Last week, Batman/Superman #9 came out, finally giving fans the chance to read the misplaced chapter of First Contact. I have to say that I had very high hopes for this arc, hoping it would jostle Worlds' Finest out of the perpetual slumber it is in. This should have been something historic, with Huntress and Power Girl meeting the Earth 1 doppelgangers of their Earth 2 family. There should be new relationships and long-standing consequences.
Instead, in the finale, we got a lackluster ending with the two pairs of heroes seemingly going in opposite directions. In another DCU, the four would walk out with arms around each other, welcoming everyone into a hero community and confirming they are 'family'. But not in the New 52.
Knowing the ending, it was somewhat hard to get revved up for this chapter, put in my hands a month after the story ended. That said, this issue had 2 things going for it. One, Greg Pak seems to have a grasp of all four characters, at least based on the first part of this storyline. Second, Jae Lee's art is truly dreamy. He brings a sort of otherworldly feel to the story. I know there aren't many backgrounds. I don't care. The foreground is fantastic.
There are a couple of easy answers to some plot turns here. But overall, this was a fine chapter of the arc. If I had read this in the right order, I might have been truly excited for the finale. That may have left me even more disappointed.
Going back 2 months, to the end of Worlds' Finest #20, Superman -both overpowered by nanites and underpowered by a Kryptonite necklace - and Huntress are trying to infiltrate New Gamorra as tourists, trying to figure out what Kaizan has planned and why he is interfering with Kryptonian lives.
Realizing that he needs some extra help to overcome the nanites, Superman asks the Toyman to illegaly send into Gamorra some tech to help out. I worry that the Toyman might become a deus ex machina, able to come up with a tech solution for everything.
But I love how Superman notes that Pa Kent might not be too happy about this bending of the rules. I agree, Pa would raise an eyebrow.
In this instance, Huntress has to be the main physical presence as Superman is both weakened and out of control. I love how Superman is impressed, saying that she is clearly Batman's daughter. We know the respect he has for Batman ... so this is high praise.
But I love this panel, a nice example of Lee's art. There is a sort of jagged kinetic feel here, Helena's hair and wrap almost alive as she pinwheels through the troops. Her leg seems too long for her body ... but it looks right, bringing this fantastical feel to the proceedings. The tree in the background looks hellish, alien. And the tiny gun in midair in the corner as Helena breaks a wrist is perfect. Her hair appears like tentacles almost trying to grab the pistol. Just beautiful.
Meanwhile, Power Girl is battling Kaizen's artificial Kryptonian-gened soldiers.
Much like Huntress' sentiments in the last scene, here Batman doesn't want Power Girl fighting. He fears her powers might still lurch out of control. He also, to be frank, doesn't trust Karen even if her abilities are in control. But these aren't standard infantry. Despite them being super-powered, Batman wants to be the one to deal with them.
This is a classic Power Girl response and I loved it. She isn't going to back down and kowtow to Batman's wishes. She is going to bash some heads, grumbling about his attitude as she does it. I chuckled at the Yosemite Sam-like 'stupid macho rassin' frassin'
Part of Batman's mistrust is born from his vague recollections of his first trip to Earth 2 in the premiere arc of this title.
I look at the pre-Darkseid Earth 2 heroes as more classic, immutable heroes. What I saw of the Earth 2 Superman in flashbacks in early Earth 2, Worlds' Finest, and here in Batman/Superman makes me think that Kal is just a great beloved inspirational hero.
This Batman thinks the Earth 2 Superman is arrogant, insanely powerful, and dangerous. It shows the tenor of the Prime Earth universe (although Batman has been a paranoid control freak for a couple of decades now).
Meanwhile, the Huntress brawl temporarily knocked the Kryptonite of Superman. Surging with power, it took some self-control for him to put the K-necklace back on.
There is a nice bluntness to Huntress' response that reminded me of classic Helena. "Suck it up." Heck, she doesn't have powers and she is clearly running the show here. Her lines also sounded very much like Batman which resonated as well.
Even Superman thinks she sounds like Batman. But, maybe with some disgust, she distances E1's Batman from her dad. Does she think there are more differences than similarities between the Bruces?
Her comments jog Superman's memories, bringing back some recollections of his time on Earth 2. Much like Batman, Superman's take on the Earth 2 hero is fascinating . He calls that Batman stranger and darker even though he seemed pretty classic to me.
Lee's art is wonderful here as well. Helena's slightly pursed lips show that hint of disgust/sourness. The Batman here seems demonic ... more Etrigan than Batman. And Superman being in the dark implies he is grasping a bit. He is 'in the dark' as it were. Great!
And here is why I love Pak on Superman. Clark seems to know that the E2 heroes died. And he didn't save them. And it pains him.
Listen to this sentiment. 'Everyday, whatever happens ... it's my fault.' That is a heavy burden to carry. But it speaks about how high Superman holds himself. It shows why we should be inspired by him. Try to be like him. Help him.
I hope Pak gets to stay on this character as long as he wants.
Toyman's package arrives by drone. And it is something of a easy answer. Somehow this prototype for a multi-environment theme park is able to block the frequency turning on the nanites. Now garbed in this robot-looking suit (complete with creepy blank facemask), Superman is in control and can join in the fray. Too easy?
Two things I love her. Huntress in the background about to also jump on. But more importantly, Power Girl with a mandroid in a headlock, pounding away.
Between Karen's cape and Superman's extreme perspective (almost Kirbyish), Lee again lends some warped phantasmal feel here.
Kaizan opens up the gate to Earth 2 (we knew this ... from reading the finale last month). And, in another easy answer, the energy from Earth 2 burns out the nanites completely, putting the Supers in control and okay. Okay, this felt a little too easy.
And so we get caught up to date. We now know how we got to the finale last month.
But boy, this issue read much better than the finale. There are some very nice moments here. And the art, backgrounds be damned, is just wonderful.
Too bad the overall arc feels like such a letdown.