I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest Superman fan. I picked up the first few issues of this title, but it seemed too… convoluted. As if the powers-that-be within the New 52 hadn’t decided what Superman was supposed to be like. From Action Comics to Superman to Justice League, the persona of the Man of Steel was not the same and it made for some choppy reading. I originally stopped picking this title up around #6, but since I am still a fan of what DC is doing in Superboy and Supergirl, I had to pick up this title for a few issues, simply due to the crossover going on across all 3 titles: H’el on Earth.
If you have not read this story yet, I am being clear here: There are spoilers within. I know there are a number of people who like to get a whole story arc before reading any of it. Well, this series will start to give away some of what happens. If you don’t want to know, go back to our home page and choose something else to read! Otherwise, here we go…
After the events of Superman Annual #1, Superman is not in the best of shape. In dealing with the creature Helspont, he was pushed to the limit… and beyond. How many times have we seen Supes hurt in the past? Not many, and certainly not to the point where he had physical damage done to him (at least in the New 52 – let’s not count the damage done to him and every reader out there when he was split into 2 and converted into electricity… But I digress…)
With the help of a scientist friend, Dr. Veritas, Superman is undergoing an examination of how he is doing. Because of the excess stress put on him against Helspont, he’s not at peak performance levels and that’s disconcerting to him. In fact, we can see the scar on his arm (look at his shoulder in the picture just off to the side here), but also – and this is a first – he is working up a sweat. But his work with Veritas reveals one thing to Supes – his ability to be in sunlight and absorb the solar energy to fuel his powers means he does have a limit to his abilities. This is the first time he comes to the realization that the yellow sun is the source of his power… and my bet is he’ll use that knowledge well.
He returns to Metropolis (after powering up at the sun) only to find his erstwhile roommate, Jimmy Olsen and a young lady of Jimmy’s acquaintance in the shower together. After a slightly embarrassing scene, Clark promptly speeds off (literally) and arrives at work. He has a heated discussion with Perry (who is upset that Clark has vanished for a week and, as he is the reporter covering Superman, has nothing to show for it), and that Lois (who is now a producer and not a reported) is criticizing his lack of journalism (which Clark promptly throws back in her face as Perry laughs a little). Yes, Clark’s best friend, Lois, has turned on him. Not only that, but he uses his super-vision to spy on her text messaging which appears to indicate she’s moving in with her boyfriend (bad Clark!). This upsets him and he leaves Perry’s office and returns to his desk, only to be confronted by Daily Planet owner Morgan Edge who accuses him of slacking off. Clark, finally having had a very bad day, tells off Edge and quits the Daily Planet. Yes, really.
While outside the office wallowing, a dragon flies by. Yes. A dragon. Supes tries to stop it the only way he knows how – with a punch. The dragon reacts and flings his tail, whipping Superman with it and sending him to Ireland, where he lands outside of an oil mine. The dragon soon follows, so Supes sends the workers away to keep them safe. It wraps Superman in its tail and holds him, ready to eat him or something. But, scanning the creature’s DNA (for some reason, scanning its molecular structure may allow him to defeat the dragon) he comes to the conclusion that the dragon is not alive. As a result, he feels no guilt as he uses his heat vision to ignite the oil, burning the dragon.
While recovering, Kara – a.k.a. Supergirl – shows up and confronts Kal-El. She accuses him of lying to her. Evidently Kal has told her that they were the only Kryptonians to survive, but the dragon was a creature from prehistoric Krypton, which indicates to Kara that Krypton must still exist. Neither of them notice the ghostly figure floating next to them, watching the distrust ignite.
And thus begins H’el on Earth.
Scott Lobdell has taken Superman and given him what was missing from the first few issues: focus. It was a very chaotic relaunch to Superman, as he was in multiple books and he was getting a new personality and some new twists. Unlike Batman and Green Lantern, who seemed to continue on with their personalities as status quo (but their backstories were modified), Superman was done fresh and, since Grant Morrison was involved in Action, having some not-so-nice things happening to him. But with Action not being part of this crossover, there will be some focused continuity on the character which will bring something to the story that was missing early on. Although some have criticized Lobdell for some of what he has done in the New 52, this story is definitely one of his better ones.
This issue was a prelude. There are 6 parts to this story, running in issues #14-15 of each of Superman, Superboy and Supergirl. Unlike Death of the Family, this follows a clear reading order and so we’ll be covering it in that order.
And, just because I can… DC editing department, you have a small typo on your poster promoting this crossover.
Sorry to say, DC, that in the block showing this issue, Superman #13, you’ve titled the crossover He’l on Earth. I know its being picky, but I’m an editor, what can I say?