Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: Batman/Superman #31

Peter Tomasi has been given the keys to the super-kingdom in the time between The Truth's ending and the official #Rebirth. And, for the most part, Tomasi has done a very good job. Leaving behind the nastiness of The Truth and embracing some of the more classic tones and themes of Superman mythos, Tomasi has made 'The Final Days of Superman' a very good read.

Now last week's Superman/Wonder Woman issue was something of a step backwards, rekindling the Clark/Diana romance which I thought had been extinguished. Luckily, this week's Batman/Superman #32 righted the ship a bit. In fact, this issue reads the most like a Silver or Bronze Age book in some time; I mean that in the best of all possible ways.

There are a lot of classic comic bits working their way through this issue. We see the Trinity smiling and joking with each other, declaring their friendship! There is the classic 'heroes fight before they realize they are on the same side' trope. And we get an evil scientist whose evil project escapes (and will probably become good; shades of Red Tornado!). That is just about as classic as you can get!

The art is wonderful inside and out. I have really been enjoying Yanick Paquette's covers on this book. In particular, this busy cover works well. The Trinity are a down the center, grabbing my eye immediately. I especially like Diana here. And Doug Mahnke is on the internal pages, inked by a bevy of creators. As always, Mahnke is fantastic.

On to the review:

Last week, Superman and Wonder Woman had gone to A.R.G.U.S. to investigate the solar flare Superman who has been cropping up around Metropolis. During a skirmish inside the prison, this fiery Superman avatar was able to escape.

Clark and Diana ask their colleague Batman to join them in tracking down the solar energy trail of this imposter to try to bring him down again.

As I said in the intro, we see the Trinity smiling here. Batman says he is 'happy' that Superman and Wonder Woman seemed to have patched up their troubled romance. And Superman calls the three 'the Super Friends'. Even Batman's snarky response to not call the group that was perfect. The feel of the interaction is right.

That said, I was hoping we were moving beyond Clark/Diana. But the close ups of the two holding hands and smiling at each other makes me think it isn't quite done.

 The trail leads to China. Crossing international borders, the three are met by The Great Ten. Remember them? Frankly, I remembered the group and a couple of names but I couldn't tell you their powers.

Rather than talk things out initially, the two groups decide the best thing to do is fight. The dialogue is straight Zach Snyder. Superman yells 'we'll leave when we're good and ready!' The August General retorts 'It was not a request!' Diana follows with 'We don't like ultimatums' and draws her sword.

We get 8 pages of fighting. In some ways, it seems foolish. These heroes have teamed up before. Superman could have started out with an explanation. That said, the fight sequence gave Tomasi the ability to show the Great Ten's (actually only 7 of 10) power set.

It is only when Superman saves one of the Ten from death that the two sides calm down.

And shockingly ... shockingly I tell you ... when Superman states why the trio are in China, the Great Ten decide to help them.

Okay, I know that the 'hero confusing each other for villains and fighting' is a classic comic plot. So it was a little nostalgic to see it here, especially given the tone of this whole arc.

 The trail of energy leads to the Loess Plateau in the Shanxi Province, the secret lab of Dr. Omen we have been peeking into since the start of this book.

The investigation leads to her experiment, clearly the New Superman from Gene Luen Yang's new book post-Rebirth. Omen states she has been trying to create a Superman for China, a 'super-functionary' who can thrive and serve.

But this isn't the being that terrorized the Planet. This is something new. 

I like that we get just a little bit of Omen backstory here. The General talks about her years of unsanctioned experiments and the damage she has caused. She must be the Luthor of China.

 Omen won't let the heroes commandeer her project. She frees this new Superman who immediately flies off.

Omen gets led away in shackles. The Great Ten state this new Superman is a problem for China. They will deal with him but will keep Superman in the loop.

This plot seemed to wrap up a bit quickly. Omen is arrested. New Superman is free. We only got scraps of history. But I suppose the purpose of this thread is to whet our appetite for more.

And the idea that this being will become a hero after being created by the evil Omen adds a nice wrinkle.

Powerful panel here by Mahnke.

Meanwhile, the flaming Superman being who escaped ARGUS is back in Metropolis. And he wants to talk to Lois. The opening to this scene is very much like a similar scene we saw in Superman #51 by the real Man of Steel. So there is a resonance here.

I love the bravery of Lois as she tells herself to keep her cool so this guy doesn't go supernova. But is there anything more classic than Superman floating outside Lois' balcony saying he would like to talk. This is a very nice cliffhanger.

Overall, I liked this issue more than the Superman/Wonder Woman chapter. It is a quick read as a third of the book is the Trinity/Great Ten fight. But the plots are moved forward in anticipation of #Rebirth. The backstory of the New Superman and Dr. Omen gets fleshed out a bit. The Trinity are united as friends and allies. And this ending with a strong Lois made me want to read the next chapter right then.

I do wish Supergirl was part of this investigation team as Clark has put the weight of the world on her shoulders. It would have been nice to see the family together again. But I guess she has her own issues she is working out.

As for the Clark/Diana romance? I give up. I don't know if they are on again? Or off again? Or feeling things out? But I wish it was just settled.

And, as always, Mahnke brings a great feel to the book. I love his stuff.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Yes indeed, everything you said. I do wonder what has become of the solicited Super-League business. Maybe this week.

Great point about Dr Omen being the Luthor of China, that immediately makes me want to see more of both her and the Great Ten.

Anonymous said...

Whilst it wasn't as bad as the Superman/Wonder Woman chapter, this issue still didn't seem as bearable, if not decent issues of Tomasi's previous Super League chapters. The 'Superfriends' opening sequence seemed cliche and trite even though it depicted the New 52 Trinity getting along. I know I don't have a problem with a more cheery Batman like some hardcore gritty Batman fans do, he just came off weird here. And still not a fan of the SM/WW romance so my own bias is probably impacting my opinion here. The Great Ten mix up fight was a bit cynical to be honest, it kind of just served as a fight scene to keep the story from being the same and listing off The Great Ten's powers for those who don't know who they are and what they can do. I'd have hoped Superman would learn to explain things by this point in his career as the Ten were all too willing to help out once they explained themselves.

In any case, this week's chapter should be more interesting, the meeting of Pre Flashpoint Superman and New 52 Superman is bound to generate more than its fair share of hot topics amongst fans.


Jay said...

What they're probably doing with Superman/Wonder Woman is sticking a pin in it for later. They're clearly not done with it. But all the same for all intents and purposes it will be done for a while because Superman is "dying" anyway. So it'll just be a woman loses her love scenario. Rucka and Jurgens will surely ignore it if not take outright subtle shots at it when they get the chance, but it will be there to be explored again later after New 52 Superman returns. Not necessarily something they'll jump right back into, but it'll still be there. With Superdad back, they'll just continue to use that for the Lois and Clark fanbase.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I agree the fight with the Great Ten seemed a little forced and overly long. In some ways it felt classic. In other ways, trite.

I do wonder how this super-romance is going to play out. Is the New52 Superman going to 'die' for a bit? When he comes back will he and Diana say they missed their opportunity? Will this all be #Rebirth'd away?

All told though, I am enjoying this story more than any recent Superman arc.

Anonymous said...

I don't see New 52 Superman returning without him being a completely new blank slate of a character, and that would mean Nothing wrong with Rucka and Jurgens taking shots at the romance, writers are allowed to have opinions just like us fans are too. Even with Pre Flashpoint Superman (not Superdad) back, this signals the return back to more classic Superman love interests for the future IMO.


Jay said...

I see no reason for him to be a blank slate. He'll return and be the same guy. Pre-Flashpoint version for the fans of the older Superman who is with Lois, New 52 Superman for fans of the younger version who is not tied down but of whom Diana is "the one". There's no reason why he'd have to be markedly different outside of having to navigate what's gone on around him in the period he's been gone.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add that this would mean the end of any SM/WW relationship. The point about New 52 Superman 'not having to be markedly different' requires the ignorance of the majority of reviews, forums, blogs like this one and social media opinions. To say nothing of the internal and editorial problems within DC. So I believe there are many reasons why the return of New 52 Superman would have to be a blank slate to be done proper justice the second time around.


Jay said...

Social media opinions aren't the majority. Our opinions, while respectable in our own right, really don't say much in regards to what matters to business. Sales do. And if you really want to get down to it the New 52 version was a sales success, only seeing significant problems in this 2015 sales-wise with Truth. So there's absolutely no motive to change him up significantly. On top of that you add the fact that that there will be another Superman around that's more post-Crisis-like in nature. There's no reason to have two versions if they're going to be exactly the same. The New 52 version, when he does get back, will be the same guy, to appeal to the other side of the Superman coin, fans like me who prefer the younger, more brash, pre-Crisis-like Superman.

Anonymous said...

That's a good one, New 52 Superman a sales success. After the initial New 52 sales peak and the steady sales on Morrison's Action Comics run, all current Superman comics have sold pitifully, and yes I freely include Lois and Clark in those statistics. It's patently false to assert 2015 was the only sales problem. Superman sales have been sinking since 2013, early 2014 if I were to be generous. Diamond and Comichron figures support this too, and in contrast Pre Flashpoint sales were much stronger outside of the damn Grounded period. There is no reason to have two Supermen who are exactly the same, that's why the unpopular and disliked Superman is being replaced by the fan favourite and consistently portrayed Superman. If, and that is a big If, he gets back, New 52 Superman will have to be a different character to be as popular and well received as his predecessor. Few share the above opinion.


Jay said...

It was. If what constitutes a sales success is an increase in sales from point to another, then yeah, it was a success. 2015 is when the big drop tooj place. 2012, 2013, 2014 were just quite normal ebbs and flows of the comics industry that's pretty inescapable in this day and age. 2015 was the only drop of marked and alarming significance.

And I'm sure you really have no idea anymore than I do who shares what opinion. The reading community is a large place.

Jay said...

In any case this is clearly not about popularity of one version over another. Because again, understanding that there is no gauge for whose opinion is majority or minority(other than in one particular place; I know my opinions are fairly different from most who frequent this particular blog for instance, and that's okay), the only place to really look for a solid gauge of what's working or not is sales. And in that case, pre-Flashpoint Superman was even less popular. I say that because L%C sold really bad despite word of mouth. The worst selling Superman title, in fact. So this clearly isn't about going back to a more financially viable version for the long haul. What this is, is what DC usually does with Superman because they don't have any other ideas or want to put forth any more effort on the character: create a stunt. In this case, they're redoing the Death/Reign storyline, with the exact same writer, and the end result will be the New 52 Superman's return, and both versions will be published. That's why the new design for Superman utilizes blue boots. Its so there's a readily distinguishing visual feature for the two, while at the same time calling allusions to the classic Superman Red/Superman Blue pre-Crisis story and post-Crisis era. That's why Jurgens is bringing back the Eradicator with the visored appearance, who classically restored the pre-Flashpoint version back to life. That's the reason Hank Henshaw was re-established and given an ominous end in his last appearance. Its all pretty choreographed at this point where its heading based on solicits alone.

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