Overview

Superman/Batman #17

Review

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Superman/Batman #17

Credits

  • Words: Jeph Loeb
  • Art: Carlos Pacheco
  • Inks: Jesus Merino
  • Colors: Laura Martin
  • Story Title: Absolute Power, Chapter 4 of 5
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.95
  • Release Date: Feb 2, 2005

As “Absolute Power” nears an end, Loeb’s story hurtles forward with a characteristic style that hits first and resolves plot points later.

Superman/Batman is perhaps best enjoyed in the context of a Saturday afternoon matinee. You buy your popcorn, enjoy some high adventure and some wild storytelling and you leave the theater thinking you got your money’s worth even if the plot doesn’t always make sense. This is what Jeph Loeb seems determined to give us in the monthly pages of Superman/Batman. So the best thing to do is try to enjoy it for what it is. Right?

So let’s assume we’re all onboard for the current ride, in which the evil adult counterparts of the Legion of Superheroes from the 30th century have traveled back in time to change history. Thus, Saturn Queen, Cosmic King, and Lightning Lord write themselves into history as the new parents of Batman and Superman, creating a totalitarian future with the boys in charge as fascist rulers. Bats and Supes figure out something’s wrong, do some time-travel of their own and try to set things right. But in a moment of uncharacteristic passion, Batman prevents the murder of his own parents, creating a new timeline in which Batman never existed.

The fact that the Lazarus Pit is featured in this issue is appropriate since Loeb’s recent writing is like his own personal Lazarus Pit for reviving odd bits of plots and characters that have been collecting dust in the very darkest corners of the DC universe. Sometimes, this can be effective, like the novel idea of involving the all-but-forgotten Legion and making use of them to tell a new story. At other times, however, it seems like Loeb simply isn’t happy unless the pages of the book are crammed to the gills with short appearances from an army of guest-stars that usually have to be identified with narration in order to job a reader’s memory. Case in point, the inclusion of Sgt. Rock and the Blackhawks in this issue.

But again, let’s assume you’re cool with this. The twist at the end of last issue asked a good question: what would the world be like if there was no Batman? And there are some nice touches as Superman explores the world and learns the answer to that question. There is an especially good scene where we get to see what some of the iconic parts of the Batman mythos become in the absence of actual Batman.

But that’s over all too soon, as Loeb barely pays lip service to the consequences of such an important action. We don’t even get through an entire single issue before the problem of Bruce not being Batman is resolved and even then, it doesn’t really make sense how Clark is able to convince a Bruce that never saw his parents die or resolve to fight evil to put on a conveniently-available Batsuit and just be Batman again. And how exactly does this never-been-Batman Bruce suddenly have all the knowledge and skills of the regular Batman?

Maybe this isn’t important. Maybe Superman/Batman should be more accurately compared to a contemporary summer blockbuster than an old-time matinee. It doesn’t all have to make perfect sense, perhaps. We’re mucking about with the very fabric of space and time, after all. Crazy stuff can happen! Meanwhile, there’s action! So, so much action! You will perchance explode from the sheer thrill of it all! Eat that popcorn and enjoy yourself, mate!

In that regard, the comic never fails to deliver. Carlos Pacheco deserves a lot of credit for that, since his artwork lives up to the all-important task of keeping the story moving at its breakneck pace with big muscles, things that explode, and beautiful women around whenever possible. The third penciler in 17 issues of this title, Pacheco also accomplishes the laudable feat of keeping the overall look and feel of the book consistent. Plus, the panel of certain people emerging from the Lazarus Pit in the final pages is a stunning visual all on its own.

This is a popular book, but that’s no excuse to get sloppy on the story. Two of comicdom’s biggest heroes deserve a narrative with a little focus and a slower pace in their teamed-up adventures. As long as Bats and Supes have been around, I think they’ve proven they can sustain it.

- Jesse Vigil

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