Monday, July 20, 2009

Review: Superman/Batman #62

Superman/Batman #62 was released last week and was a great read. Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson and lushly drawn by Rafael Albuquerque, it was a much darker read than I anticipated . It certainly fit right in with the chilling feeling of this Blackest Night week. As some of you know when I am impressed with a book, I write a lot. So this is a long review.

It certainly was a marvelous book for Supergirl fans as well as fans of the Tim Drake Robin. It also set up the character's relationship a bit for the future. I think these two work well together and would be interesting as a junior 'World's Finest'. I would read that mini-series.

As seen last week in the preview DC released, Supergirl travels to Gotham to have lunch with Tim. This doesn't seem to be a special occassion or some day they commemorate anything. It is just two friends getting together for lunch. I have never got the vibe before that Tim and Linda were so chummy. And while I like the Kara/Cassie friendship, I think there is so much more that could be mined from this relationship.

As the two eat, they discuss how difficult it is to be the protege of such powerful and driven figures as Batman and Superman. Each has their own burdens to carry from being next in line for such immense legacies. That leads them into recalling their first adventure together.

With Batman and Superman away, Supergirl and Robin respond to a riot at Arkham Asylum.

Now I am not a slave to continuity and I know that S/B may not even be in continuity, but I at least like to have a vague reference as to where I think a story is taking place. So to hear Supergirl tell Commissioner Gordon 'I'm new here' let me shuffle this story into Kara's early time on Earth. Green and Johnson build on that in a couple of ways. For one, we see the brash overconfident Supergirl we saw in those early issues as she takes off into the asylum with little discussion with Robin.

But the other way that this time period is important is that Supergirl hasn't necessarily seen much of the horrors evident on Earth. And here she is rushing into one of the darkest places that the DCU has to offer. She is pretty naive to what the Batman villains are capable of.


The first room she enters is a grisly scene ... the Joker literally sawing a woman in half.

Eyes wide, she reacts swiftly, emotionally, and violently. Albuquerque does a great job showing just what the characters are feeling. First we only see Supergirl's wide eyes as she sees the blood soaked room.

Then we see the panel above ... my favorite panel of the week. It shows just how much the art can convey. By drawing from a low upwards angle with the Joker cowering in the foreground, Supergirl really is given an overpowering feel. Her posture shows arms clenched and poised to strike. You can feel her tension. By having the panel view tilted (Supergirl is not straight up and down), it connotes a feeling that something isn't right here. We aren't looking at things the way we normally do; there is a hint of insanity. Now add the effects of shadows, the red S now black, Kara's eyes and portions of her body lost in darkness, it mirrors her feelings. She has witnessed something evil and it is almost engulfing her and now she is ready to give back in kind.

The point is hammered home by her dialogue 'I am going to destroy you ...'. But the dialogue has way more impact in the context of this panel.

I know I probably read into some things too much but it is the mix of visuals and words that make comics such a wonderful genre. When I see those things click seamlessly like in this panel I need to gush.


Again, we are talking about an early Supergirl who may have never seen such an abattoir before. I doubt she would really kill the Joker but she certainly looks ready to drive her fist through the Joker's skull Black Adam-style.
I like how the more seasoned Robin lets her know what being a hero is, the simple morals they need to follow. It felt natural. Robin has already seen more horror in his life than most. He would be more able to keep his head on straight than the relatively sheltered (at this point in her life) Kara would.


Following that, Robin and Supergirl begin a sweep of the asylum's rooms. Throughout Robin and Supergirl are shown to be strong and efficient. Walking in on a recreation of the tea party in Alice in Wonderland, they free more hostages from the Scarecrow, Clayface, Two-Face, and the Mad Hatter.


Next is the flooded arboretum where Kara punches Killer Croc through the roof and then freezes Poison Ivy.


But these fights do not prepare her for what she sees next. The last room to be cleared is a horrific scene with Mr. Zsazs surrounded by his latest victims. Again the art works so well here colored in red hues it just feels like a slaughterhouse, people strung up and cast aside like sides of beef.

Even the expression work so well here. Zsazs can tell Supergirl is out of her element and her face shows it. She seems dumbstruck by the scene. You can feel the doubt she is feeling about rushing in to save this woman. Is she fast enough. Her eyes let you know that is how she feels.

The art in this issue was enough to make me seek out Albuquerque art from now on.
In this instance it is Robin who loses control bashing Zsazs repeatedly until it is Supergirl who needs to stop him from crossing that line. This humanizes Robin a bit; he is not an unflappable avenger like Batman ... yet.

Something else I liked about the way the story is laid out is the bookend nature of the more gruesome scenes. The Joker scene certainly sets up both Supergirl's inexperience and Tim's veteran presence. But the reader gets lulled a bit as the book eases into more 'comic book-y' action with more colorful and fanciful characters getting thrown through walls. I wasn't expecting a scene even more hellish than the Joker scene so when it unfolded it was gripping.

The issue ends on a great high note with Supergirl and Robin calling each other partner and friend. Compare this sun-dappled scene with the cloying blackness of the asylum scenes. And that what is so interesting about the book. The framework scene of young friends making jokes and innocently having a burger with each other stands in such contrast with the much darker inner story.

This was such a pleasant surprise in my pile. I don't usually buy Superman/Batman. I was really expecting this to be a light-hearted "kid's" adventure and not a deeper exploration of what it means to be a hero when constantly confronted with the perversity of the human condition.

And the words and art just worked so wonderfully together. I admit I did not get Blue Beetle so this is really my first close look at Abuquerque's art but I am very impressed.

Certainly this is an issue worth getting.

Overall grade: A

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

In a symbolic sense, a team up with Robin helps cement Kara's "status" as Superman's de-facto heir apparent. So yeah I liked this issue too but for different reasons, any book where Supergirl is explicitly depicted as the "muscle" is a good story for me...in fact Robin hardly did any fighting at all, save at the very end.
I'd like to see these two team up again, hell I'd love to see them go to the prom!
:D

John Feer

Saranga said...

I loved this issue. It was my favourite of the week, until Blackest Night sunk in, and tbh that won out purely on the zombie factor.

Back to the point, this issue was just great. As you say the art work was very well done, very expressive, the distinction between new Kara and current Kara was really hammered home, and my god, Tim was actually happy in it!

Superman/Batman is a really great read. I would highly reccomend picking it up on a regular basis,

Mauricio said...

Yep, it was a great issue, fun read and the Supergirl we all like to see and read.

May I once again use this blog for selfish self-promotion ?

One of the latest commission I've done, I felt long time Supergirl fans may like it:

http://mhunt.deviantart.com/art/Supergirl-trap-Commission-130133318

Gene said...

Previously when Supergirl crossed paths with the "Bat Family" she usually teamed up with Batgirl or even with the Dark Knight himself. So this adventure with Robin felt new and original. I hope they see more adventures together.

With the new Batgirl to debut in August, I wonder how she and Supergirl will get along?

That is an excellent commission Mauricio, an excellent rogues gallery of Kara's Silver Age nemesises.

TalOs said...

This had to be my fave comic of last week! (Even by passing Blackest Night! That's just how much I loved it!) I'd love for DC to collect this in the next Supergirl trade proper for it definitely deserves to! BD

The only thing I didn't like was the artist using Tim's 'One Year Later' eras Robin costume where this being a flash back to the past he should be in his Pre-Infinite Crisis continuity one instead. :/

Oh and Mauricio, I simply loved your work and thought you might even want to check my own DCU animated art style theme stuff on my deviantART page too:

http://zal-ta-talos.deviantart.com/

You'll see A LOT of Supergirl character design pics there that I think you'll like. ;)

Mauricio said...

Thanks both for the comments.

I'll go check you DA.

Mart said...

Great review Anj, and nice art, guys. Gawd, I'd forgotten The Gang. I loved The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl!

Mart said...

Oh, and my own thoughts: http://dangermart.blogspot.com/2009/07/suoermanbatman-62-review.html (which I thought I'd posted on the preview thread, but it's not there).

Anj said...

So yeah I liked this issue too but for different reasons, any book where Supergirl is explicitly depicted as the "muscle" is a good story for me...in fact Robin hardly did any fighting at all, save at the very end.

Thanks for the post.

I agree that it is good when Supergirl is portrayed like the physical threat she should be. She certainly made short work of the bat-villains she came across. Nothing like a far shot of Croc being punched through the roof!

Anj said...

Back to the point, this issue was just great. As you say the art work was very well done, very expressive, the distinction between new Kara and current Kara was really hammered home, and my god, Tim was actually happy in it!

Thanks for the post.

I loved the simple chemistry they had with each other so I hope we get to see them together again soon.

Superman/Batman is a really great read. I would highly reccomend picking it up on a regular basis

I get it on and off usually based on solicits or the artist on the arc. I'll look more closely from now on. Thanks for the tip!

Anj said...

One of the latest commission I've done, I felt long time Supergirl fans may like it:

http://mhunt.deviantart.com/art/Supergirl-trap-Commission-130133318


Nice piece with some old-school baddies. I love Zora ... the Black Flame.

Hmmm ... gives me an idea for a back issue review.

Anj said...

This had to be my fave comic of last week! (Even by passing Blackest Night! That's just how much I loved it!) I'd love for DC to collect this in the next Supergirl trade proper for it definitely deserves to! BD

Hmmm ... good point. Do S/B arcs get collected in trades? If not this should get put in a Supergirl collection. It is too good to not be put in some trade.

Anj said...

Great review Anj, and nice art, guys. Gawd, I'd forgotten The Gang. I loved The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl!

Great review on your end too.

I also liked how Robin just let Kara run roughshod on these guys once he saw what he was up against.

Anonymous said...

The vibe seemed to be, "Robin and Supergirl are our anointed successors, they ought to get acquainted since they'll be working together in one way or another".


John Feer

Jello said...

Yeah, this issue was my favorite portrayal of Kara since Maelstrom. I suppose that makes sense, since they're both learning experiences for her. She was humanized without being trivialized--it didn't feel as if she was being put through an arbitrary crisis just for the sake of drama. I really got the sense that she was growing into her heroic role (and I too *loved* the line about her being the muscle!). It's good to see Kara being taken seriously. That scene when she first walks into the asylum has to be the most poignant one in the whole issue, I think. Overall, the issue shows her innocence and growth in a much better way than the whole first 20-30 issues of Supergirl.

jeff caporizzo said...

I love this team up

Saranga said...

Anj: Superman/Batman is released in trade format, although tmost of the time it's in hardback first, with a reeeaaally long wait till the softcover version. I'm sure this issue will be collected in the trade.
Superman/Batman is just such fun, especially when compared to all the crises happenign in every book. Because it doesn't rely on current continutity, I guess you can fit the stories anywhere, the writers get to do some great things.
It helps that I love team ups.