Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Superman #23.3 - H'el #1

You know a Superman comic is in trouble when Zod is a more attractive character than Jor-El. But that's what we get in this Villains Month special focusing on H'el, possibly the worst bad guy introduced in the New 52.

H'el has been thrust into the past of Krypton, a decade or so before its destruction. He's been found by Jor-El, who's been monitoring his comatose state for six months. There's a shard of green crystal in the chest of 'Patient H'- a result of Supergirl finally waking up to his lunacy and lies in the H'el on Earth story - and you might think the young scientist would wonder what it is (click on image to enlarge).
Talk about brilliant - Jor recognises a substance that won't actually exist until after his death. He deserves a gold medal in conclusion jumping. Maybe it's fair enough that on the same page he tells lab assistant Orla - presumably from Krypton's Irish district - that he doesn't care to hear her opinions. Anyone's, in fact.

I'm going with arrogant git, and youth is no excuse.

We see a further example of Jor's near mystical talent for intuitive leaps later in the issue, after the Science Council have sneered at his theory that because he has Kryptonite, Krypton is going to explode (given that he hasn't given them any evidence, who can blame them?)
Obviously!

The fellow with Jor is Dru-Zod, the future General Zod, enemy of Superman and good movies. And I rather like his interactions with Jor, pricking his pal's pomposity and making him a little more human.
Oh look, Jor and his brother Zor don't get on even at this stage, it wasn't simply rivalry around the destruction of Krypton, as you might have thought from Cyborg Superman #1.

Also accompanying Jor, but unseen, is H'el, whose mind is unrestrained by the condition of his body. He's been listening to Jor's theories, fan worshipping the man he believes will be his best friend in a few years. He only just manages to resist using his psi powers to make the Science Council listen to Jor because 'I must travel with a light footfall here in the past, lest my actions alter the future'. Yes, that's H'el, whose raison d'etre is to undo the destruction of Krypton - writer Scott Lobdell would be better off telling us that H'el's mind powers don't work in the past, or while he's comatose, rather than making it obvious they don't work when they'll kill the story by giving him what he wants.

Honestly, the level on convolution on display is ridiculous. The book seems to be leading to some kind of 'I'm my own grandpa' scenario, which could explain H'el's conclusion when he sees that Jor has built 'his' spaceship years before he should have.
I can't say, I can't work out what's happening on this page at all. It basically repeats much of what we know from H'el on Earth, but H'el is putting a new interpretation on events. Maybe Jor shoots the comatose H'el in space, transforming him into uncomatose H'el. Or perhaps he's a clone of himself, and that's what the test tube thingies are about. I don't know, either sounds unutterably stupid, so one of them is probably spot on. My incredible Jor-El Sense says clone

Whatever the case, it seems that as of this month, both Superman and Supergirl's fathers are responsible for two of their biggest enemies - Jor caused H'el's creation, Zor called out to Brainiac and became the Cyborg Superman.

What a mess. A big, stupid, disrespectful mess.

There is one thing I like, Jor's telling Zod that 'our people have a high capacity for cellular absorption' and that he's been positing the effects of different-coloured suns on Kryptonians - that fits in nicely with Silver Age Jor, my favourite. The intelligent, yet humble, good man.

Other stuff happens, a splashy moment that's somewhere between shocking and entirely predictable. It's all leading to another H'el-centred crossover, Rao help us. Really, I shouldn't have bought this issue, but I thought perhaps Lobdell, who's been doing an excellent job on recent Superman stories, might bring some of that A-game here, perhaps make H'el more compelling, less annoying.

He's more annoying than ever.

The art's attractive though, being the work of the excellent Dan Jurgens and Ray McCarthy. There's a good sense of place, and the characters are put through their paces with style. I'd like them to have 'explained' that confusing page above, but I suspect that's a script issue rather than illustrative storytelling - Lobdell making stuff up on the fly, planning to fill in the details later.

Gene Ha's tweaked-for-3D cover is pretty effective, and should attract fans of Lobo everywhere - hey, maybe that's who H'el really is? 

16 comments:

  1. So wait. There's no normal regular H'El in this comic? Like before he went to outer space, got scarred and super-powered, and became H'El?

    I thought his backstory he gave in H'El on Earth was that he was Jor-El's student who loved both Jor-EL and Lara, became the test pilot for the prototype rocket, and was even accepted into the House of El ...or was that all *gasp* a big lie?
    Ugh. So far it looks like a retcon.

    By the way, what does the "H" in Patient H stand for anyway? To me, it looks like a symbol of hopelessness.
    And why do I think Harvest?

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    1. You're right, he had one story, now he has another, but his original 'Jor-El loved me' bit didn't ring especially true. I think Lobdell had this bit planned out, at least.

      The H stands for 'hope' - Jor-El says thats what his chest symbol says? If this is based on the recent movie, though, shouldn't Jor have said it was a backwards 'hope'?

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    2. Wasn't it the El family crest? Of all the tweaks to the myth over the years the over-complication of the big red S irks me the most.

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    3. Wasn't it the El family crest? Of all the tweaks to the myth over the years the over-complication of the big red S irks me the most.

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    4. Ignore it all, Rik - the costume was designed by the Kents, and that's it :)

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  2. Man, you should got the Action Comics: Lex Luthor issue if you wanted to read a Superman villain issue this month. Really good and it feels very much like classic Lex.

    I wrote a review on it in case you are interested:
    http://www.adventuresinpoortaste.com/2013/09/18/is-it-good-action-comics-23-3-review/

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    1. Thaks, Iggy, I have the comic, and will be popping over to your place after my read.

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  3. why mart why i thought you wanted nothing to do with h'el why do you put yourself through this

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    1. I know ... weakness? Optimism? Page hits?

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    2. well mart i can't fault you for optimism but come on it's h'el you should have known what you were in for it was h'el

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  4. well mart prepare for a palate cleanser i recommend bloodshot and hardcorps 14 it's a wonderful issue and a great jumping point it's really accessible and full of great characters like the burnt out moral bada gunslinger , the sagecious lunatic maniac, and the ever sleazy kozol also some guy named bloodshot even though i never read it this book gives me a ostrander suicide squad vibe with the fact that that hardcorp process can or the mission can kill them i truly recommend hardcorps

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    2. your welcome mart also i wonder if you could post a review if you decide to pick it up

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  5. This was ... as anticipated ... pretty bad, for all the reasons you say.

    H'El saying he has to be careful and not change history is laughable give who he is.

    H'El creates himself is also thin. But how did irradiated cell samples grow into a body, learn anything, get false memories, know how to pilot the ship, know to wear pants, etc.

    And Jor-El should also know that if H'El time travelled that Krypton's destruction could be millenia away.

    So this was rough. But if it Lobdell and H'El, I should expect this.

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  6. It's weird - surely DC can't think H'el is popular, after the first go-round.

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  7. people please this will end better than h'el's last story because zod is in this zod will brutally kill H'el at the end of part one of clone wars and the rest of the arc the linear men will show and repair the timeline rendering h'el's interference into nothing and everyone will have cake

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