It’s been a while since I reviewed a Superman comic and I believe that this is the first trade paperback of the Superman series that I’ve checked out. I read the first two volumes of Action Comics earlier though. It’s cool how Superman had two series at once for a while like how Batman has his Detective Comics alongside his main title. This volume is an immediate upgrade over the Action Comic titles when it comes to the fights as Superman finally gets to deal with some serious threats, but the portrayals and writing may not be as good.
Superman is starting to realize that the Daily Planet isn’t the paper that he thought it was. They don’t really print the news anymore and Superman blows up at the staff and is effectively fired. He’s also venting because he found out that Lois is now seeing someone. He decides to head home and thinks about what to do when Supergirl arrives along with a Kryptonian monster (Which Superman destroyed) and a mysterious figure known as H’el. H’el plans to eradicate the solar system in order to go back in time and save the Kryptonian race, but Superman can’t let that happen! Along with Superboy and the Justice League, Superman must convince Supergirl to leave H’el’s side or defeat her if necessary!
I definitely enjoyed the fact that this volume has a lot of nonstop action. Superman’s fights against H’el are quite good and even his generic action scenes like fighting the large monster was neat. The rest of the Justice League doesn’t get much action although they fight some minions and Wonder Woman deflects one of H’el’s shots. The stakes are definitely really high the whole time and it’s good to see the League come in to help since the solar system being in danger is certainly something that should capture their attention.
That being said, this volume did have a few weak points, which likely relate to The New 52 status. For starters, Superman is a little out of character. The whole first issue makes him look really bad as he’s very petty in his jealously about Lois moving on. Worse was how he blew up at everyone. He may have had a point, but completely went about it the wrong way. The old Superman would have tried to calmly talk with the managers about getting in some credible articles. Superman is also very rude and condescending to Superboy the entire time, but not in a campy/enjoyable way. He even threatens a scientist depending on how you read the line. To his defense, he didn’t realize it until he was flying away, but he just disregarded the thought as quickly as it came.
He even antagonized H’el a lot before they actually started fighting like turning his back while the character was still talking. Superman essentially showed a lot of characters no respect here. The bright side is that Superman is portrayed as the super genius like he is supposed to be. In an instant, Superman put together all the pieces of H’el’s plan and he may have done it even faster than Lex Luthor although both of their intelligence are roughly on the same level. It’s always good to see Superman be portrayed as more than the stereotypical powerhouse. Of course, Superman’s raw strength also looks good like it should.
It was cool to see Superboy here since his comics have always looked interesting. I like the new neon suit that he has and his version of the Teen Titans also looked cool. Superman isn’t impressed here, but those comics always sounded fun. I also think that Superboy looked fairly decent even if he was a hostage for a little while. (Probably Superman’s best scene though since he immediately rammed H’el to save the kid) He apparently started out evil as we get a quick origin story as well as a new one for Superman, but Superboy is certainly trying to be a hero now. His abilities seem to be far weaker than Superman’s or Supergirl’s, but he’s a clone so that makes sense. Hopefully he is able to destroy whatever code inside of him that gives Luthor the current edge over him.
Lex Luthor’s portrayal was a little on the odd side. The New 52 has always had a lot of continuity issues and I would count Lex as one of them. It’s not totally a plot hole, but his personality is insanely different from any of the other titles. Lex basically tells Superman what the Man of Steel already knows and explains what Superman’s thinking to the audience. The problem is that instead of sounding logical and calculated, he’s a little on the crazy side. He threatens to destroy Superboy for talking to him and the whole plot of Superman tricking him into building a prison was also odd.
Some parts of the New 52 still feel odd and not canon at times, but it’s something that probably won’t be leaving anytime soon. The bright side is that the Justice League as a whole looks good and H’el makes for a good villain. H’el is overpowered though so I’m going to have to take another shot at the comic. H’el is shown to be powerful enough to basically shut Superman down without any effort in their first encounter. Superman bounces back for the final showdown and puts up a decent fight, but he is still outmatched the entire time. Authors love bringing in new characters who are randomly stronger than Superman, but this is still pushing it. H’el is also a Kryptonian, but due to sun exposure while in the ship, he’s far stronger than Superman. It’s not terrible logic I suppose, but Superman’s been fighting for ages so he’s still been exposed to the Sun while also getting combat experience. H’el also has the ability to teleport objects and people, which definitely makes him overpowered since he could just teleport everyone to the sun while they’re in a room or something like that. He doesn’t because the plot demands it, but that’s why a villain should never be given that kind of ability unless the writer has a clear plan for his defeat.
In the end, there is an appeal to his emotional side by Supergirl and his X-Ray vision wasn’t working properly so he didn’t notice that she was holding something. Just his detailed vision should have been enough for that. As for Supergirl, she doesn’t look very good here. We get more insight into the whole thing in her comic series (Which I already read from this arc) but it still doesn’t excuse how gullible she looks. This takes place towards the beginning of her career, but common sense should have still been enough to guide her away from working for H’el. The guy acts openly evil from the start.
The art is solid as I’ve come to expect from DC. The fight scenes transition into each other very nicely and all of the characters look good. It’s been one of the best parts of the New 52 as all of the mainstream DC titles have looked great with the exception of the Batman series, where I have not cared for the art so much. Particularly the Eternal series, but the main ones don’t look great either. The vibrant colors here suit Superman.
I definitely seemed to grab a lot of negatives in this review, but they really all boil down to the writing angle. I don’t think that the writer really understands the characters too well and Superman snapping and blowing up at everyone just doesn’t feel right. The drama between him and Lois is even worse when you consider the fact that Superman had just gotten together with Wonder Woman an issue or two ago. Makes him look even more petty right? That’s still the only real negative here though as besides the portrayals, the rest of the comic was solid. We still had good art and a lot of solid fights with high stakes.
Overall, This is a solid comic to check out. I’m always happy to see another Kryptonian on board even if H’el ends up being just another guy for Superman to fight. He doesn’t really do anything for me on the personality front and his romance with Supergirl isn’t handled well, but at least he knows how to throw a punch. With the solar system in danger, the threat is certainly real. While some plots like the Lex Luthor one weren’t really needed, they weren’t terrible. The writing will never make you cringe, you’ll just shake your head in skepticism at times. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next two volumes handle these issues as I’ve already got them on the shelf. I expect Superman to look better in those even if the action scenes drop a little there. Seeing the Justice League have a cameo was certainly enjoyable and if they fought H’el, I like to think that they could have done a good stopping him. It should be noted that this comic does jump all over the place as DC doesn’t even try to make the comics transition into each other. If you want to really see what’s happening here, you’ll have to buy 2-3 other graphic novels. It’s odd as collections usually try to include everything, but there have been exceptions like Supergirl and New Avengers. It’s not a big deal though as you can still follow what’s happening and enjoy the fight scenes. Of course, if you want to check out a Superman comic that really hits it out of the park, check out Superman Unchained. That’s still the greatest comic book of all time!