Friday, April 15, 2016

Review: Batman/Superman #31

Last week, I gushed about Superman #51 and how it brought back a Superman I could recognize.

Where had that guy been these last couple of years?

It looks like he might be here to stay.

Batman/Superman #31 came out this week and put a smile on my face. Because not only was this, once again, my Superman. It was also my Batman. And my Alfred. And even my Supergirl.

Writer Peter Tomasi transports me back to a world where Superman wants to help people. A Superman that cares for his family and wants Supergirl to carry on for him if he isn't around, an idea that is straight up Silver Age goodness. A Superman that may be inspiring others to do good as well. This Superman is dying, a story we have seen in all the eras. And he wants to put his affairs in order.

To do that he needs Batman's help. In The Truth, we saw James Gordon fighting Superman. On the big screen, we see Superman ready to skewer Superman with a spear. In the last 20 years we have seen time and time again Batman want to fight Superman. Here we see Batman as a friend. Sure, they have different methods. But Superman and Batman are clearly friends, firing friendly verbal barbs at each other while trying to help each other.

And yes, finally, we see Supergirl back in the main DCU. She has been invisible in the books since the end of her own title lo so many months ago.

Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke really shine in this issue. Much like Superman #51, there are plenty of splash pages. The moments are worthy of big art. And Mahnke really brings some emotion to the quieter scenes. I am struck by the fact that this team was on Superman/Wonder Woman during The Truth. That was the most brutish interpretation of Superman during that arc, the exact opposite of the Superman we read here.

Where we these guys during the last couple of years?

On to the book.

The book opens with Batman fighting a semi-superpowered street gang led by a boar-ish looking guy called Tusk. We see Batman working hard to fight everyone until Superman arrives and, in one panel, defeats everyone.

Superman tells Batman that he doesn't have much time and needs Batman's help. He scoops up the Dark Knight and heads to the cave.

The lines here show the sort of sarcasm the two fire at each other. Superman swooping in, saving the day, and flying Batman back home pisses Batman off.

Superman tells Batman that he is dying.

Initially Batman is in denial. He knows Damian has been brought back to life. Other people have been saved. It shows how he cares for his friend.

Interestingly, Superman seems to have gone through all the stages of grief and has accepted his fate. He should have died many times over. He has done good. He is resigned to his fate.

These characters' take on death are quite intriguing. You think Clark might be interested in seeking out a cure. But instead he wants to settle family business in  the time he has left. Time must be short. But contrasting Batman and Superman's ideas around this fatal illness is just as interesting as comparing their approach to fighting crime.

Nothing made me smile wider than these panels.

Supergirl fans have been wailing and gnashing their teeth at her absence in the DCU these past months. Where was she during The Truth? Why hasn't she sought out Clark? Why didn't he seek her out?

Well, it turns out she has gone missing.

And Superman needs Batman's help to find her. Superman has been looking for her! And he needs to know she is safe! And he wants her to carry one when he is gone.

How incredible is this! Superman, caring for his cousin, wanting to make sure she is okay. He wants to make sure their relationship is fine. It will help him to patch up their relationship.

For Supergirl fans, for Superman fans, for classic comic fans, this was just about perfect. I said it last month. This is my Superman.

Despite being faced with his own death, Superman still finds time to smile and pet the new Bat-hound Titus.

And then we have this quiet moment between Alfred and Superman. Alfred thanks Superman ... for everything. Everything.

Yes, it probably means for all the good things that Superman has done. But that silent panel between, the bolded 'For Everything'. Alfred must be thanking Superman for being in Bruce's life, being a source of light in the Dark Knight's world.

This is also my Superman.

And Batman? He isn't one to cry on hearing his friend is dying.
Instead he lashes out, smashing a computer.

For as stoic a guy as Batman, someone who shows no emotion, this was the equivalent of rending his clothes and sobbing.

Two small but powerful panels. Mahnke really shows the emotions of the characters throughout this scene in the cave.

There is a subplot of these flaming avatars of Superman flying around.

In this issue, one of them collapses on a roof and reverts to a human who seems oblivious to his time as 'Superman'.

The man angrily pushes a child off the roof, not exactly the most Superman thing to do. But then the Superman within again manifests, saving the child.

There is nothing I love more than a good mystery. These things look to be energy constructs. Could there be some link back to the 'solar flares' that Superman had been firing off in the last year? Mutating people? Could this be part of the Chinese scientist's plans as seen in part 1 of this arc?

Batman was able to track Supergirl back to her time as a barrista at the Elixer Cafe! Hurray! A call back to K. Perkins/Mike Johnson/Emanuella Lupacchino run on Supergirl!

From there, Batman thinks Supergirl went to ... National City! Already the foundation for the new Supergirl book in #Rebirth is being laid.

This made me very happy as a Kara fan. That Crucible run on Supergirl should have been a stepping stone not a death knell for that title.

The search is delayed when the Four Pillars, superpowered beings representing the Chinese Zodiac arrive. They have to be linked to the presumably evil scientist in China who tried to hack into the Fortress.

We get several beautiful pages of battle by Mahnke.

Superman is nearly torn to ribbons, showing just how weakened he is.

It is clear that Superman is running out of time. He has to get to National City to find Kara.

And then, for the first time in a long time, we see Supergirl, hooked up to a Kirby like machine, unconscious.


I think this arc is basically setting up the new Superman books. Yes, Supergirl is in National City. But we know Yang's New Superman is a Chinese citizen imbued with Superman's powers. This has to spring from the villain's lab and these Superman avatars. And is this how Lois Lane becomes Superwoman?

Most of all, this continued to read like a classic Superman book, the sort of book most Superman fans want to read. No monstrous mutations, no lack of powers, no floating aloofness, no torturing helpless villains. He wants to do good. He loves his family and friends. He wants to make sure the planet will remain safe.

This is my Superman.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Yes indeedy, our heroes are back. Two instalments and I'm one very happy bunny, Tomasi is showing how much he understands these characters and cares about them. And Janín and Mahnke have produced beautiful art, and next week it's Pelletier in Action Comics! It's so great to have a weekly World of Superman pseudo-series again, go Triangles!

Veronica said...

the writing for superman really took a good turn. But I still find the supergirl part a mess, specially that we only see him really caring for her when he is dying.

Anonymous said...

Was afraid all there'd be of Supergirl was her on the computer screen, but given how much they do and show of her, and
as you mentioned Anj, how much they're tying this into #Rebirth and the relaunch of the Supergirl monthlies, I'm VERY
happy as well of showcasing Supergirl and the Supercousins' relationship overall here.

Can only continue to see how this plays out... I will say while it doesn't fix the "She Bolted..." wet fish slap snafu,
this is DEFINATELY a step in the right direction!

Will have to pick up a copy as soon as possible!


Doug said...

I've selectively sampled Superman throughout the New 52 and found it lacking more than not.

With this story, however, I have found Superman comics worthy of my money, my time, and my interest. If this is truly setting up the post-Rebirth Superman corner of the DCU, then I am in.

And I wholeheartedly agree with Martin @ Pelletier and the triangles! Good reading ahead.

Jay said...

My interest is growing as I'm becoming more and more convinced that New 52 Superman's absence will just be temporary and if anything, this will be one huge homage to Reign of the Supermen. Hell DC has already referred to it as "Reign of the Supers". So he'll be back. I still don't think I have much desire in me to read about the adventures of Superdad in the interim, but I can wait. I'll have Supergirl, which is shaping up to be pretty cool, and maybe Superwoman. And hopefully not much longer than a year from now we'll be getting the culmination with New 52 Superman coming back to save the day from a big threat that the new Supers can't handle.

Anonymous said...

So Kal El is dying....granted this is a reboot ploy so just once I'd like to see Supergirl take the reigns and succeed as the "Heir Apparent". Just an issue or two is all I'm asking these writers have explored every variant of Superman's death save "Supergirl as Successor" ....


Anonymous said...

Could this flaming Supermen actually be a new version of
The Matrix?
Ok, it's just a dream of mine. Where in the world is Kon-El though?

Jay said...

DC's pushing Jon White really hard as the new Superboy. This means Kon-El is essentially an after-thought. He just won't be referenced, I'd imagine.

Anonymous said...

DC finally getting on the right track? This book is raising my hopes even more for what is to come.