Friday, April 8, 2011
Review: Superman/Batman Annual #5
Superman/Batman Annual #5 came out this week and continued the Reign of Doomsday storyline started in Justice League of America #55. And yes it is a Doomsday story as he and the CyborgSuperman do their best to destroy everything and everyone in their path.
But really this is a Supergirl story with a lot of carnage happening around her. The issue wraps up the Dark Supergirl story started back in the Omega Man arc and does it in a very satisfying way. In fact, one of the reason it works so well is that it is a moment of calm in this book surrounded by the chaos of the brawling within the JLA satellite.
James Robinson really does great work in this issue. Yes, in many ways it is a 'smash em up' issue, a near nonstop fight from beginning to end. But within all that action, he still is able to give us some great characterization. So we hear how CyborgSuperman still wants to die but not at the hands of Doomsday and so fights on. And we can hear how much Dick Grayson cares for Supergirl. And, as stated above, we get a lot of Supergirl here as well.
And even more impressive is that the explanation behind the placement of the characters ... why Supergirl has time for some introspection ... doesn't feel forced.
On top of that, Miguel Sepulveda's art throughout the issue is just lush, highly detailed work which crackles on the page. If only Supergirl's boot didn't have heels! The art alone is worth the cover price.
With CyborgSuperman and Doomsday ripping up the satellite, Supergirl and Batman take refuge in the sick bay, a sort of fortified last stronghold on Watchtower. During the fight, Supergirl felt weakened and Dick realized that a retreat was called for simply for survival.
Most likely the battle triggered a defense protocol to flood the satellite with magic radiation, a way to weaken any potential Kryptonian villain (like Zod). In the sick bay, there is no radiation and so Supergirl is safe.
But Dick also realizes that to win this fight, Supergirl has to be in the game. He needs to get to the other side of the satellite and turn off the defense systems.
I think that it makes sense for the satellite to have significant defense systems both external and internal. And given the recent events of New Krypton, having anti-Kryptonian measures doesn't have the usual ring of paranoia and now seems more like common sense.
And yes, this twist does isolate Supergirl from the battle for a bit, a turn that leads to her story.
The CyborgSuperman continues to battle against Doomsday rather than let Doomsday fulfill his wish for death. Part of Cyborg's motivation is to prove that he is a bigger man that Superman. To defeat Doomsday would prove that. Hmmm ... given recent stories, I wonder if CyborgSupes really wants to die after all.
But while that battle rips up the ship, the Sick Bay medical computers go on auto-pilot and scan Supergirl. The analysis is that she is dying.
I think Supergirl fans are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always waiting for DC to decide to kill her off again, erase her from continuity again. It is such a palpable feeling within her fanbase that I understand why creators would want to explore that. I know I had a 'here we go again' moment of angst when I read that panel. When a writer is able to evoke something like that, they have done their job. Now maybe people who aren't Supergirl fans just breezed by that panel. But I know I didn't.
Unfortunately the safety features in the X-Mansion Danger Room ... oops ... I mean Arena have been deactivated. To turn off the defenses, Batman has to make his way through an armada of villains. How can he survive this mess?
I really included this panel just to showcase more of Sepulveda's work. Wonderful.
One of the more interesting parts of this Reign of Doomsday has been the new powers that Doomsday is manifesting. He became armored against Steel. He developed energy blasts against the Eradicator. And here, after nearly being vivisected by CyborgSuperman, he develops the same organic machinery capabilities as Cyborg. Moreover, the real CyborgSuperman suddenly finds that he can't repair himself. That is fascinating.
Even more interesting is that this Doomsday did not have armor or blasts. I am convinced that there are multiple Doomsdays, one for each of the Supermen. And now that I think that Lex is behind it, I wonder if this is some sort of Doomsday clone infused with some Amazo tech.
So brawls are all well and good. They are a fun part of comics.
But the best part of this story occurs in the sick bay. After a 'computerized' Dr. MidNite cannot diagnose why she is dying, Dick (from a distance and while on an open comm-link with Kara) activates another medical program, this one Dr. Fate.
Robinson remembers that Kent Nelson was a psychiatrist.
He points out that Dark Supergirl has manifested multiple times in the past. I love how Nelson equates the Kelly Supergirl, the one where Zor-El was telling her to kill Superman, was a 'Dark Supergirl' even if the costume remained blue. I don't think that undermines the Kryptonite poisoning explanation Sterling Gates used. In fact, it might add to it, a reason why those particular hallucinations came to the forefront.
Fate realizes that Supergirl has had so much psychiatric trauma both recently (New Krypton) and in the past (the destruction of the first Krypton) that she is being crushed ... literally killed ... by survivor's guilt and (I think) PTSD.
Even Kara knows that this manifestation of Dark Supergirl isn't evil. She's just acting like a self-centered brat. In comparison to the more villainous prior manifestations, I suppose it shows some personal growth by Supergirl.
Nelson knows Supergirl needs to simply accept that she is blameless in all that has happened. He says my favorite line in the whole book (and what I am sure will end up on my best of 2011 list) 'You survived because ultimately your mother chose her love for you over everything else'. What a great line about Alura, a character I still miss.
And finally Supergirl expresses her feelings .. she's angry and sad and tired and sad. Her life has been hard to live recently.
It might sound simple but Fate knows Supergirl needs to forgive herself, to move past the thought that somehow she is responsible for the tragedies around her. It is implied here (although never outright said) that bu shedding this weight from her psyche she will 'cure' herself, will stop dying.
In some ways this is just covering material already done by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle and Bernard Chang in Supergirl. A lot of these revelations were discussed, reviewed, revealed in the BizarroGirl arc.
Still, I think this was done well. It shows how complex Supergirl is a character. And it shows how deep Robinson's understanding of the character is.
And her introspective healing comes just in time. Right after turning off the magic field, Batman is about to die at the hands of Doomsday. He call for help and Supergirl arrives ... clad in the classically colored costume! (Ugh ... but those heels!)
Man, that is a great double splash page of Supergirl. Sepulveda's stuff is really slick. You can feel this right uppercut, shrapnel flying all around.
It gets better ...
Supergirl proceeds to beat the tar out of Doomsday for a couple of pages. She is able to finally cut loose. She even talks about how she wanted to take him on one-on-one, unlike the group battle in WONK.
Even Dick can sense it. "Her light is back.' 'She's magnificent.' And the art is spectacular.
And it even looks like she is going to win the fight, Doomsday in shreds.
But in a scene which eerily mirrors Crisis on Infinite Earth's #7, Supergirl is distracted by Batman before she can finish the job giving Doomsday just the opening he needs to defeat Supergirl. He then rips off CyborgSuperman's arms off.
And just like that the fight is over and Doomsday teleports away with his victims. Doomsday teleporting? This can't be the Doomsday.
Unfortunately, the remaining Leaguers can't track Doomsday. His essence has been cloaked even from Blie Lantern's ring.
We do see where Doomsday went ... to the site of New Krypton. Another nice twist.
So I thoroughly enjoyed this comic ... more than I thought I would.
For one thing, the action sequences are crazy spectacular. I will admit that I like seeing comic punch-ups as much as anyone. And the battles here ... from Doomsday and Cyborg, to Dick vs the villains, to Supergirl vs Doomsday ... are all over the top and beautifully drawn.
But the Supergirl moment, the discussion of her feelings, her ultimate self-forgiveness, and transformation back to the real Supergirl, was all done so well. It just added a level of psychological drama on top of the wild carnage happening everywhere else. I think Robinson is really treating Supergirl right here, much better than he did in Cry For Justice. He just seems to 'get her' now.
And Miguel Sepulveda's art is powerful and nuanced. I can't wait to see what he does in Action Comics #900.
And no more 'Dark Supergirl'!
Overall grade: A