(a) Kenneth Rocafort
One of the biggest identifiable problems with the ‘New 52’, thus far, has been consistency in characterization between titles. Often, a character will act a certain way in a team setting, and a completely different way in his or her solo title. Unfortunately, both Superman and Superboy are at the top of the list when it comes to broken character development. Superman as portrayed in Action Comics has been vastly different from the Superman seen in the eponymous series and Justice League. Similarly, Superboy is written as an emo kid just trying to figure it all out in the pages of Superboy, but here, in Superman #15, Scott Lobdell has turned Kon-El from an antisocial basket case into a cheesy kid sidekick who wouldn’t be out of line saying something like, “Aww, shucks, Superman! What’re we gonna do now!?”
Superman #15 really stretches the whole “He’l on Earth” tie-in label because H’el does not show up at all. We get to see him in two panels, in flashbacks, in the background both times. It’s not out of line to want to have some sort of interlude that deals with side issues, but Lobdell basically uses the entire issue to focus on Lex Luthor. And really, it’s for no reason at all. Superman claims that he’s come to Luthor looking for help, but in reality, as Lex puts it, “You would have figured out H’el’s plan the instant he made his way into the fortress and got his hands on the artifacts you keep there.” So why does Superman take the time to visit good old Lex? He’s there to make himself angry. H’el is the most powerful adversary Superman has ever faced, and now he needs to give himself motivation to take on this new threat with everything he has. Beyond his meeting with Luthor, Clark seems to be taking a rather militant and stoic approach to his relationship with Superboy, speaking in short, curt sentences and generally not being very helpful before scolding Superboy like a father figure.
Now let’s talk Superboy. Why has he turned into a Boy Scout all of the sudden? For over a year, Kon-El has done nothing but disregard orders, chastise those of authority, and generally do whatever he wants. Now, because Superman has lent him the Kryptonian armor for medical purposes, Kon has turned into some weird 1950s version of himself. “Man you are hardcore!”, uses only four words to disassemble an air of sophistication Superboy has been trying to build since he first woke up in Superboy #1. Then “…if we’re trying to get H’el the hell out of our your house, what the heck are we doing here?” reminds me how little regard Lobdell has for the green line when writing in MS Word. From a literary standpoint, there’s no reason to craft such awkward sentences.
Don’t even get me started on, “You’re still recovering from H’el nearly splitting you genetically in two”. The first of the two examples could just have easily read as, “Why are we here if we’re trying to get H’el out of your house?”, while the second example could quite effortlessly be revised as, “H’el nearly ripped you apart at the genome, and you’re still recovering.” These obviously aren’t the only ways to rewrite these sentences, but it just shows how easily good grammar and effective syntax can be.
Superman #15 is an interesting read if you’re curious about Lex Luthor in the present day. Other than that, Superman and Superboy are not written as themselves, and it’s very off-putting. As much as I disagree with how Kon-El has been handled up to this point, it’s even more frustrating to see all the character development go out the window in the name of a shaky crossover. I usually like Kenneth Rocafort’s artwork, but here, even his beautiful pencilling gets dragged down by the weight of the dialogue. For an event that’s felt rushed and half-asked since it started, Superman #15 hits the brakes hard and provides more of an interlude than anything else. It’s not terrible, but there’s simply not a lot going on.