Monday, December 23, 2019

Review: Batman/Superman #5

Batman/Superman #5 came out this week, continuing the semi-ridiculous story of 'The Infected', the secret six heroes who have come under the influence of the Batman Who Laughs. I have been following along to keep track of Supergirl here. But this isn't exactly a storyline that has grabbed me.

I have never been a fan of this Batman Who Laughs character, the embodiment of the 'grim and gritty' nature of comics as well as another interpretation of the infallible, unstoppable Batman. I have never been a fan of corrupting good characters, especially when the darkened characters are the brightest. So seeing Supergirl and Captain Marvel made evil (again) doesn't make me happy. And poor Donna Troy; she can't catch a break.

Add to that this storyline of the Batman Who Laughs (heretofore denoted as BWL) bringing his JLA satellite to Earth-0 to make the whole world dark is pretty silly.

But there are also a couple of moments here where writer Joshua Williamson leans so deep into the these things I don't like that I just shook my head.

The one high point of this series is the art by David Marquez. There is a smoothness to his art, a clean kinetic style that elevates the book. Heck, even his Insane Clown Posse Kara looks as good as she can.

Let's take a look at some of the particulars.

The role call is seen in the opening double page splash.

Our heroes face the Secret Six. The evil transmitter JLA satellite is about to drop. And Superman and Batman face not only this threat but the fact they have to fight their friends and family.

Supergirl belittles Superman for trying to talk her down, calling him out for his 'big bro' speeches.

But I really like the art here. Superman looks beefy but not bulky. The villains are all outlined in a dark ink line, almost shrouding them. And the colors by Alejandro Sanchez just pops. Seriously, Marquez shines here. Even Supergirl looks good, her cape splayed like demonic angel wings behind her ... shades of Linda Danvers.

Hawkman and Donna Troy get called away by the BWL for a secret mission.

That evens the odds a bit. Batman will fight James Gordon and Blue Beetle. Superman will try to bring down the satellite but will need to fight Supergirl and Captain Marvel.

Oooohhh.... Captain Marvel wonders if Superman has the balls to follow them. So randy!

As upset as I am that Supergirl has succumbed to the infection, I wonder how incensed Captain Marvel fans are. Here is the brightest star, the purest hero, and someone with the wisdom of Solomon. Why is he always cheapened in this way. Any Shazam fans out there want to chime in?

Meanwhile, Gordon jabs Batman with a secret advantage the Secret Six have. To stop this plot, the heroes will most likely need to cross a line.

So even if the heroes stop the world from going dark, they'll most likely have to sacrifice their own ethics and hurt their friends in the process. It is win/win for the BWL.

Superman flies into the tainted satellite and comes across the BWL's trophy room, the corpses of that world's JLA.

And the main piece? The corpses of the Kents - Superman, Lois, and Jon.

Even I have to admit, this is a powerful page. In particular, you see the weight of grief on the body language of Superman in the top panel. Great art, showing that without the bonus of expression.

Is this the moment that pushes Superman dark as Gordon warned?

Well we get a nice splash page with the angry red eyes!

Again, Marquez really sparkles.

And then a little legit fight strategy by Superman.

Supergirl juices up her heat vision.
Shazam tries the famous 'call down the lightning' on Superman.

But Clark sets them up to be in position to hit each other and then at the last minute dodges so their attacks backfire.

Again, great dynamic art by Marquez. You feel Superman jumping out of the way. And the colors by Sanchez are just glittery!

I don't like the 'dark incarnations of good heroes' trope.
And I definitely don't like the unstoppable, infallible Batman.

Here, in a true Deus Ex Machina, Batman pulls out tech that can pull the scarab off of Jaime, taking control of the Blue Beetle itself.

Okay, that seems a little too convenient.

But that is followed by a nice little double page layout with the heroes mirroring each other.

Superman pushes the evil satellite into the sun. Batman uses the Scarab to blow up the tower on Earth which opened the portal to the evil universe. Nice construction here, down to the matching sound effects.

But I like how Batman says he trusts Superman.

But maybe this whole thing was a diversion.

The side mission Donna and Hawkman went on was to free the BWL from his prison.

And now our World's Finest has to deal with a new problem. They have been lying to Diana. And I am sure Wonder Woman will have something to say about all this ... and Donna's involvement.

And, no surprise, Marquez draws a powerful looking Wonder Woman.

So, the story beats don't really work for me. Dark Supergirl? 'No balls' Captain Marvel? Bat-god with the perfect tech? Nah.

But boy the art sure elevates this book.

Overall grade: B-


Anonymous said...

At least Supergirl does look better in this book - no Mohawk haircut, and the skirt is gray rather than blue which somehow softens the look. Why was she omitted from the cover?

And Marquez is superb throughout.

I've heard the theory, as you suggest, that the satellite business was a distraction to give Hawkman and Donna the chance to free BWL. I suppose a satellite could, while orbiting, slowly rain down upon earth a quadrillion tons of BWL virus. Who knows how it works? Sometimes it needs a batarang calibrated to infect one specific character, but maybe that's the only way to infect someone with powers.

I don't understand why Captain Marvel is about to say "Shazam" (he's interrupted after saying "I got one word for you, Superman! Sha--") as a way to attack anyone. Won't that turn him into Billy? Or is he taunting Superman again, as he did in his Infected one-shot?

What happens to the scarab Batman ripped from Blue Beetle? It seems to disappear after Batman uses it to close the portal and/or destroy the tower. By the time of "Hell Arisen," a story which apparently follows this one in sequence, it seems Jaime has his scarab back.

However, a footnote in "Hell Arisen" refers us to Justice League #39, which has not yet been published. The ending of Justice League #38 was optimistic, so .... I guess things will be heading south soon? I doubt this thing with Jaime's scarab will be explained, though. Maybe I missed something.

Since Bendis already showed that the Justice League had lost, it seems after drawing out the Year of the Villain "event" interminably - a story that is pretty lame to begin with, with the Justice League Doom story crashing and burning with dropped storylines and a mess of illogic I've found absolutely infuriating - DC has sabotaged what remains through editorial errors, bad planning or scheduling mishaps.


Aaron Ramos said...

Okay, I've been meaning to bring this up but, when did Hawkman get infected. In his own book we learned about one of his reincarnations from Earth-3 who was a villain. When Luthor's doom sigil appeared in the sky it caused Hawkman to revert beck to that evil form. The Batman who laughs hasn't appeared or even been mentioned at any point.

Ben said...

GORDON: Finally. It fills my old heart with joy to see Superman give in and cut loose.

Yeah,, Gordon. If Superman "gave in," you wouldn't even be talking right now. Supes would have eviscerated every individual molecule in your miserable old man's body by that point.

Seriously, you do NOT want to see Superman fight dirty. EVER.

Anonymous said...

@Aaron, I don't think anybody has an answer to when Hawkman got infected.

I agree with what you observed in the actual text.

Here is where they've made some connections between Hawkman and the Batman Who Laughs:

1) Solicitation for #18: "Corrupted with an infection concocted by the Batman Who Laughs, Carter Hall's psyche is overpowered by the darkest of all his past lives: the Sky Tyrant..."

2) The inner cover of the acetate dual cover for #18 shows a symbolic portrait of a Hawkman/Batman Who Laughs hybrid.

3) In Batman Superman #4, Hawkman says "Ever since the Batman Who Laughs showed me the truth of our lives, I have had memories of my time on Earth-3."

But you are right, Hawkman #17 had actually ended with a splash panel where Hawkman proclaimed "Sky Tyrant Flies Again!" against the backdrop of a huge Doom Sigil in the background.

The actual Hawkman text, therefore, seems to suggest that Hawkman's troubles are Doom-related, and if so he would be Luthor's natural ally, not BWL's!

But perhaps the Sigil in #17 has no meaning at all, and is just there because it had to be crammed in due to editorial mandate, to justify the YOTV: Doom Rising banner on the cover

In one interview, Williamson has called the selection of Hawkman "non-obvious" and even might be suggesting that the infection happened way back in Dark Knights: Metal. Or at least that there's some connection there.

Seems like he's spinning after the fact and the stories don't really align properly.


Anonymous said...

Can't say I've been a fan of DC's increased push for TBMWL. I find him an overrated and already oversaturated character in DC who's simply not as interesting as Snyder or DC's writers and editors think he is. Making him the primary antagonist for the first arc of Batman/Superman and having him infect DC heroes into grimdark edgy caricatures is beyond cliche as well.

Still, the art by Marquez is fantastic especially on the action sequences, the writer is clearly channelling Jephn Loeb's writing style for the story and I dig seeing Superman actually winning a fight for once. He's been made a punching bag for a lot of characters over the years so I can't disapprove of Superman showing how powerful he can be.


Ben said...

"I dig seeing Superman actually winning a fight for once. He's been made a punching bag for a lot of characters over the years so I can't disapprove of Superman showing how powerful he can be."

I know, right? I have no idea why the writers have such a hate-on for the most iconic character in their entire library. Either they're resentful writing for a hero who's basically meant to be a paragon of virtue as opposed to the usual moody-broody a$$hole with Robert McKee-approved "conflict" up the wazoo, or they're die hard Frank Miller nerds who think THE DARK KNIGHT is the be-all-end-all of superhero movies.