Batman/Superman Annual #2 came out last week, a story which is more a Superman story than a Batman story, but also a story that feels more like a Batman story than a Superman one.
I know. That probably doesn't make sense. But writer Greg Pak gives us a story concentrating on the character of Superman ... actually Clark Kent ... and Superman's core beliefs. But he sets that character story in an action story filled with Batman villains, fought on a street level.
While I have applauded Pak's prior stories where he has put Superman into odd environments, places where he doesn't feel comfortable, this one stretches even my ability to suspend disbelief. And as a result, this issue sort of fell flat for me. In fact, the best part of this book is the ending cliffhanger which seems like it will lead directly into the post-Covergence Superman books and their new direction.
The art is a complete hodgepodge of pencillers. Ian Churchill, Tyler Kirkham, Tome Derenick, and Adrian Syaf all contribute.
The issue is a direct continuation of the 'Superman's Joker' storyline from this book. That story ended, somewhat abruptly, with Dr. Xa-Du sent back to the Phantom Zone. We never really got a complete explanation of Xa-Du's powers. We certainly didn't see him display typical Kryptonian powers when he was freed of the Zone.
So I don't know if I should be surprised to see him have some mental telepathic powers from within the Zone. He decides to create 'an impulse' to find and kill Clark Kent, a telepathic seed planted within the minds of a handful of Batman villains.
Now in the Silver Age the Phantom Zone villains could rarely do this, and usually only when a number of them concentrated together.
As for Superman, he is back in the Bahamas ... one of the first places where the Doomsday virus cloud appeared. Somehow, another fog of Doomsday spores has appeared over the islands. Both Batman and Superman head to the threat.
Luckily he has a new power that seems built for stopping a problem like this. Unleashing the super-flare, Superman is able to incinerate the spores.
This is a nice use of his new power and further cements it as part the mythos.
But the side effect of that power is that it completely depletes Superman.
Powerless on the island, Clark tries to find some shelter. It is interesting for Pak to come back to this place because we see the devastation left from the first Doomsday attack. A large part of the island is in ruins.
Clark comes across an abandoned hospital and runs into people scavenging for food and medicine. It is clear these people aren't thieves or villains. They are trying to survive. As such, Clark is sympathetic to their issues and tries to join them and hear their stories.
These are desperate people.
Batman arrives on foot. The super-flare set of an EMP which shut down the Batplane. It will take hours to reboot.
And then, finally, the Xa-Du urge kicks in.
Man-Bat, Killer Croc, Bane, and Cheshire all arrive, intent on killing Clark. Batman demands that Clark sit this one out. He isn't equipped to fight assassins of this caliber. Of course Clark isn't going to let others fight his battles. He wants to join.
In a funny turn of events, right after this panel, we see Clark tied to a pole. If he won't sit out voluntarily, Batman will force him too.
What happens next?
Well the scavengers and Clark (who is freed) end up using the scraps at their disposal (fire, anesthetics, etc) to fight off Croc, Cheshire, and Man-Bats. It is almost too unbelievable. Man-Bats are a squadron of soldiers working for Talia Al Ghul. Cheshire is considered one of the deadliest assassins on Earth. Croc is an animal. To have them taken out by starving looters without training seems almost impossible. I can believe the super-flare more than that.
One of the looters though is noted to be more self-serving. He approaches Bane, who has been mulling things outside the hospital, and makes an offer. He will help Bane in exchange for freedom.
There is no honor among thieves. For no good reason, Bane kills the man.
But see, its things like this which simply pull me out of the story.
Clark underhand throws a scalpel at Bane. And it looks like he has good form. And he actually hits Bane.
I don't know. This should have been a 10 second fight where the villains win.
Instead, they are all eventually defeated, knocked out or thrown off a mountaintop.
And so, with the threat over and the Batplane rebooted, Bruce flies off.
Clark decides he will stay on the island, to stay with his new found friends and hear their story. I am sure there will be a Planet report about the state of this island.
Oh ... but then the cliffhanger ...
Xa-Du sent the urge to one of the 'friends' Clark has been with. Xa-Du knows that Clark's 'weakness' is that he trusts humanity, he believes in the goodness in people. And because of that this woman is able to get in close and stab Clark in the gut.
And that is how the issue ends!
So that is quite a way to end this issue, especially given we have 2 months of Convergence. Maybe this wound and the recovery is what leads into 'The Truth' and Superman's new look. After a lackluster issue with improbable action, I reached this ending and suddenly wanted more. I suppose that means it is a good cliffhanger!
Still, the majority of the story just didn't resonate with me.