Pros: There are some fun moments in the Fortress of Solitude. Seeing Superman and Superboy’s first interactions is interesting.
Cons: The story is a mess that contains a variety of different plot holes. The villain is overpowered and ultimately boring. Mischaracterizations abound for nearly every character, with Supergirl suffering the worst of it.
Overall: This book is the definition of a bad crossover. It presents hyped up stakes to necessitate characters coming together while ultimately failing to provide readers with anything good from their meeting. It also gets the writing wrong on nearly every character with Superman and Supergirl both acting like rash children. If you are interested in the few good moments in this collection then maybe it is worth reading. However everyone else should stay far away.
This review covers the contents of the crossover event Superman: H’el on Earth. However, since Superboy Annual #1 also directly ties into this event, we will be including it in this review despite the fact that it is not collected in the trade of Superman: H’el on Earth.
The contents of this collection can also be found in Superman Vol. 3: Fury at World’s End (Review), Superboy Vol. 3: Lost, and Supergirl Vol. 3: Sanctuary. For more information about the timeline and reading order of this event, see our reading order right here.
This is not a good comic book. Superman: H’el on Earth is a messy story without enough positives to cover up its many negatives. It provides a boring plotline with paper thin motivations driving it forward. Yet this isn’t even the worst part, as mischaracterization of almost every character is what truly ruins the book. If you are a fan of Supergirl do yourself a favor and do not read this comic.
(spoilers start here)
This story starts out with a mysterious being named H’el claiming to be a Kryptonian. He captures Superboy, who he considers to be an “abomination,” and explains his situation to Supergirl and Superman. He says he is trying to go back in time and prevent Krypton’s destruction, he even offers to kill Superboy to prove his loyalty. This is where he loses Superman, as the Man of Steel starts fighting him in order to save Superboy’s life. From this point onwards, H’el and Supergirl are trying to revive Krypton while Superman and Superboy are trying to stop them.
This entire premise is based on the fact that these beings never take a moment to talk everything out. H’el threatens Superboy, and Superman and him are fighting for the rest of the story arc. Superman even admits that if H’el had come to him and talked about his plan, that they could have come up with a solution together. However, this is exactly what happened. The only problem is that they got off on the wrong foot to start out and never tried to fix things from there. Obviously H’el acts pretty crazy throughout this story but I would argue that Superman acts just as irrational, despite the fact that he is meant to be the “hero” of this story.
The story proceeds and H’el makes progress on his plans while Superman continues to try and stop him. There are interesting moments in this mix here. In particular, Superman and the Justice League’s journey through the Fortress of Solitude is pretty interesting as it allows both the writers and artists to get creative in what they discover along the way. Also, it is fun seeing Superman and Superboy interact for the first time.
However, as the story ends, it turns into even more of a mess. A new side plot with an alien who witnesses the destruction of worlds is introduced only to fade away almost immediately. Plus H’el is so overwhelmingly strong that every fight with him ends with him just teleporting or blasting his opponent away. The heroes eventually beat him because Supergirl turns on him and kills him with kryptonite.
While on the subject of Supergirl, it needs to be said that her plotline is the absolute worst part of this entire book. Even if you enjoyed the overall storyline involving H’el and can overlook all of its plot holes, the Supergirl portion of the story is still sure to ruin everything. In this story, Supergirl is a love-struck child who’s “love” for H’el clouds her judgement and provides some of the most uncomfortable moments of the story. They refer to each other as “beloved” and talk about their “love” despite only knowing each other for a day. It provides a multitude of cringe-worthy moments which I cannot imagine anyone enjoying.
On top of that, this “love” plot device is akin to character assassination for Supergirl. Her character has been suspicious of everyone around her, including her cousin, since her introduction. Yet she believes H’el almost instantly. If this belief stemmed from her intense desire to save Krypton then it might have been alright. However, her desire to save Krypton is completely overshadowed by her “love” for H’el. It is bad and a rather sexist mischaracterization of this great character, and one that ruins this already messy book.
(spoilers end here)
The art in this collection varies as multiple different artists work on the collection together. Each of the three series has at least one artist working on it, while some have even more than that. In general, they tend to try to stick to the art style established by Kennith Rocafort.
Kennith Rocafort’s art is this collection’s saving grace. It is as heavily detailed and creative as ever before. People look great and background images and objects look even better. This is because Rocafort excels when it comes to creativity and here he is able to unleash it in full. He draws beautiful Kryptonian artifacts, elaborate prison details, and amazing scenes of space. You will be able to tell when you are reading a page drawn by Rocafort because the art will simply blow you away.
Most of the Superboy issues are drawn by R.B. Silva. Silva’s work is closer to Rocafort’s established style, yet is not as good. It simply lacks the intense detail and beauty that Rocafort brings to the pages. It is not bad but is not great either.
Most of the Supergirl issues are drawn by Mahmud Asrar. These issues are probably the worst of the lot, as Asrar’s style does not look good when compared to the rest of the collection. His character designs are very different and look far more cartoonish than the others, giving his pages a more childish look. This is not good since the story is designed to be incredibly serious, especially in the Supergirl issues.
However, the biggest problem with the art in this book, and the one which outweighs any of the art’s positives, is how inconsistent the art is throughout this collection. Obviously with the different series maintaining different artists, a consistent style is not going to be possible. Yet this is not even the problem. The problem comes in that it looks like there was zero direction for the artwork in this book. For example, Wonder Woman wears shorts for one issue, yet is back to her typical attire in the next. Perhaps most egregiously, the Superman crest on H’el’s chest disappears and reappears randomly, sometimes within an issue. His crest is even a plot point in the series, yet the art seems unable to decide if it should be there or not. As we discussed earlier, something must have gone wrong in the editing room for this book as the end result is a huge mess.
This is a crossover story which combines the backstories and plotlines from three different series: Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl. Thus readers should at least be somewhat familiar with these characters in order to understand where they are coming from as this collection begins. Put specifically, this story flows directly from the events of Superman Vol. 2: Secrets and Lies (Review), Supergirl Vol. 2: Girl in the World, and Superboy Vol. 2: Extraction. However, these stories really only serve to explain each character’s situation at the very beginning of this crossover, as they quickly enter new situations as the story progresses.
This volume also references and continues the stories from many other comic books, all of which are detailed below.
- Superman mentions his recent encounter with Helspont. This happened in Superman Vol. 2: Secrets and Lies (Review).
- Lure mentions something happening in Arizona when talking to Superboy. She is referring to the events of Legion Lost Vol. 2: The Culling.
- Later, Superboy mentions the “Culling” and the events that directly follow it. These happenings are collected in The Culling: Rise of the Ravagers and The Ravagers Vol. 1- The Kids From N.O.W.H.E.R.E.
- Appearing at the beginning of Superboy’s story, the Teen Titans reference events from their prior adventures. These occurred in Teen Titans Vol. 2: The Culling and the very start of Teen Titans Vol. 3: Death of the Family.
- Supergirl mentions someone named Tycho capturing her. This happened in Supergirl Vol. 1: Last Daughter of Krypton.
- Superman’s love life is mentioned and a image of Superman and Wonder Woman together is shown. This is a reference to their romantic relationship, which can be seen in any issue of the Superman/Wonder Woman series but starts in Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey.
- Superman mentions seeing Krypton die. This happened when he looked through a telescope and saw its light burn out in Action Comics Vol. 3: At the End of Days.
- Superman’s Kryptonian battle armor made its first appearance in Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel.
- The origin of Kandor and the reason it is in the Fortress of Solitude can be found in Action Comics Vol. 3: At the End of Days.