This issue begins with Superman's trajectory stopped when he smashes into the silent celestial watcher some call the Oracle. The being spooks Superman with its big beady eyes, and fails to be impressed by Superman's previously hidden talent for yelling in outer space. The Watcher doesn't share this knack, but does manage to zap images of Kal-El's family's past into Superman's head - whatever could it mean? After a minute or two, Superman decides that saving Earth might be a good idea, and leaves the mystery being for another day.
On the big blue marble, most of the JLA is fighting disasters caused by H'el's science as Wonder Woman and Supergirl run interference to allow Superboy to throw a psionic spanner in the works. And indeedy, he pulls down the Star Chamber in Superman's Fortress of Solitude that H'el has been using to collect solar energy but - OH NO! - Superboy has freed the space cruiser H'el plans on climbing into for his time trip. He's been used!
(Exciting, isn't it?)
Superman arrives, punchy punch. Supergirl snivels about her rubbish taste in men, before stabbing H'el with a lump of green kryptonite, having used her girlish charm to get close to him, then passes out and is flown to the Fortress' Super-Clinic. And out in space, the Oracle still watches, thinking gloomy thoughts.
Epilogue! On Krypton, a super-fat lady sings. Kidding. Young scientist Jor-El stumbles across an unconscious, time-tossed H'el in a cave.
That's Scott Lobdell's conclusion. Here's my conclusion: what a bag of bilge. The narration isn't too bad, in a deliberately overstated, melodramatic way. But the dialogue, it's painful, all exposition, and sappy soap.
Take this (click on images to enlarge).
I wish. In interviews, Lobdell has said H'el is coming back before long - methinks someone has fallen in love with his creation. Would some meddling politician please bring back the Comics Code, which stated: In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds? I can live without the punishment, but certainly H'el should be locked up somewhere. If he escapes, he escapes, but in the first instance, justice should be seen to be done. Isn't Justice meant to be one of Superman's defining tenets?
And then there's Superman's Girlfriend Wonder Woman getting smutty. Stop it, you're a princess, have some class!
There is one panel I like, Kara's final dialogue before she passes out (because girls can't take the punishment boys can, despite Kara having been seen to be perhaps more powerful than Superman in her own book). But I won't spoil that here, in case you're as daft as me and planning on buying this comic - it could be your one moment of pleasure.
Kenneth Rocafort's artwork, coloured by Blond, continues to be pretty pretty. The Oracle, rip-off of Marvel's Watcher that he is, at least has an interesting design. And there's an awful lot of kinetic energy in the layouts, while the compositions aren't bad at all. Cutting down on the cheesecake factor would be grand, though - just look at Wonder Woman in that panel back there, she's practically italicised.
So, the first meeting of the New 52 Superman Family is over and what have we seen. Superman was snitty to Kara, but finally came over all brotherly. Supergirl fell for a monster with the subtle name of H'el and viciously attacked the JLA, Superboy and Superman, before finally coming through for Earth on being forced to accept she'd been duped, stabbing the man who stole her heart - viciously, of course. Superboy got beaten up a lot, but gained better control of his powers and personality as he was inspired by Superman.
So, Superboy came out a better hero. As for Superman, this issue shows that he still needs to work on his arrogance, while Supergirl needs serious counselling and anger management classes.
Seriously, it's not so much been a bumpy ride as a horror smash, the worst Superman Family team-up I can recall in several decades of comics reading. Some readers dismiss the all-ages Superman Family Adventures as simplistic kiddie fare, but there's more honour, heart and hope in any one page of that soon-to-be-cancelled book than we've had in this entire crossover.
H'el on Earth? H'el on the reader.
H'el on Earth? H'el on the reader.