real disdain for the hybrid clone SUPERBOY. It was actually kind of fun to see SUPERBOY tossed around like a Ritalin baby’s Stretch Armstrong. Apparently, like in the Star Wars universe, Clones only spell bad news and caused a lot of trouble in Krypton’s distant past.
The family dynamic between Kal and Kara is all New 52 while still holding on to ghosts of the past. It’s refreshing to see this commitment to what worked before and not abandoning it. Kara has to grapple with her younger cousin now being older and not remembering Krypton. While Kal must try to babysit a superbrat to ensure she doesn’t cause bad PR for Kryptonians everywhere.
No idea where this series is going to end up and frankly I don’t care. For one reason, I really like surprises. The other reason being I already have Tweeted confirmation from Scott Snyder that his run starting in January will take the series in a new direction. I will also give leeway to any book Rocafort draws. His abandonment for traditional panels and flair for cinematic moments are bar none. He makes the books move even if you don’t read one word bubble.
H’EL on Earth is exactly what the doctor ordered to redeem the Man of Steel, bind the DC universe together, and whet appetites for the when the new DC Golden Boy takes the reigns next month.