New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books; explaining, reviewing, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium.
In these past 48 hours, we’ve had the anniversary of both Batman Begins (today) and Man of Steel (yesterday). As such, a celebration of both characters is in order, and so what better comic to read than Superman/Batman?
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Ed McGuinness
Collects: Superman/Batman #1-6
WHAT’S THE STORY?
Superman and Batman are two of the most famous superheroes going. They’re also two of the earliest to appear on the scene.
While the pair did appear in the Justice Society-led All-Star Comics #7 in 1941, their first proper meeting came over a decade later in Superman #76, published in 1952. Through sheer happenstance, both Batman and Superman, in their civilian identities of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, respectively, end up on the same cruise ship and are forced to share a room due to lack of space. What are the odds!
Through multiverse-mumbo-jumbo and DC’s infinite amount of ‘Crisis’ stories, the Batman and Superman who appeared in All-Star Comics became the Batman and Superman of Earth-2, allowing for the Superman #76 meet-up to be the proper first meeting of their Earth-1 counterparts (as in, the ones we follow in mainstream comics).
This sort of tomfoolery by DC would mean the two heroes would meet for the ‘first’ time many more times to come.
A few years later, the pair would become a proper team. As they both appeared in a comic called World’s Finest, which was in need of some pages being cut, editors decided to do away with the anthologies therein and replace them with a team-up feature, allowing for the pair to work together on the regular.
The pair remained firm friends until the eighties when a new take on their relationship was presented by Frank Miller in his iconic series The Dark Knight Returns. Featuring a retired Batman getting back into the game, the comic culminates in a titanic clash between Batman and his old-friend-turned-government-lackey Superman. This would later serve as the basis for a lot of the 2016 Zack Snyder film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Around the same time as the release of The Dark Knight Returns, DC was continuing to fiddle away with their continuity, effectively rebooting a lot of their universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Post-Crisis, revised origins and stories were put out to tidy up DC’s timeline, allowing for yet another ‘first meeting’ between Batman and Superman.
This time, the meeting came in the pages of the new Superman origin book, Man of Steel. From here on out, Batman and Superman were no longer best buds who could never find fault in one another, but rather friends with highly different ideologies. While they would still team up frequently, fights between them, which was more or less unheard of Pre-Crisis, were now not outside of the norm.
World’s Finest, rather than being a long-running series featuring frequent team-ups, now became a series of miniseries, published throughout the nineties.
But eventually, the two would reunite for more regular escapades. Three years after the last run of World’s Finest, Batman and Superman reunited under the pen of Superman-scribe Jeph Loeb in Superman/Batman.
The series would run 87 issues until the universe was rebooted once more in Flashpoint.
Post-Flashpoint, the two’s team-up title would be called Batman/Superman, while Worlds’ Finest was given over to Power Girl and Huntress, their daughters (kind-of) from another universe (the apostrophe was moved to the other side of the ‘s’ to play up that point).
But for now, we’re sticking with the Leob stuff.
Real Name: Kal-El
Affiliation: The Justice League
First Appearance: Action Comics #1 (April 1938)
Born on the planet Krypton, ‘Clark Kent’ was sent to the planet Earth by his father, Jor-El, who feared their home planet’s destruction, but in their hubris, his peers would not listen to his warnings. Crash-landing on Earth, Clark was found by farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, who instilled in Clark strong beliefs in ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’. Under the Earth’s yellow sun, Clark developed miraculous powers of strength, speed, invulnerability, flight, enhanced senses and ‘heat-vision’ which he used to combat injustice from the likes of vile businessman Lex Luthor and other criminals around the globe. Wanting to stay close to the action, in his civilian identity, Clark took a job at the Daily Planet, where he used his knack for writing to report on his adventures as Superman, and met his wife and the mother of his child, Lois Lane.
Real Name: Bruce Thomas Wayne
Affiliation: The Justice League
First Appearance: Detective Comics #27 (March 1939)
As a child, Bruce Wayne wanted for nothing – the son of some of the wealthiest and most respected people in Gotham City, Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce was, in essence, heir to the throne of Gotham. But all that changed when Bruce’s parents were gunned down in front of him, instilling in him a deep hatred for criminals that would hang over his entire life. Committing himself to become skilled in multiple disciplines such as combat and detective work, Bruce used the wealth and resources of the company he inherited from his father to become the vigilante known as the Batman. A figure of fear, Bruce now wages a war against crime with his trusty Batmobile and high-tech armoury of weapons, assisted by his loyal butler and father-figure Alfred, police commissioner Jim Gordon and his extended ‘Bat-family’ of sidekicks like Robin.
WHAT’S THE PLOT?
After teaming up against the supervillain Metallo, Superman and Batman become the targets of a huge bounty.
The Earth is in danger of being destroyed by a Kryptonite meteor, and the United States government is blaming Superman, leading metahumans of all shapes and sizes come out of the woodwork to collect.
Whether that be a horde of supervillains, government-sponsored heroes like Captain Atom and Power Girl, or members of the Justice Society such as
Captain Marvel Shazam and Hawkman, Batman and Superman have a gauntlet ahead of them… One destined to end in a final showdown between Superman and the President of the United States himself, Lex Luthor!
(Should have probably mentioned this in the ‘What’s the story’ but yeah, Lex Luthor is the President at this point in time).
We’ve mentioned some pretty seminal comics leading up to this here review. The Dark Knight Returns, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Highly respected comic-books. Deep, poignant and important in their own ways.
In comparison, Superman/Batman: The World’s Finest (also known by the name Public Enemies) is a lot simpler.
Bright costumes, exaggerated bodies and lots of punching, it’s not exactly high-brow comic-book entertainment.
And yet, in that regard, it’s also a lot more entertaining than those aforementioned comics. I’ve not read The Dark Knight Returns in a while, but compared to Crisis on Infinite Earths, this comic has a lot more forward momentum. I’m not saying it’s better, per se, and it has less of an impact on the overall narrative of DC comics history for sure, but I’d much rather read this than Crisis.
It’s light and breezy, packed with cameos, and makes for a very entertaining read. It’s superheroes being superheroes; dealing with goofy superhero problems like supervillains, time travel, fights with other heroes and saving lives.
It’s got quite a lot of content packed in here, not always to the story’s benefit, but overall, it makes for enjoyable entertainment, even if it does get a touch ridiculous at times.
A particular strength is the concurrent internal monologues, highlighting the contrast between the two titular heroes and what they represent. The challenges they face are fitting for heroes of their stature, and while it throws in a ton of action to keep readers entertained, it also never loses focus from the most important facets of each character, and unlike their theatrical team-up, Dawn of Justice, has a plot that actually makes sense as to why these two heroes would share a story.
Furthermore, it really highlights how well these two work together, despite their differences. Many writers, kicking off a Batman/Superman crossover, would default to making them fight, but here Leob instead chooses to focus on these two upholding certain heroic standards, and proving why they are the best of the best.
There are better Superman and Batman comics out there for sure. But if you want something light-hearted (well, as light-hearted as things tend to get with Batman in the picture), that gives you more exposure to the DC Universe than their solo titles normally would, then I would heartily recommend picking up Superman/Batman.