Shiny Shelf

Superman / Batman #7

By Mark Clapham on 09 March 2004

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Yep, it’s this title again… already. What can we say? DC are throwing talent at this book, with interesting results. The intent is clearly for ‘Superman/Batman’ to be the book that ‘JLA’ was back when it was good, a flagship book for the entire DCU and an entrance point to the full range of DC’s superhero comics. While Grant Morrison’s run on ‘JLA’ tended to set a direction that others followed, ‘S/B’ writer Jeph Loeb is a little more reactive, willing to adopt the ideas of others. This issue is a one-off starring the lead characters’ respective proteges, Superboy and Robin, sent by their mentors to make contact with kid supervillain the Toyman, and try to bring him on-side. Loeb picks up on plot threads in Geoff Johns’ ‘Teen Titans’, with the two sidekicks keeping a secret from their mentors. Loeb also captures the relationship between the characters as Johns writes it, and gets their voices spot on.

As well as respecting the work of other writers, Loeb also writes to the strengths and preferences of his artists. In some cases this has proven a disadvantage – certain stories in Loeb’s run on ‘Superman’ seemed written specifically to allow Ed McGuinness to draw certain things, regardless of the strength of the concept (the dreadful retro Krypton arcs being the most grievous examples). The guest artist on this issue is Pat Lee, head man of Dreamwave Productions and prime (no pun intended) architect of the ‘Trans Formers’ comics revival. While there’s a definite manga feel to Lee’s artwork, it’s very different to the slick, animation-cel linework and colours of the ‘Trans Formers’ books. The inks are heavier, the linework more organic. The whole effect is inkier and moodier, less mechanical, than the giant robots. However, this isn’t a complete break with tradition, as Loeb has hit some manga bases in his script, with a Japanese setting and a few big mecha for good measure.

And, yes, the two young heroes have to jump into giant robot battlesuits to save the day. It’s an achievement on Loeb’s part that this doesn’t seem jarring, and springs naturally out of the Toyman premise. Lee’s artwork covers the credibility gap – it’s unusual to see DC heroes rendered in such a non-western style, but it works here. DC deserve credit for finding room for novel interpretations of these characters, and it’s a testament to the strength of the concepts that they work with such heavy reinterpretation.

Even when dealing with secondary characters, this remains a distinctly A-list book. Hopefully Loeb will continue to deliver big, inventive stories, and DC will keep assigning major art talent to the book. Nothing would kill the series faster than padding it out with filler material. This issue, while something of a diversion from the big multi-part storylines, maintains the quality we’ve come to expect from this series.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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