I've Got Great Idea, Let's Retread That Awful Perez Arc! SAID NO ONE EVER (Aside From Lobdell, Apparently.)
Awwww, what happened to Kenneth Rocafort? His art was the best thing about the Superman issues in H'el on Earth, though overall I actually enjoyed that story quite a bit (aside from the truly awful ending.) This issue has some pretty good artists filling in, between Aaron Kuder, Tyler Kirkham, and arguably Robson Rocha, this issue was still good looking. Although it was pretty damn inconsistent without much rhyme or reason. At least none of the art changes happened mid-scene, but I get the feeling this issue is divided into 'chapters' merely to weakly attempt to justify pinballing between various artists. At the very least I can be ok with Orion's scenes having their own artist, but not Superman having two different ones.
I'm not onboard the 'hate Lobdell' bandwagon that seems to be spreading like wildfire, but I'm not really in the 'love Lobdell boat either. I'm not entirely indifferent, he's just one of those writers who I don't have a solid opinion of, sometimes he does good work like Red Hood and the Outlaws, and sometimes he really doesn't like the end of H'el On Earth AND unfortunately this issue as well. The main point being I'm judging this issue on this issue, not any of Lobdell's prior work, something many people seem to be getting accused of for giving this issue negative scores.
First and foremost, I have to put it out there that I loved the scenes with Orion. He seems very consistent with his portrayal in the EXCELLENT Wonder Woman series. Because of that, and the intrigue he provides both alone and with his unique 'view from on high divinity' observations and opinions on Earth and its inhabitants, I'm really excited about his seemingly increased presence in the DCU, and I would kind of love to see him have a solo series sometimes soon.
Counter to the excellent Orion sequences, the scenes with Superman were... not so great. Clark Kent's meeting with Cat Grant showed a lot of loose potential for continuing to bring Clark forward with the times, although Clarkcatopolis is kind of.... iffy. The name is awful, but it kind of fits the character who conceived of it. My biggest concern is Clark's excessive reluctance to it. Sure Cat's clearly a bit misguided in terms of execution, but the idea works perfectly with what Clark wants to do. His internal "I'm too busy" excuse is complete BULL. He found time for Superman and Daily Planet for YEARS, this is NOT going to suddenly be harder to find time for. Plus it contradicts his character to a huge degree, Clark Kent is so important to him, it's who he is deepest down inside, and he's ALWAYS looking to see what good he can do without NEEDING to be Superman.
And speaking of poor handling of Superman's character... the government's drive to explore the Fortress of Solitude, and Superman's awful response to it, were just painful to read. Superman's ALWAYS been a good public speaker. An Inspiration and beacon of truth and justice. And why did he tell Lois his most logical defense, but tell the U.N. nothing more than "YOU CAN'T EXPLORE IT BECAUSE I SAID SO AND YOU HAVE TO TRUST ME BECAUSE I SAID SO." ??!? He's acting like a completely socially inept idiot, but even all that's no excuse for the insanely vicious and whiplash-inducing public opinion change. Suddenly EVERYONE IN THE WORLD is like "Oh I 100% don't trust Superman because politicians are all up his ass with suspicion!" Seriously, it's only Olson and Perry who defend him? NEVER would there be a situation where he saves a group of people and literally ALL OF THEM either fear him or suspect he caused it in the first place or whatever. It's just STUPID. And MAYBE I'd be a little softer on this, IF THIS WASN'T THE EXACT PLOT OF THE TRULY ATROCIOUS PEREZ ARC WE BEGAN WITH! This is, in tone, EXACTLY the same kind of story, with the suspicious public and politicians and everything. It was terrible back then, and even though it's slightly better handled here, it's still way too drastic, way too sudden, way too terribly executed, and on top of all that it just reminds me of that arc I hated so much. So, 90% repeating a recent arc, AND 90% repeating a HORRIBLE arc.
Lobdell's also trying to do a bit too much all at once here, what with the new development's in Clark Kent's life, the resurgence of the public's distrust of Superman, the developments with Orion AND the appearance of Hector Hammond? Hammond was a good idea to use here, and well used thus far, but it doesn't change the fact that there's just too much going on all at once here.
In Conclusion: 2.5/5
If it weren't for the little bits of interesting development, and everything about the Orion scenes, this would be all the way down to a 2/5. I don't WANT to hate on Lobdell, he's done some genuinely good work, and certainly he's far better at structure to back his ideas than Ann Nocenti is, but after a strong start, he's been really disappointing me on Superman. The series is hanging by a single thread over falling back down into the bottom of the bottom where it began. Lobdell, get your s*** together, because I KNOW you can do better, man.