Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: Batman/Superman #29

Sometimes in this comic world, I am amazed and surprised. And when I am amazed and surprised at comics, because I have been reading them for over 3 decades, I am doubly surprised. Because you would think by now I had seen it all.

I was surprised and amazed at Batman/Superman #29 for a number of reasons.

For one, it reads like a classic Batman/Superman story. It is clear they are friends and enjoy each others' company even if they have different personalities. In this era where every Batman/Superman beat is based on a Frank Miller dystopian Elseworlds, seeing the two be buddies is ... well ... surprising. This story has them play off each other well and has them separate when the time is right in an adventure, allowing them to breathe a bit on their own.

But moreover, I have avoided Tom Taylor's work in DC for the most part because he is associated with dark dystopian Elseworlds. I don't need to read about a brooding killing Superman in Elseworlds. Not when I already have a brooding one in the mainstream comics and a killer on the big screen. So I got this book with low expectations and was surprised to see how easily Taylor has this play in almost a bronze age manner (maybe with a New 52 flair). Amazing.

Robinson Rocha brings a nice fine-lined feel to the art here which is very pleasing. I am not surprised or amazed at that. Rocha has always done great stuff in my opinion.

Still, in some ways it's a shame that we haven't seen more of this sort of interaction between the world's finest.

On to the issue.

Last issue, Superman and Batman are investigating a huge alien whose murdered body has been discovered on the moon. The alien has left a cryptic symbol and message for Batman and Superman saying that another Kryptonian is alive.

On the moon, the two see another giant alien land in a spaceship, pick up the corpse, and carry it on board. Realizing they need to investigate further, the two heroes follow. Batman calls his friends to carry on his work in his absence.

Here is one of those great moments in the book playing on the two characters and their unique personalities. Superman is surprised when Batman calls someone for help thinking that the Dark Knight would never do that. He also wonders if there should be a code word for help since it is out of character. The Kansas farmboy, half smiling, recommends 'banana muffin'.

The scowl on Batman says it all. That second panel is perfect. And the two expressions by Rocha really add a lot to the discussion.

On board, the heroes talk to the pilot who reveals the other alien is his daughter, Mylara. She was a great explorer of space. The area where she said another Kryptonian is living is a place called 'Scorch space', flooded with immense yellow sun radiation.

No big surprise that a place saturated with yellow sun rays might be the best place for a Kryptonian.

The plot thickens.

As an aside, Superman's mother Lara was an astronaut on Krypton. I wonder if Mylara is a play on that.

Superman decides to head out to Scorch Space to investigate while Batman sticks around to talk more to this giant. In what I think is nifty detective work, Batman seems to be having a polite conversation comprised of small talk. In actuality, he is gathering information.

He learns about the ship's propulsion. He learns that Mylara was something of a rebel, always pushing herself, always pushing boundaries.

I remember a time when Batman was considered the world's greatest detective. I don't know if that is emphasized so much anymore.

Big moments deserve big art. So we see Superman in Scorch Space, peacefully floating over a raging sun.  That contrast is very nicely done. Again, strong work by Rocha. I thought this was a big enough moment to deserve the page.

He is so energized by this place that we see he has taken off his little oxygen mask.

I know I have seen something like this a million times. But this looks more like a direct homage. Alex Ross? Superman Returns??

Heading into a ship nearby, Superman finds the missing Kryptonian. He has become the engine of this ship, hooked in and powered by the sun.

This Kryptonian is old and wizened. I don't know if that means he is simply that old or if the machine and processing this energy has aged him.

Still, this is a nice plot twist. The closest I can remember something like this happening was in the Batgirl/Supergirl Elseworld's Finest, where baby Kal's body is turned into a battery.

Superman grabs the guy and takes off. And the ships nearby aren't happy losing their reactor. They give chase.

Meanwhile, Batman realizes that he is in danger.

He has pieced together that the alien pilot isn't a good guy. He has been lying about his ship's defenses. Batman knows that the stellar propulsion system means that Superman might be in danger. And he deduces that Mylara explored a little too much, discovered the Kryptonian engine and left to tell Superman. To keep her quiet, she was killed. Again, seeing Batman as a detective is great.

We knew Lobo was around to kill Batman and sure enough he shows up. Batman saying 'banana muffin' is priceless. Love it. Just perfect.

But add to that the work Rocha did on this panel. I mean, drawing this alien from Batman's eye level, the leg like a tree trunk, the head far away, couldn't have been easy. Just smashing.

But there is a feeling of the new Batman, the guy always prepared for everything.

He let's the alien and Lobo know that as this polite conversation has been happening, he has been planting explosives around the ship. How much explosives did he bring? A little silly, but perfect for this current Batman in this current universe.

He detonates the explosives, hurting Lobo and disabling the ship. Then he steals Lobo's ship and heads into deep space to link with Clark. It is clear now this whole thing may be a trap to capture Clark and make him into a new engine.

Clark agrees, especially since a fleet of ships are after him.

But before too much can happen, the lost Kryptonian stabs him.

Now who knows the motivation here. Maybe the aliens promised this Kryptonian they would set him free if he helped capture Clark. Or maybe he has been an engine so long, he doesn't trust anyone, even the guy that apparently rescued him. Or maybe he is simple insane from being an engine. But I wasn't expecting this cliffhanger. And I always like being surprised and amazed.

So overall, I thought this was a very good issue. The plot is interesting. The characterization is both classic and modern. And the art works very well. There isn't much more you can ask for in a comic.

With Rebirth around the corner, I wouldn't mind Taylor writing this kind of Superman long term.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

I agree, Tom Taylor should be given a shot at running this show awhile. With Robson Rocha on art, his work is just gorgeous.

Excellent catch on Mylara!

Anonymous said...

Nice review Anj, one point sums up what I enjoyed about this issue the most too. That being the classic familiarity of a Batman and Superman who treat each other more as respected partners and good friends. A tenant of the Bronze Age World's Finest stories as you mentioned seems to be the biggest influence but Taylor is giving this story enough of his own spin to make it interesting. The cosmic murder mystery is a great hook for a story, it's not a hashed out story in comics but it is a familiar enough narrative to bring Superman and Batman together. I love seeing Superman acting more friendly and approachable too, he sounds more like the welcoming comfort of classic Superman rather than the doubting edgy tom that current Superman often falls into. Hopefully Tom does an interesting thing with this new Kryptonian, it has been done many times before and he's supposed to be playing a role in the Super League crossover too.


Jay said...

I was in the same point, a little iffy on Tom Taylor on Superman because of the dystopian Elseworlds stuff. And I thought that in the previous issue, part one of this arc, that Taylor went a bit overboard establishing Batman as the smart one. But, this issue was probably the best single issue of any book featuring Superman that I've read in months. It alone really warmed me up to the idea of seeing Taylor do a lot more with the main-verse Superman, to the point now that I wouldn't bat an eye if he remains in some capacity after Rebirth.

If anything I guess its a good lesson to not overreact to someone's work so quickly even if a prior product isn't that great.