Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: Batman/Superman #14

Batman/Superman #14 came out last week, another chapter in the 'amnesia' story, exploring what Superman and Batman might do if freed from the constraints of their histories. This sort of story has been the grist for this title's mill - wondering what the heroes would do on another world, if they could change history, and now if they didn't remember who they are or how they got there. Writer Greg Pak certainly tells these stories with aplomb. Each arc like this has had some great characterization and providing some insight into Clark and Bruce.

This story adds the additional wrinkle of teaming Batman up with Lois and Superman with Catwoman. Without there memories, will nature or nurture surge to the fore? I will admit that I liked this issue more than I thought I would. There is a sort of 'hall pass' feel to this issue. What would happen if Batman could act like millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne for real for a couple of days? What would happen if Superman realized he didn't need to be a good boy? Perhaps because I know that the classic personalities will come through lets me forgive this little dalliance with their darker sides.

Jae Lee provides the cover which is cute. But the revelation is the internal art by Diogenes Neves and Marc Deering how channel Lee's look nicely in the issue, giving the issue the 'look' of the title. Nice job.

So a Bruce Wayne, not weighed down by his parents death can use his 'wonderful toys', like bat-wings, to woo the sultry wife of the Governor.

He has the skills and tech of Batman. But he has the desires of a bon vivant. This isn't 'ginger ale instead of champagne'. This is real hedonism.

Meanwhile, Superman has saved Lois Lane from the drones of Mangubat. And Catwoman is in tow, trying to keep Superman intrigued with the dark side.

Yes, there is some Superman residuals in this blank slate, He helped Lois because he knew it was the right thing to do.

But it doesn't take Lois long to suss out that Superman doesn't have his memories. She *is* Lois after all. This should be pretty evident to her. But Superman is angry that he doesn't remember he is 'superman' and so he flies to investigate with Selena hot on his tail.

See what I mean about the 'Jae-Lee-ness' of this art, right down to the lack of background. But that is one great Lois.

The lure of giant robots is enough to get Bruce to put the Batman costume out and join the fracas with Lois. But you can see that it is all a game to this amnestic Bruce, all smiles and flirting with Lois. It is strange to see him chucking bombs without a care and flashing a thumbs up to Lois. And here ... that's a come-on line. And Lois isn't having anything to do with it.

Neves even does the Lee tendril-hair I love!

But remember, this issue is about looking at what these characters would do without the weight of their histories. For Superman there is a this weight of responsibility. He stumbles onto the Toyman's lair and sees pictures of himself saving people, hugging Baka (in monster dog form), and generally being Superman. But that responsibility must be enormously heavy.

And Catwoman equates that weight, that responsibility, that restraint with weakness. She tells Superman that he doesn't need to be that way anymore. And that smirk lets you know that maybe Superman wouldn't mind letting loose.

I think Ed Brubaker said it best in Sleeper. If you had super-powers, why wouldn't you want to live like a rock star?

We haven't seen a lot of her in Action, but here Pak shows us the handle he has on Lois. It doesn't take her long to figure out that Batman doesn't have his memories either. Interestingly enough, she calls on his relationship to Superman to spur him into more serious action.

Funny how intoxicating Lois is that Batman swoons a bit.

But before they can actually do anything, the Scarecrow shows up. This might be Batman's body and he might have the right reflexes, but there isn't much he can do when you need tactics. The Scarecrow catches him holding up a beam which might crush people, essentially immobilized. And while the real Batman would have 10 ways to respond, this one has none ... and people get hurt.

Lois calls him out. He isn't ready to be on the street. This really isn't a game ... not at all.

That first panel is about the defeated I have seen the Batman portrayed in a long long time.

Bruce heads back to Wayne Manor and tries to figure out his next steps. He read about the death of his parents but it is 'someone else's story'. Without living that tragedy, he isn't driven by it.

I love Alfred's response. We see Alfred cry here. He wonders .... or maybe wishes ... if he can't be just Bruce and not Batman. It is fascinating and rings true. Batman is a tortured soul. Alfred might not mind seeing Bruce live the easy carefree life of millionaire playboy instead. That is interesting.

And Superman? He is embracing the role of powerful tough guy. He breaks into Gotham's city hall and declares himself the law.

So Superman wants to rule. And Batman just wants to lead a fun life. Certainly not what we are used to seeing.

As I said above, looking at these sideways portrayals of the heroes was pretty fun. I do hope both heroes remember these field trips away from who they are and contemplate just how easy it was for a chaos demon to derail their lives.

So kudos to Pak for bringing me back into this story. And definite kudos to Diogenes Neves and Marc Deering. Their stuff shines here.

Overall grade: B+


Jay said...

Its like Superman is the heel pro wrestler and Catwoman is his equally heelish valet, prodding him on. I don't know if its a deliberate parallel but its totally a 90s WWF storyline. :D

Anonymous said...

I must admit that I'm enjoying this story much more than I expected. It' And we see so little fun these days.

I was sad to learn though that Lois was the only one not included in the Jae Lee inspired collectible figures from DC. She has an equal role to Catwoman in this book and a bigger role than WW. I was letdown that she was excluded yet again. :(. --Shades