Superman #16 review

As the Justice League tries to reclaim Superman's Fortress of Solitude from him, H'el tells Supergirl his tale. He'd already given the bare bones, but now she gets a richer narrative of his beginnings as an astronaut sent into space by Superman's father Jor-El in a bid to save Krypton's people from dying with their world. Presumably he's using his psi abilities to put pictures into Kara's head, showing him as the handsome student, beloved by Jor-El and Lara, given the El family crest as a mark of their affection and cheered by the gathered people who hope he can save them from becoming so much space dust.

Yeah, right. Poor, deluded Kara may take in this nonsense, but everything is just too angled towards making H'el seem the humble, noble hero. Maybe in the New 52 DC Universe the people of Krypton - for the first time in any version of Superman's history - knew of their world's coming end. Heck, DC has made Wonder Woman's Amazon sisters men-raping monsters so nothing is beyond them. I don't believe it, though. I think writer Scott Lobdell is clueing us in that H'el is full of nonsense; he's as twisted inside as he is outside. Plus, J'or never calls the astronaut by any name - it could well be Legion of Super-Heroes member Mon-El we're seeing, given the similarity to his Silver Age origin, with H'el a passing, deluded janitor.

And hallelujah, Kara is finally starting to have her doubts, to emerge from whatever spell she's allowed herself to be put under, so desperate is her desire to go home again.

Sadly, Kara's questions don't bring answers. Just as H'el seems ready to tell her that in order to travel back in time, Earth must die, Superman breaks into the chamber, followed by Superboy, and a fight ensues, causing H'el to take desperate measures.

The Justice League, meanwhile, learn why they've been having such a tough time reaching H'el, but never mind, they've had a good showing here, pulling together without bickering like brats. I hope this team shows up in the Justice League book sometime ...

While much of this issue continues the fight seen in the preceding Superboy, Supergirl and Superboy Annual, the dawning of doubt in Kara represents a reawakening of the character's intelligence. She's asking questions. Maybe next time she'll actually demand some answers.

Meanwhile, an understandably peeved Superboy bashes Supergirl soundly for earlier slights. As a massive Kara fan, it pains me to see her being the patsy of the crossover, but if she winds up wiser, and is the one to finally wallop H'el, I'll be somewhat happier.

For fairness' sake, Superman also gets to look like a total stook this issue. Asked why he has world-threatening creatures in his Interplanetary Zoo, Superman says he had no choice - it was a case of bring them to Earth or leave them to destroy their planet of origin. As opposed to, let's see, throwing them into space/the Phantom Zone/an uninhabited world/wherever.

Still, the moment pales before this sick-making little scene (click on image to enlarge).
Gee, 'Prince Diana', why not just get a t-shirt announcing 'He's MY boyfriend' and have done with it? 'Superman's current lover'? Oh, aren't we grown up. Otherwise, the script isn't half bad; Kara's a little more stilted than in her own book but again, I'm putting that down to her being in thrall to H'el - she's begun mimicking his romance novel speech patterns.

Look at the above panels again, and give credit to Lobdell for at least bothering to introduce the characters, unlike some big name >cough< writers. We're also thoroughly appraised of what this crossover is about, meaning that for once a comic company's claims about issues being able to be read independently of one another rings true. And if readers do want to read more, foonotes indicate where to find previous happenings.

There's an illuminating moment that helps define Superboy's TK-based abilities, increasing his potential as a powerhouse, and I do like that Kon the clone doesn't bow down before Batman, like the rest of the DC Universe.

Kenneth Rocafort continues to put other artists to shame, maintaining a monthly schedule without compromising on quality. His heroes look tip-top - noble, strong, determined - while H'el appears seductively evil. And the big rumpus scenes work very well indeed, having a real energy behind them. The colours of Sunny Gho and Blond add final definition to the players while making the art pop.

While I like my Superman comics to balance heroics with Clark Kent's daily life, it's unrealistic to expect this in a Big Daft Crossover. I do wish, though, that a page or two had been devoted to Lois and the rest of the Daily Planet staff - what do they know of the current conflict, are they missing Clark, that kind of thing. I hope they return to the spotlight once H'el on Earth is finished. Meanwhile, this was a pretty decent instalment, showing how the various characters react to the same dire situation.

But please, someone give Wonder Woman a cold shower.


  1. Great review as always Martin, and while I agree that I find Wonder Woman's love sick puppy routine here offputting I have to say a bigger problem is that depiction of her breasts in the scene you have there. I mean, sometimes people can make too much about over-sexualizing women super-heroines but those proportions are downright absurd...

    Also, I know this was kind of a humorous throw away-line, but I don't get how off put many fans are at the New 52's depiction of Wonder Woman's Amazons as somewhat dark. Sure, it's contrarty to Moulson's ideas on the subject, but in Greek myths the Amazons were kind of commonly depicted in dark ways from what I understand. Whatever his faults Azarello has just been trying to embrace the dark side of Greek myth in general, Amazons included but certainly not singled out...

    1. Yes, you're right Mr Whiskas - Diana in her own book looks sturdy, but in JLA and here she's like a blow-up doll. Yuk.

      As for the Amazons, decent warrior women are as fundamental to Diana as the Kents are to Clark. Imagine if the New 52 depicted them as child abusers.

      Or Billy Batson as a juvenile delinquent. Oh, hang on ...

  2. "Sadly, Kara's questions don't bring answers. Just as H'el seems ready to tell her that in order to travel back in time, Earth must die,..."

    Actually, from what I read in this issue, it seems more like H'el was slipping it out unintentionally and that he had told Kara earlier that they would only have to siphon off the excess energy from the solar system in order to time-travel. That would explain why we never see Kara questioning his plan throughout this crossover until now. Kara apparently was smart enough to ask H'el about the details of his plan off-panel, but H'el lied to her to cover up his disrespect for Earth and its people. Thank you, Lobdell, for explaining her apparent naivete.

    1. Hi PRGirl1294, I was kinda annoyed by that revelation, it really should've been an on-panel scene. I suppose, yes, it's good that SOMEONE finally explained why Kara has become such a plonked, but still ...

  3. "For fairness' sake, Superman also gets to look like a total stook this issue. Asked why he has world-threatening creatures in his Interplanetary Zoo, Superman says he had no choice - it was a case of bring them to Earth or leave them to destroy their planet of origin. As opposed to, let's see, throwing them into space/the Phantom Zone/an uninhabited world/wherever."

    Also, if he'd put them in the Phantom Zone, they probably would have hurt the prisoners or the evil prisoners would have taken them to use as weapons. As for throwing them into space or an uninhabited world, I'm pretty sure that either he was feeling sorry for the creatures or that he was thinking that if he put them in those places, some psycho would have found them and used them or their DNA as weapons. In that perspective, it probably wouldn't have been so "stooky" to keep them in the Fortress under his custody

    1. Fair points. I reckon Superman needs an Interplanetary Zookeeper. I wonder who'd be good at that job?

  4. Good review,wonder woman over protective,kara geting punked,h'el getting wrestled by kal,then magically teleporting away.
    I did like the way lobdell brokedown the differences between supes and kons powers,and how kon is as powerful as his willpower is,so watch out green lanterns or gladiator over at Marvel,SB is gonna kick your ass...maybe.also kal and lexs dna created the third dna strand? What,thought that was a third donor that did that,a mother,whats up.

    1. I began thinking about Kon's GL potential too, Tony. Have we ever seen a TK user or telepath using a GL ring? That could be something.

  5. With my review 'in the can' and set for tomorrow, I read yours. Great stuff as usual Mart. It is about time that Supergirl started to see some of the holes in H'El's story.

    And I love Rocafort's art, just kinetic and perfect for the action, even if Diana is spilling out of her top.

    Probably the best issue in the H'El arc so far.

    1. And that reminds me, I read your review on my iPhone over lunch, but it's a bugger to compose a response on Blogger for some reason. Time to return to Supergirl's Comic Box Commentary ...

  6. Oh God, you're right. That is Mon-El's origin. Another pillar of Legion history knocked out for the sake of a disposable 21stC Supe story.

    Yes, that sounds alarmist but you know what happens when LSH history comes into the slightest conflict with editorial on those books. Baby/ bathwater, too much effort to write around etc.

    Going to go sob & write voodoo curses at Lobdell now.


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