Shiny Shelf

Superman/ Batman #6

By Eddie Robson on 20 February 2004

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

After a couple of issues mostly comprised of big long punch-ups, this issue of ‘Superman/Batman’ provides the payoff – and it’s more than I was expecting.

The design of ‘Superman/Batman’ is to be a DC title for ‘casual’ fans. Each character already has three monthly titles of his own (not to mention numerous ‘family’ titles like ‘Superboy’, ‘Catwoman’ and ‘Gotham Central’): those titles revolve around each other, each required to provide something different and complement the others. There’s room for different interpretations of, and angles on, the characters.

By contrast, ‘Superman/Batman’ provides the iconic versions, chunkily rendered by Ed McGuiness and Dexter Vines: a Superman and a Batman that anybody who has ever encountered either will recognise. It’s a news-stand comic book that anybody should be able to tap into. Fundamentally, it gives you the world’s two most famous superheroes for the price of one – stitch that, Marvel.

It could still use a little fine-tuning. Compare this with any comic from the Golden or Silver Age and whilst ‘Superman/Batman’ is probably a lot better written that doesn’t necessarily mean that it gets more done. Modern comics have a tendency to spread a storyline across more issues than those of yesteryear and this often dissuades all but the most committed.

Jeph Loeb smartly broke his ‘Hush’ storyline in ‘Batman’ down to two or three-issue chunks which built into a larger story and he should apply the same model to his ‘Superman/Batman’ work. This six-issue arc has occasionally trod water along the way, using elements like the fight with Captain Marvel and Hawkman to create more of a build-up.

Another dubious factor is the use of characters whom many readers will not care much about. For this first arc at least it would have been good to stick with Clark and Bruce, rather than giving guest spots to most of the supporting cast from their own books plus Captain Marvel, Hawkman, Green Lantern and so on. The prime example of this is Captain Atom, whose sacrifice at the end is more of a big deal than you’ll appreciate if you just bought the book for the lead players.

That said, Atom’s ‘death’ (if you really believe he won’t be back, come down to London some time: I have a bridge I want to sell you) demonstrates how much room Loeb has been given for manoeuvre. I had kind of assumed that big events in each of these characters’ continuities would be confined to their own books, leaving ‘Superman/Batman’ to do its own thing for the benefit of those not reading the other books (such as me).

But no! Instead, ‘Superman/Batman’ is being pushed as a super-flagship. DC assume that if you’re reading any of their titles it’s going to be this one and they’re letting Loeb do Big Stuff with it. So there’s no reset button at the end of this issue: Lex Luthor has gambled everything on bringing down Superman and lost. He’s lost the presidency, his assets and his fortune. He’s a half-crazed, wanted criminal who will somehow have to build himself back up from nothing.

Storylines don’t come much bigger than this. If it carries on like this and I can enjoy a grand, seismic super-soap without having to buy a dozen crossover issues of titles I don’t really like, or ask my friends what happened in last week’s ‘Adventures’ which I won’t buy because I hate the writer, then I will consider ‘Superman/Batman’ to be one of DC’s best ideas of recent times.

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By Eddie Robson

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