Superman/Batman #9 Review

Reviewer: Iain Burnside
Story Title: The Supergirl from Krypton: Part Two – Visitor

Written by: Jeph Loeb
Penciled by: Michael Turner
Inked by: Michael Turner
Colored by: Peter Steigerwald
Lettered by: Richard Starkings
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics

If you know my opinion of Jeph Loeb (and if you don’t then check this out) then this will be a rather shocking admission on my part, but here goes. I know what I hate and I don’t hate this. In fact, I quite like it. If you go onto any number of DC message boards at the moment then you will see message after message of people berating Loeb, Turner, Waid, Didio and anyone else in their sights about the hazy continuity that Superman currently occupies. Birthright may or may not be an official updating of his origin, Supergirl may or may not have appeared in some previous incarnation, certain stories may or may not have actually happened, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah, whatever… Get over it, people. A wise man once said that “This is an imaginary story. Aren’t they all?” I feel that is quite apt. It may be easy for me to say this as I have never been particularly attached to the Superman books, so I don’t feel any pangs of regret that some obscure books from years ago are no longer canon. All I know is that for the first time ever I am interested in Big Blue, and getting new readers such as myself on board is all DC is after.

Strangely enough, Superman/Batman is not the title that interested me in Superman. I picked it up originally as a Batman fan and realised it was awful by issue #2. Cursed by a chronic inability to stop collecting a book mid-arc, I made it through the first six and was plotting my escape. However, the fact that Pat Lee was doing artwork for issue #7 kept me around for another month out of morbid curiousity. If you saw the issue you will realise this was justifiably so. By this point I had naturally heard about Michael Turner coming onboard, Supergirl returning, Birthright apparently being ‘official’, the debuts of the new Superman creative teams, etc., etc. So I foolishly signed myself up for another arc. At the end of issue #8, I felt… displeased. That is the polite version. However, finally, FINALLY, with issue #9, Jeph Loeb has crawled out of the creative rut he has been in for the past couple of years and given me a comic book that doesn’t make me want to slap him with a large fish!

Perhaps it was the continuing brilliance of Michael Turner’s art that has shoved the veritable poker up Loeb’s ass, perhaps not. What I do know is that this book has one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen. I could sit and revel in its simplistic splendour for hours but I won’t because that’s just a bit weird, really. Still, the thought was there and that’s what matters. And Supergirl, Kara, whoever or whatever she is, she looks cute as a button. I could have done without the predilection for thongs but then she is a female comic book character so I suppose it is inevitable. Still, are there no women in the DCU who would prefer some simple cotton knickers? And why does Superman have such a large package? Is it powered by the Sun? And why am I focusing so much on the underwear issue? Answers on a postcard…

One of the biggest problems I have had with this title so far is a blatant lack of vision. Major plot points are brought up one issue and then just left for no adequately explained reason, e.g. Metallo’s apparent involvement in the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Major twists in the narrative occur off-camera just for the hell of it, e.g. Superman & Batman defeating Hawkman & Captain Marvel and taking their outfits. This time around things are a hell of a lot more coherent. We finally get an issue that adequately explains what came last month, answering just enough of the questions the audience has and leaving a bit more mystery for later on. It’s basic storytelling and thank goodness Loeb has finally remembered to pay attention to these minor details. We even get a little bit of in-house continuity here, as we discover the Krypton meteor heading toward Earth from the last arc was actually coming here due to Kara’s ship – encased inside it – homing in on Kal-El.

As Batman points out, this means that Luthor was not lying about the meteor. It is interesting to note that Superman does not seem to be bothered about this little fact, not even when Batman reminds him that Darkseid played a major part in the meteor plot. Despite the fact that he has previously flipped out big-time over endangering the Earth by his mere presence (or has he? Birthright! Birthright!) this doesn’t seem to particularly bother him as he is consumed by Kara coming into his life. In this respect, Loeb’s increasingly irritating habit of writing separate inner-dialogue boxes for both characters actually pays off. Superman is ecstatic about this development and seems uninterested in the details. Batman is paying way too much attention to them and just cannot bring himself to welcome Kara into their world. Whether it is intentional or not, this is a clever parody of the DCU fanbase and their extremely polar, knee-jerk reactions to having a new Supergirl on the block. Loeb has also severely trimmed the number of thought boxes he has scattered across the pages, which is a welcome relief. In the past few issues they distracted from the actual dialogue itself. That’s yet another cardinal no-no you’ve taken care of, Jeph. Congrats!

So, what of this Kara Zor-El? Well, like I said, I have no particular fondness for any of the previous Supergirl incarnations so I am essentially starting from scratch with this one. I have to admit – thong issues aside, I like her. Just like most teenagers, her reactions are taken to the extremes. First comes her utter terror at being chased throughout the Fortress of Solitude by a rather grouchy Krypto (FYI – my least favourite part of the DCU by a mile), then comes an incredibly well-drawn pouting as Batman sternly tells her to go back to her quarters. From there onwards we get her frustration and anger at Batman’s utter refusal to believe her story to the thrill of being introduced to this Earth thing called “shop-ping”. This is swiftly followed by utter awe and dawning realization of the role that both she and Kal must play on this planet as we enter a rather odd finale that could prove to either be really stupid or quite cool depending on what happens next month. All in all, we may not find out the definite truth about Kara one way or the other for a while yet but you would have a hard time disliking the character based on what we see here.

So, that’s actually two thumbs up for a Jeph Loeb comic. What’s more, I found Chuck Austen’s New X-Men #156 to be acceptable too. Somewhere, somehow, Satan is skating to work…

P.S. David Carradine’s explanation of Superman in Kill Bill vol. 2 is totally off the mark. Just had to get that off my chest.