Hector Hammond returns in Superman # 20 to plague the mind of the Last Son of Krypton. But does the doctor fit in Metropolis?
Where we last left off, Hector Hammond was playing Superman’s mind like a mad puppeteer. We were greeted by scenes playing out in an odd fashion, and repeating with an even stranger premise as the comic developed. It seemed like Scott Lobdell wanted a break after doing a series of large arcs that the Superman title has withstood throughout the New 52, in favor of a shorter three-comic story. But does it pay off?
The mind of Superman has been a hot topic for writers since the inception of the New 52. How can you harm the Man of Steel without Kryptonite or magic? The answer? Get at his mind. It is one of the best ways to humanize Superman, and Lobdell probes this idea in a fresh way.
The comic lends itself to the idea that Superman is going through a mind puzzle and the reader also experiences this alongside him. It is handled in a simple, yet effective way through Clark Kent’s inner-monologue, and the result is a well-written piece of work. Lobdell continues to write a very natural Superman that other comics seem to lack. The action maintains the same level of energy throughout the fight scenes, and Superman is as powerful as ever.
The Superman title is also known for its incredible artist Kenneth Rocafort. His detail and knowledge of the human form transfers gorgeously onto the page. His use of negative space and fractal imagery send waves across the issue, and pulls the reader’s eyes directly towards every key element of the action.
Rocafort fans will not be pleased to hear that Aaron Kuder takes over for Superman # 20 as well as Superman # 21. After adapting to Rocafort’s poise, it is hard to see Superman drawn in a completely different way. Kuder’s artwork is simplistic and not as chaotically attractive as Rocafort’s definitive style. Newcomers to the Superman series won’t mind, but others that have been reading Superman since Rocafort came onto the scene will feel the change of pace, and not for the better. It’s not that Aaron Kuder’s illustration is bad, it just feels boring compared to what we are used to.
The second setback comes in the choice of the villain.Hector Hammond doesn’t belong in Metropolis. He initially appeared in a 1961 Green Lantern comic and has been a villain in that comic for quite some time. The decision to bring him into a Superman story is strange and misplaced. We already have a villain to mess with Superman’s mind, and his name is Mr. Mxyzptlk, we don’t need anyone else.
Lobdell delivers a rare misstep in his otherwise iconic run on Superman. The issue fails to meet the standard that Lobdell has set in his previous work and it is largely because of the artwork and the addition of Dr. Hector Hammond. Whether the main picture is yet to be realized, or if the arc is as flat as it appears will rest on the hinges of Superman # 21.