SUPERMAN 14 – SALVATION FOUND IN H’EL

SUPERMAN 14 COVERSUPERMAN 14

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Publisher: DC
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.

9 thoughts on “SUPERMAN 14 – SALVATION FOUND IN H’EL

  1. countryboylife (@countryboylife)

    Rob, thanks for this fantastic review. Main points, Morrison’s Action felt most like Superman I grew up with thanks to my dad giving me Superman from the 30’s to the 70’s before I could really read, and to be blunt the stories that stick with me tend to be the ones without much if any Daily Planet and team in them, from Superman and Orsen Wells, or Titano sending him back in time to fight Al Capone, later the one where he’s dragged into the future just before he’s going to die. So this big scale story is exactly what I want.
    Since you’ve highlighted everything, eg pinning for Lois bad, Wonder kiss hot, Rockafort awesome, & Lobdell bringing his A-game. I’ll say no more, except don’t send me the email from the Lois fans, as I have plenty from my meagre bloggings. lol.

    Reply
  2. robpatey Post author

    Hey Country,
    Agreed Morrison is the master of the grand story (except FINAL CRISIS Blech). My concern has always been for the new readers though, especially since that was a guiding mantra of the New 52 reboot. In that sense Morrison lost steam, especially with the story stopping half-way through the two interlude issues. In GN format it’s better, since teh two tangent issues were shoved in the back, but I still think both SUPERMAN proper and ACTIOn could have done more to acclimate the new generation. I was looking for the same WORLD OF books that happened after CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. They were a damn fine way to introduce the whole mythos.

    RobLobster is wonderful though, ain’t they?

    Please give me your email I shouldn’t have to suffer the Lois Nazis alone damn it.

    Reply
  3. NenyaGal

    Of course that disgusting superman and wonder woman blog would post this review where you call Lois a whore.
    This is the superman/wonder woman fandom, ladies and gentleman.

    Reply
      1. NenyaGal

        I love how the entire population of people against this sexist bullshit is called a Lois nazi like there is some secret club or something, deal with the fact that you’re a bunch of sexist assholes who get call on your bullshit! I don’t even care about Lois lane that much, my limited knowledge comes from old movies, and even I can see what the superman/wonder woman fandom consists of.

        Reply
  4. ML38

    At risk of pejoratively being labeled a Lois Nazi for daring to care about Lois Lane, why aren’t you more critical of the complete disconnect between Lobdell’s writing of Lois and the previous Superman runs of Perez and Jurgens? One of my guesses is you’ve forgotten those issues because you didn’t find them very interesting; neither did I. However, you not only missed Clark clearly pining for Lois in Superman #0, Superman #1, and Superman #3 (he thinks about missed opportunities, visits her apartment hoping for something and being hurt when Jonathan shows up, and thinks to himself that Lois is “quite a lady” and wishes that “only things were different”), you also missed that in several of Perez’s and Jurgens’ issues they specifically show Lois standing up to Morgan Edge. Lobdell literally lightswitched Lois into a sell out and continues not to give us any point of view from Lois on why the change happened. You also note that Lobdell makes Lois look stupid for her lack of deductive skills when it comes to Kara’s sudden appearance (Kara is someone Lois saw on TV in close ups in Superman v3 #6). But then, you make it clear you don’t care about Lois at all, so I shouldn’t be surprised that you handwave that all away. Thing is, you don’t have to care about the character or her transformation into a integrity whore/prostitute (classy word choices, by the way) to be able to criticize the writing just on the basis of structure and coherence. Good writers don’t lightswitch characters. They at least explain the A to B changes.

    In contrast to your investment in Lois, which is minimal to non-existent, it sounds like you care about Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship; yet I don’t see your criticism reflect that. As I demonstrated with citations from Superman #1 and #3, Clark’s romantic interest in Lois is not as new as you claimed, but let’s just say that what you said was true. Shouldn’t it bother you as a Superman and Wonder Woman supporter, or at least someone who cares about Superman, that Lobdell decided to lightswitch, according to you, Clark into pining for Lois because it makes it look like he’s treating Diana as a consolation prize for the woman he’s decided he can’t have? It seems like it doesn’t bother you, but as a someone who likes Clark/Diana, as you do, one would think it should bother you.

    But, then, apparently little bothers you because Rocafort’s art is pretty, for example. That seems like a pretty shallow approach to comics criticism, don’t you think? Put that together with the crude language and factual inaccuracies in this review, and it’s a wonder anyone takes you seriously. What takes the cake is calling people who’ve raised questions about your work Nazis. If you know what Godwin’s Law (Google it) is, you’d know that calling those who disagree with you any form of Nazi runs dangerously close to exemplifying the law, and as a result makes your position appear very weak indeed.

    Reply
    1. ML38

      Sorry, the reference above to Superman #0 should read Superman Annual #1. That’s the issue Clark reminisces about Lois with fondness and regret.

      Reply
  5. superfan

    Helloooo again stakler..There you are again. Stalking all day and all night long. Lying through you teeth too. Again. Needing to stalk a sm/ww blog to get here. You’re a sad person making claims behind an anonymous in cyberspace.You can’t help yourself can you? Do you sleep? Or are the Nazis all on some shift system?

    Reply
  6. robpatey Post author

    ML38.

    You bring a voice of reason to comic debates, for that I thank you. I only take the gloves of civilized discourse off when I have been slapped in the face with a pejorative black glove. Slap me with a gentlemanly white glove whenever you please, but I will not abide my inbox being flooded with hate mail for merely reporting on the actions of others.

    When I reviewed SUPERMAN EARTH ONE a few months back I called Lois an ancillary character, it’s how I feel, how she was treated in EARTH ONE (from a romance standpoint) and how she’s been treated in the New 52. The book is called SUPERMAN plain and simple, and while Lois is an important character in the past history of the Superman, she is a supporting element and that was the past. For these thoughts, folks like NenyaGal went ballistic decrying sexism and the importance of Lois and how things should never change. To this end I do call these people Nazis. And yes, I know of and understand Godwin’s Law. I was making a point and the blind venom of NenyaGirl only solidifies my point.

    You are not NenyaGirl however, nor are you a Lois Nazi, you make fine fine arguments. Here’s where I disagree though, you’re giving Jergens and Perez a pass. I remember the alludes from those stories, also there was a modicum of lamenting from Clark in Morrison’s ACTION. None of these brief (and I do mean brief) panels though consist of the love and devotion Clark showed towards Lois pre NEW 52. Again, I don’t care. DC said this would be a New Universe and it is. I applaud their actions.

    I don’t think Lobdell did a disconnect at all,he has merely tried to make sense out of the confusion Perez was forced into by editorial.

    I am also not a SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN supporter. I think it’s a cool twist that certainly won’t last, but supporter is a strong term.

    And Lois has never truly stood up to Morgan Edge, nor was she truly given time to. Clark stood up by quitting. Lois continues to be part of the problem.

    This was not a Lobdell choice, this has been this was since last September. Comics build on what was before and I don’t agree in this day and age that the Stan Lee adage of, “write as if this was someone’s first time with the comic” can hold any water given today’s anemic page count. Comics are a serial medium. By Lois staying an employee of Edge, she agrees with him. If not, she would quit like Clark did.

    I would say “whore” in many senses applies, just not in the traditional sexual sense.

    Reply

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