Remember when Bruce Wayne was Batman, Superman had powers, and the two were colleagues if not outright friends?
Been a while, hasn't it?
Batman/Superman #38 came out last week and was a flashback story to those halcyon days when the might not be best buddies but they respect each other and work well together. The story, called 'Universe's Finest' was written by Tom Taylor and is a very good opening chapter to this story. It has a very decent hook and a grabbing (if maybe overused) cliffhanger. I'll admit I wasn't expecting this from someone writing the Injustice book.
The art is done by penciler Robson Rocha who is inked by a bevy of professionals, Wade Von Grawbadger, Norm Rapmund, and Dexter Vines. I was very impressed by Rocha's work here, especially the splash pages which have the appropriate gravitas for big art.
But the bottom line is that it is good for me to be reading these characters again.
The issue starts with human interest angle. An astronaut is out on a spacewalk from an orbiting station when a large object flies by her, colliding with the moon. The momentum of this object disrupts the astronaut's jaunt such that suddenly her suit is damaged and she is unmoored.
I love this very human moment when this woman gives a message to be given to her partner, a message to keep striving and exploring. This set of panels, the glass of the helmet cracking, was nicely done.
This is a time when Superman is fully powered. He fuses the cracks with heat vision and brings her back to the station. The splash which follows this, where we see the reflection of an iconic Superman on the repaired helmet is wonderful.
Superman goes to investigate what struck the moon and comes across a dead giant alien in a shattered space suit. Whatever this thing is, it has taken its last moments to draw a Superman/Batman symbol in the dust.
I thought this double page spread was fantastic. It gives and appropriate scope and power to the size of this alien and scene. There was a nice resonance to this dead astronaut and the one saved before.
But this is a big moment, literally, that deserves big art.
With the scrawled message received, Superman heads to Gotham to get Batman's help. After seeing the GCPD and Batman struggle for a couple of pages to stop Clayface, it was sort of amusing to see Superman stop the villain quickly with a blast of super-breath.
For one, this reminded me of the running gag of Mike Maihack's Supergirl/Batgirl strips where Kara ends all threats in a panel, usually offscreen.
Second, the fact that a wounded Batman is upset that Superman interfered. And that Superman knows Batman would never ask for help. These guys know each other.
But Clark knows that Batman is needed sooner rather than later. This giant alien takes precedent.
The two begin to investigate the crime scene on the moon.
There Batman drops standard Batman knowledge. This wasn't an accident. This is a murder. The alien's suit had failsafe devices that should have saved it if they could have activated them. He then tells of his own suit's redundancy, a nice glimpse into Batman's preparation.
But then Batman somehow deduces that whoever killed this thing probably was using the corpse as a ship to get here. While I don't know how he figured that out, I absolutely love the idea. That is a novel concept.
This Batman does have almost omniscience to the point that it reminded me a bit of how uber-prepared he was in the Morrison JLA. Looking at the corpse, Batman sizes it up as a sort of reptile and can tell that the death wasn't asphyxiation. Now how he knows what this dead alien should look like depending on cause of death, I have no idea. I guess I should be used to this sort of Batman by now.
Even Superman is amazed that Batman knows so much about dead lizards meaning he has performed autopsies on reptiles. Clark knows it is strange.
But it is Batman's response that is the line of the book. Strange is perspective. Dissecting reptiles isn't strange compared to a giant alien murder scene on the moon. Panel of the week!
The two heroes realize that a small spy drone is watching them. And when Clark grabs it, it self-destructs.
The people on the other side of the camera are Lobo and an unnamed alien who has put out a hit on Batman. So this seems like a side story. What I can't tell is if these two are inside the alien as passengers or if they are somewhere else.
I am no fan of Lobo. But an unnamed alien with a grudge against Batman? That is a decent hook.
The story ends with Superman grabbing a device out of the alien's hand which triggers an automatic message ... in Kryptonese. The message includes a map. A map where someone wrote this message. The implication? There is another Kryptonian alive. As this is a flashback, for all I know this occurs before Supergirl arrives on Earth.
Now I have read comics long enough to have seen almost too many Kryptonians survive. Whether it was Kandor in the Silver Age or the entire World of New Krypton or even The Third Kryptonian, I am no longer surprised to hear about another living Kryptonian. But a sort of space adventure to find them is another new wrinkle.
This was a nice issue which I thought was very entertaining. Outside of the highlighted moments there are nice little things sprinkled throughout (Batman's bat-moon boot footprints, Alfred's super-power being the ability to slip someone tea at a moment's notice) that made this feel like a full story and an opening chapter. It is nicely paced with a slow human moment before hitting the gas on adventure the rest of the way. And there are decent hooks to keep me intrigued. Who is the dead alien? Who is the alien with the bat-grudge? Who is writing Kryptonese?
Add to that a more classic representation of these two icons and I was a happy reader. Can't wait to read more.