Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: Batman/Superman #16

Batman/Superman #16 came out last week, the first issue post-Doomed. But it is hard for me to actually place it in any sort of particular time. This is a clean-shaven Superman and one who is actually active and happy to be active. This isn't the bearded glum Superman debating being a hero in Action Comics even though both are written by Greg Pak.

The concept of the story is a solid one and plays well in the context of a (gasp) happy Superman. Just as things start to look up, someone begins targeting Superman's loved ones. Just like that, Superman has a Joker-equivalent in his rogue's gallery. And as a result Superman needs Batman's help. It is a great contrast ... Superman's happiness and his knowing a psychotically obsessed murderer trying to kill off your friends? It also sets up one of the more established themes of this book, to contrast Superman from Batman.

Adrian Syaf replaces Jae Lee as the artist on the book. I will admit to missing Lee's work. But Syaf channels Eddy Barrows a bit and puts in a couple of very solid artistic moments including a powerful splash page for Batman. He'll work well on this book.

Lastly, I posted the variant cover of this issue. The chalk outlines with bloody S's is a nice visual. And I like the tag line 'Who shot Steel and Supergirl?'

It reminded me of this cover which asked the famous question 'Who shot Laurel Kent?'

The opening pages of the issue present a sunnier world than I am used to seeing in the New 52.

First we meet a couple of men who are dressing up as Superman and Batman to cheer up some kids in a hospital. It is had to imagine kids liking the heroes in the New 52 where they are generally distrusted and targeted by our military.

And then we see the extended Super-family helping bring some beached whales out to the deep ocean. Look! Superman doing a random good deed with Supergirl, Krypton, AND Steel! No anger or angst. Just doing something good. And nearly as unbelievable, people are on the boats and shore cheering!

It is sort of sad that a positive image of heroes working together is so rare these days.

Even Superman knows it.

In the New 52, Superman is 'just not used to happy endings'.

For me, that's sad.

Unfortunately, this is the New 52. The 'happy ending' is brief.

A whale is killed. The hospital volunteer in the Superman costume is shot in the chest.

And the super-family is shot! I guess there can be no happiness in this DCnU.

Shockingly, the heroes are relatively unharmed. So this isn't as big a deal as the cover or solicits made it out to be. Could this just be a way to let Superman know that this assassin is out there.

However the man volunteering in the hospital is dead.

It is alarming to Superman that all this is happening. At the autopsy he learns that it is unclear how the wound happened.

This is an interesting exchange between Lois and Clark as she basically calls out both aspects of Clark/Superman as falling below her expectations.

She thinks Superman should be out hunting who killed this man. He isn't. He is right there.

And she thinks Clark should be out running down the story.

This Lois is challenging. And Clark picks up the challenge. This is a murder mystery. He needs the world's greatest detective.

So it is off to the hospital to check out the murder scene. Now why the hospital would let kids play within feet of the bloody crime scene is beyond me. But they do.

The initial scan doesn't turn anything up but one of the patients was an eye witness and saw that it wasn't a bullet but some type of superfast drone that killed the guy.

What I did like was how easily Superman slips into 'nice guy' mode, juggling and cheering up the kids.

Batman tries to put it all together. Killing the whale, targeting the family, killing the man dressed as Superman. It shows an unnatural obsession ... akin to the way the Joker is obsessed with Batman.

Unfortunately it is a Joker with big technology.

Who is Superman's Joker? I don't have a guess ... yet.

And then we get a very strong page from Syaf where Batman admits that he hasn't won every battle with the Joker.

There is a blood stain in the form of the Joker's face. And then we see the failures - Jason being killed, Barbara being paralyzed, the Death of the Family, and the piles of bodies of those killed.

I thought this worked.

Superman asks Batman if he ever thinks of killing the Joker and Batman says yes.

Again we see that contrast of the heroes. Superman is wide-eyed, almost scared about who his friend is. And about his desire to never become like Bruce.

And Bruce is almost smiling, agreeing he doesn't want a Superman to be dark.

The split face panel composition is a well-worn use of panels. But I liked this one as the faces are so starkly different that this trick works well.

But the mystery deepens. The Bat-computer is hacked and whoever 'Superman's Joker' is, he feeds active video of attack on Lex ... and then two other people. Anyone recognize the pop star? Or the military figure?

I thought this was a good issue and a nice beginning to a new arc. This is an issue of opposites playing off each other. The good feelings of the opening sequence is foiled by the stark images of death and murder. The bright light of Superman is contrasted by the darker thoughts of Batman. Now maybe this is a little forced. It is interesting that the first time I can remember seeing such optimism and old-school heroics like the opening scenes is in the issue where we want to go into reverse suddenly. And I still don't think Batman would ever be a killer given his origins.

It is all wrapped around the mystery of who is obsessing over Superman? And who knows Superman so well to attack those closest to him? Or get under his skin? Who has the capability to be tracking a non-entity like the guy in the hospital who was killed simply for wearing the S-shield? Let the guesses begin.

Adrian Syaf's stuff is very solid here and I welcome him to the book.

Overall grade: B

1 comment:

Bartiemus said...

This book continues to impresse. I'm hoping now there are so many Batman and Superman books this can explore the wider familes.

Have Supergirl team up with Batgirl , Steel with Red Robin it's going to sell regardless why not use it as a platform to introduce people to a wider DCU.

But other than that I'm loving Clark and Kara finally being on the same page and there both being written constinley we'll across all the books there in.

Onwards more of this family bonding DC