Batman Superman #15 came out this week and ended the three part 'amnesia' storyline. Greg Pak has, for the most part, made this a cerebral title for these characters, focusing on elements of their personality and ethics. Yes there is action in all these stories but most have been Batman and Superman dealing with some conundrum and wondering how far they would go, what is the limits of 'good', and in this instance, what sort of personality bubbles under the surface. Where does nature end and nurture take over? What would Batman be if he didn't remember his horrific origin and twisted adventures? What would Superman be like if he didn't remember his upbringing and ethics.
The art work is something of a group effort with art by Pascal Alixe, Diogenes Neves, Cliff Richards, and Mark Deering. After months of delays, apparently due to Jae Lee, it looks like DC is working to get this book back on track. This catches things up and clears the deck for new artist Adrian Syaf. I will state that I love Jae Lee's art. But the delays were killing the momentum of the book. The team on this issue do a nice job bringing a similar style and getting the story told.
The book opens with Kaiyo, the chaos demon, telling Lord Satanus that Bruce and Clark can get their memories back simply by wishing for them. What has stopped them from wanting to return to normal? Maybe it is how much they are enjoying the freedom of a blank slate.
Remember, last issue an untrained Batman couldn't save lives and stop the Scarecrow and as a result some innocents died. It made him question moving forward as a hero at all. But his interaction with Lois must have moved him. Inspired by her detective work and strive for justice, he looks her up, asking for help.
So, while he might like the carefree life of millionaire Bruce Wayne, he knows that he can't let innocents die. And he admits he needs help. I like that Lois recognizes that there must be some part of Batman still in there. Although I would hope that everyone would step up to help people in danger.
To entice (seduce?) Lois into action, Batman says he will bring her along. And the extra lure is that she will be part of the action. He brings her a Batgirl suit and she gladly puts it on.
They spar with each other as they leap the rooftops but it is clear there is some flirting and playful touching and romance happening here. Who is seducing who? It is strange to see Batman smiling and saying how great a catch Lois is.
That said, I don't like Lois getting into costumes and joining the fray like this. Lois strength is that she is one of us, someone without powers, who still impacts the world around her. I don't need her in a cape and slugging it out with villains to know how great she is. She is fine as an intelligent investigative supporter.
As for Superman, he is enjoying his newfound role as tough guy wrestling the world into line. He catches up with Mangubat accosts him. And then he lets a suddenly ruthless Metropolis PD have their way with him, pummeling Mangubat with their nightsticks.
It is just as odd to see Superman watch this 'punching down', this overt and unnecessary violence happening in front of him without stopping.
And even more, he looks downright scary with this odd smirk as he says the world doesn't need anyone's help other than from him. Superman grabs Batman and puts him into a cage, a cage made from support beams Superman has molded into a cell.
This seems to be nature and not nurture. This isn't Pa Kent's son. All bare-chested bravado, acting as judge and jury ... that isn't Superman.
Of course, that is the Superman in Earth 2, Injustice, etc. Kind of sad.
Thankfully, Pak actually shows that Lois' place isn't in combat. When Mangubat and his drones press their attack, Lois get injured in the leg.
Bruce blames himself ... as he should. I would say he should know better but he does have no memories.
Again, I don't need my Lois to be swinging haymakers to recognize her strength.
For whatever reason, seeing Lois injured angers this already slightly unhinged Superman even more.
He cauterizes her wound with heat vision. He then pounds Mangubat and flies him into the sky. This is going to be a very public execution.
Maybe I can say that the anger at Lois' injury shows that somewhere deep in him, his memories are crawling around.
But this is the scary part of an out of control Superman. Now he isn't just judge and jury but also executioner. This is the Superman from the other books, the Dark Superman we see all too often. But as I said, seeing this here and knowing this is the 'wrong' Superman is interesting. I think Pak is trying to show who Superman is by really showing what he isn't here.
Lois knows that Superman would never forgive himself for killing someone. She knows someone needs to stop him. And she knows the only one who could get through is Batman.
She asks Bruce to remember.
There is a pause. He might not want to return to that brooding guy. And he actually loves Lois and knows there is no place in the 'other' Batman's life for her. Ultimately he knows what's right. He kisses Lois and remembers, complete with a slick splash page with highlights of his career.
I do think there is a little too much 'love at first sight' here. Both of them acknowledge a burgeoning love here ... but doesn't it feel soon? Or am I an old jaded reader?
And Batman knows the strings to pull.
He calls Superman Clark and tells him he has to know who he really is. And the word Clark opens the flood gates. Also in a splash page we see Superman remember everything.
He floats down with Mangubat, tells the cops not to beat him, and thanks Batman.
Just like that, the adventure is over. Batman walks away from Lois. Catwoman walks away from Clark.
Nurture is back.
But there is this wonderful ending where Superman and Batman deal with what they have done.
Lois tells Superman that the person he was without memories is not who he is.
But Superman knows it was. He realizes that somewhere in him is that angry control freak. That sort of super-dictator, that bully, is just under the surface. I wonder how often it is a struggle to not let *that guy* just come out. That is the never-ending battle.
That's just great.
And Batman. Well, he tells Alfred to not call him Bruce. Because Bruce is the mask. He is Batman. Somehow the small family picture in the background of the first panel adds to the funeral feeling here.
All those things that Bruce was just enjoying ... flirting, parties, toys, etc ... it is gone. He can't be that man. He has to be this crusader. And we see Alfred silently mourn.
So I will admit that when I read the first part I sort of bemoaned another look at 'just how far will Batman and Superman go' theme feeling we had read a number of those stories already. But I really liked this story. It was interesting to see just how much the overlay of tragedy has formed who these two are.
That said, I'd love an old-fashioned punch-em-up. Maybe throw in a couple of super-villains.