|via Comic Book DB|
artist: Dan Jurgens
Ha ha! Wasn't I just complaining about Marvel's convoluted numbering ideas? Here's DC doing it, too. At least they did it, this most recent time (and the time before it, the second set of zero issues during a whole zero issue month), for a specific reason. That was the annual New 52 launch anniversary celebration, which last year featured fifty-two issues spotlighting DC's villains. It was, appropriately, known as Villains Month.
Since the villains selected didn't necessarily come from every comic DC was publishing at that time, and also they really wanted to double- and triple- and even quadruple-dip with some of the big name heroes and their well-known villains, that necessitated some wonky numbering. That meant, basically, that DC had to do the same decimal nonsense Marvel has been doing.
Thankfully, along with familiar names DC also took the opportunity to help launch some new villains, such as H'El in this particular issue. The first thing you need to know about H'El is that, yes, someone finally made the obvious play-on-words with Superman's birth name. The other thing you need to know about him is that he's basically the comic book version of the Zod featured in Man of Steel, a Kryptonian who wants to bring Krypton back, and doesn't particularly care about what (and/or who) needs to be sacrificed in order to do it.
But that's not really all you need to know. Since Superman's past is rarely the present in the comics, mostly because, well, it's the past and Superman didn't exist so much as his parents on a whole world that had to die in order for his origin to live, lots of creators have taken liberties with the established canon of Krypton and who was doing what in its last days. H'El is, thusly, a new element of Jor-El mythology. Jor-El, of course, is Superman's father, the guy responsible for sending baby Kal-El into space and eventually to Earth.
He's the kind of character that might seem convoluted if you're not feeling generous. (And let's face it, fans are as apt to feel generous as not.) And Scott Lobdell is a writer whose reputation is much the same. For every fan who loves what he does, there's another who wishes he would just go away. I think he's pretty brilliant, personally. He's a high profile success who also happens to be a constant underdog, always on the cusp of actually being appreciated. I think it's because he hasn't really become known for anything but superheroes. He was the defining writer of the X-Men during the '90s (when people didn't necessarily care about the X-Men, besides Generation X and Onslaught/Age of Apocalypse), and his New 52 work has been bizarrely controversial (because he...dared to use Starfire pretty much...the way she's always been used in comics?). He understands the characters he writes, but he also understands their potential, which is rare, and he's not afraid to take chances (which is rarer) which pay off (which is rarest of all, which pretty much puts him in the same league as Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison and...that's about it, really).
The other part about this issue is that the art is from Dan Jurgens. The Artist Who Killed Superman. Actually, most recently he's the reason I haven't really made the effort to continue reading The New 52: Futures End (which is the DC version of X-Men: Days of the Future Past). Which is bizarre, because I've continued to be a champion of Jurgens long after everyone else jumped off the bandwagon. I'm among a select few who enjoyed his Teen Titans. I loved that he helped keep the Tangent universe alive. His art is so distinctive, this can be a good thing. And it can be a bad thing. In Futures End I find it distracting for the first time. But within Superman #23.3 it's a welcome link to a previous era. I really wouldn't mind Jurgens owning a whole pocket version of Superman.
So I like H'EL. I like Lobdell. And once again, I like Jurgens. I'd like at some point to read all of the Villains Month issues. I've had the opportunity to catch up with a select few, and I haven't been disappointed. I have been selective about it, but still. I think it was a great idea. And again, I love that a few new villains had their shot during the event as well.