Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: Batman #36

Batman #36 came out last week and frankly I am so blown away by the issue that I wasn't sure if I could honestly review the book. Writer Tom King has been on something of a creative hot streak with his work on Batman, Mister Miracle, and even a brilliant issue of the Kamandi Challenge.

Now I'll admit I don't read Batman but the appearance of Superman drew me in.

To be blunt, this is one of the best comics I have read in a long long time.

You see, the Superman/Batman friendship has been rough for the last 30 years, probably since Frank Miller destroyed it in The Dark Knight Returns. Since then we have had a bristling relationship, a Batman with a kryptonite ring and paranoia, a movie based on the two fighting. And, perhaps even worse, are stories which make them best buddies again, ignoring the last 30 years of rift. I have been looking for some issue, some creator, some story to explain this friendship to me again, to make me understand it, to bring them together while recognizing their differences and the three decades of anger.

This issue does just that. They want to be friends. They respect each other. They're in awe of each other. But they don't know how to reach out. They don't know how to discuss their feelings. They don't want to impose a friendship on the other.

Seriously, I wanted to scan the whole issue to showcase it. Every page is just perfection. And Clay Mann on art is also perfect. The whole layout of the issue, mirrored pages and two running stories of each hero explaining their feelings about the other hero is just spectacular. Just stupendous.

What are you waiting for ... if you are a fan of Superman or Batman or both, run out and buy this issue.

Just a few moments...

First off, this is Clark and Lois talking about his feelings about Bruce. It is also Bruce and Selina talking about Clark. Bruce didn't call Clark to say he was engaged. Clark knows Bruce is engaged. Neither wants to call the other. Lois and Selina are confused ... and they should be.

We hear Clark talk about Bruce's history and how somehow Bruce was able to wrestle all the pain of losing his parents into hope. Meanwhile, Bruce is amazed that Clark who is entirely alone could somehow become a symbol of hope.

Batman and Superman as two sides of the same coin?

As a story involving Dr. X draws the two together, we hear them talk about the other more.

Batman is amazed that Superman with all his powers and with every choice available still became an inspiration. Superman is a better man.

And there is Superman, saying he is amazed that Bruce chooses to be Batman. Everyone wants to be Batman. Batman is a better man.

This page just encapsulates it all so perfectly.

And then this almost insecurity that each feels about the other.

You can almost hear Superman stammering when he says the lack of the phone call means Bruce doesn't want to be friends. Maybe they aren't friends.

Meanwhile, Bruce is just so amazed by Superman, feels so insignificant next to him, that he can't believe Superman would want to be friends.

It is such an easy way to explain their alliance and their bristling. It isn't that they hate each other. It's that they don't feel adequate in comparison to the other. It is utter respect.

And that is sheer genius.

But then we have a little bit of levity after such an emotional issue.

The two couples arrive at the hotel Dr. X is holed up in. They both get off the elevator, a ridiculous scene. I love that Superman talks about not needing to break a window to fly in when the elevator works.

After a awkward moment of silence (after an issue of semi-awkward masculine emotional output), Lois and Selina finally extend pleasantries.

Ultimately the two 'team up', each spouting the others catchphrase and bashing the villain.

There is so much to love here. There are revelations and conversations which are magical. The interplay between the couples, clearly equals and partners, is sparkly.

Enough gushing. Go buy the issue.

Overall grade: A++


Anonymous said...

I'm not interested on reading Batman but this is real good. It reminds me of Jeph Loeb showing Clark and Bruce's thoughts simultaneously during his SM/BM run.

It may be an impopular opinion, but DC shouldn't have let Frank Miller write that scene. Who the hell thought it was a good idea publishing a scene where one of your main, most popular and best-selling heroes is put down, beaten down and mocked by the another? Now, someone can tell me "Well, DKR is a best-selling classic, so obviously DC and Miller knew what were doing" and my answer is "That's very short-sighted. In order to sell more Batman books you're sabotaging another of your franchises in the long-term. And maybe -maybe!- DKR could have also become a critically-acclaimed best-selling comic if that scene had played out in such a way it didn't humiliate Superman". But back in the Dark Age, DC wasn't interested in respecting their classic characters.

Anyway, it's nice to see Clark and Bruce praising each other. I'm fed up with fanboys trying to make their character-bashing fanfic canon.

And Lois greeting Catwoman is golden. I hope some "No, It doesn't bother me you're a master thief. Believe me, I've run into greedier thieves than you... working on Metropolis City Hall" line.

Off-topic: Have you heard about Superman editor being replaced? I hope the new blood makes a good work but I can't help but get concerned.

Martin Gray said...

I loved the art, and yuer were several really cute moments, but my problem is... well, you hit the nail on the head with your callback to Jeph Loeb - all that ‘compare and contrast’ just gets on my nerves.

Yes, we needed a story to show how Clark and Bruce because friends, but it should have been a flashback; given how friendly the Kents and Bruce have been lately, the doubts they share, the awe they have for one another, it makes no sense. There is no way the Batman we’ve seen in the Superman books of late wouldn’t have told Bruce he was engaged. And while some might say, ‘this is Batman’s home book, King’s character opinions trumps Tomasi and Jurgens’, it’s isnt Superman’s home book(s).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recommendation. I dropped Batman a few months ago and only took it on the first paragraphs of your review. Amazing issue, understanding why people like Tom King now. They had a good idea with rebirth, now follow through on it. Rebuild the Superman/Batman friendship, rebuild the WHOLE Superman family, give Kara a BFF in Batgirl.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments. I think the relationship is so complex you almost need to show it in both sides books.

Given the similar feelings, I thOught the point/counterpoint worked to show those feelings.

Hope this issue gets the recognition it deserves.