Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: Batman/Superman #27

Since its inception, I have had worries about The Truth. A depowered Superman story can be interesting. Having Clark be revealed as Superman can be interesting. But most of my concerns about the overall arch has been the coarsening of Superman's character, making him angry, a monster, a loner. It is as if the creators have forgotten that Clark is Clark, the lessons learned from his parents creating the man he is.

I have been saying that this has been going on too long.

Batman/Superman #27 came out this last week and maybe there are signs that The Truth is coming to an end. There are plot points that come to a pretty fast ending in this issue. Almost too fast. Perhaps I am the worst type of comic reader, complaining about pacing being too slow and then too quick? Also, this is clearly a Batman and Superman issue. The Bat-family, featured so prominently in the last issue, are barely seen.

But, to be honest, I was able to look past some of this sprint to the finish in this issue mostly because there is plenty of very good characterization in the issue. In most of the issue, Superman read like Superman, sounded like Superman. Pak uses a flashback told several times through the issue to have the heroes reflect back on who they are and what they represent.

I very much enjoyed the art in this issue. Cliff Richards provides the 'current' art with the heroes fighting Vandal Savage. Richards brings a very clean look to those scenes. I love his interpretation of Batgirl. The flashback scenes are done by Jack Herbert who brings a more thick-lined, rougher feel which works with this being a memory. The cover is done by Yannick Paquette and while beautiful, that scene does not appear anywhere in the book.

The issue starts with Commissioner Gordon remembering a battle that took place in Gotham where Superman and Batman fought the Supremacists. During that fight, Superman flings a doomsday device into space. Unfortunately, at the same time Jimmy Olsen falls off a roof. Superman makes the choice that the good of the many outweigh the good of his Pal. Luckily, Batman is there to save Jimmy.

Gordon can't help but notice that Batman and Superman clearly trust each other implicitly. In the flashback it shows Gordon smiling when he sees Superman in action. That is a far cry from the gruff distrusting man he is now.

The point being that things were better in the past when these heroes were at their best. It is a very nice contrast to where they are today.

Now the plot becomes a bit silly at this point. Batgirl discovers that the Nazi Warship we saw last issue has been rewired so that all power is going to the turrets. It is basically a giant cannon.

So Vandal Savage's incredible plan, requiring massive energy, is to power a 1940's super-gun. That seems almost silly.

After thinking with his fists for a while, Superman decides to plan more. The team has to dismantle the gun. They have to save the miners. They have to capture Savage. Then Batman says there is one more objective - keeping the team alive.

I love Superman's irritated look. That clearly shouldn't need to be said. Of course, Superman wants them to live. That is old school Superman.

That said, we haven't seen that guy in a while. He shouldn't be annoyed when last issue he was ready to storm the camp like an idiot. So I am glad to see this characterization again.

And Superman planning things makes sense too. But we haven't seen that in a while either. Just last issue, Batgirl was the one laying out the strategy.

And so a plan is made. Part of it is Superman and Batman bringing the fight to Savage, even briefly, in order to take out his teleportation device.

Again, Superman can sense that Batman simply doesn't trust him. I have to say, Superman hasn't been acting too trustworthy lately. So I don't see why Superman should be surprised. Superman tells Batman that the two are both human now. They need to work together.

But the words and art work nicely together. That first panel Superman saying that things are not what they used to be while he is holding a rifle. And the second panel with the small space that feels huge as they two seem to size each other up. That is just about perfect complementary comic panels.

The two retrofit the teleporter to bring them to Savage's flying base. It is a hit and run mission with Superman using the gun to disable Savage's guidance systems. Savage himself, much stronger than I remember him being, wades in and basically mops the floor with the two. Nearly defeated, the two heroes slip back through the teleporter to the mining site, destroying it as they leave. Savage can't just blip in to finish the job. He has to fly there.

It is a nice action sequence. Richards does a nice job keeping things lively, changing viewpoints and giving us palpable hits like this one.

Savage arrives and learns that the Batfamily and Superman are hiding miles out of the base. The villain decides he will use his Nazi Super-turret to wipe them off the face of the Earth. But the heroes have rewired the ship. Now all energy goes to the engines. The plan is the ship will head into orbit where Savage can simply be captured. Unwilling to be captured, Savage rips his way out of the ship, destabilizing it such that it explodes. It is assumed Savage escaped.

Okay. So all this energy Savage has been working on for the last year was to be used to power this big gun? That was a stretch. In this issue we learn the Wayne Tech portable sun needed to be fueled by the uranium the miners were harvesting. That doesn't sound like a self-sustaining energy source, like implied when we first learned of this thing. That seems silly.

And now the big gun is destroyed, thus snipping that plot string abruptly. That seems fast.

I don't know ... I should want all this to go away. But this seemed like a poor payoff for all I have had to live through.

What's nice is that the mission has helped close the chasm between Superman and this Batman. They can trust each other. Gordon actually tells Superman his secret identity, the ultimate sign of trust in these circles.


That is my Superman.

The initial flashback battle between the world's finest duo and the Supremacists was revisited in the middle of the issue, showing how Superman respects the original Batman for always being there.

After this new friendship, Superman remembers the fight once more, remembering that despite their differences the two heroes could always count on each other.

I thought this flashback again used art nicely. The two panels commenting on justice and vengeance are inked in a way that it reminds me of Frank Miller. Of course in Miller's view the two fight each other. And yet the next panel is them out of the shadows and back to back showing that the differences don't have to lead to conflict. It can lead to teamwork.

So I am of two minds with this issue. The whole plot is a bit inane and wrapped up too quickly, too neatly. And yet, this issue shows us a Superman who is a hero, who feels he wants to be trusted, who is a planner trying to save people. That characterization does carry the book for me.

But Savage needed a portable sun to power a Nazi gunship? Really?

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Great analysis. And yes, the big old Nazi gun business was nuts. I wonder if that gun will show up in the upcoming (one of the Superman books) annual with Vandal Savage that's set in the past.

Jay said...

Rewrites my friend, rewrites. It smacks of it, really. Now I liked the issue, I too thought it had some good characterization, and it was nice to see Jim and Clark come together. But in my opinion that clearly was not supposed to happen this soon. They're wrapping things up sooner than expected. I mean, the solicit still talks about a darker Superman and facing off against Red Hood. None of that happened. To me, somewhere around two months ago, the edict came down to wrap this thing up because it just wasn't showing the results. That's why we're getting completely mismatched stories with their solicits, blatantly changed dialogue from a Sneak Peek, Kuder needing a fill-in when he is not an artist known to be late, etc.

Unknown said...

Who cares if it's rewrites? From the October /November solicits I thought in SM/WW that Diana ,lois and lana were suppose to be searching for Clark but like you said,changes occurred ,as long as the truth wraps up I don't care

Anj said...

The idea of the gun being seen again in a story set in the past is brilliant Mart. I shouldn't be surprised.

And I guess there is a sense of rewrite and edits here. I wonder if DC was expecting more, course correcting, or doubling down on the plot.