Tag Archives: Clark Kent

A Superman #2 Review – Superman Smiles

Superman #2, 2016, Patrick GleasonTITLE: Superman #2
AUTHORS: Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason
PENCILLER: Gleason
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 6, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m aware this series doesn’t mark the first time Superman has smiled in the last five years. But it sure feels like it. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s effort to inject optimism back into the character makes for a refreshing departure from recent attempts to darken him. Truth, justice, hope. Dare I say, love? These are the things we need from Superman in 2016.

The Superman of the pre-New 52 Earth has finally put the cape on again in this new universe. At the same time, his young son Jon is discovering super powers of his own. When we open this issue, the Man of Steel has taken his son to observe him on a routine rescue. But when things go awry, Jon is pulled into the action. Will this new “Superboy” see his run tragically cut short?

In working on Superman, Peter Tomasi has two tremendous advantages over many of his peers. First, he’s inherently good at writing heart-felt stories that highlight the humanity of these iconic, often god-like heroes. As evidence, I direct you to yet another of father and son story by he and Gleason, Batman & Robin: Born to Kill.

Superman #2, Patrick Gleason, family shot, 2016Second, and more importantly, he understands Superman. (I assume Gleason does too. I speak of Tomasi because we’ve obviously seen more of his writing. Gleason has mainly been an artist.) Case in point, our hero saying the following to his son: “It’s not about our powers, or strength, or heat vision. It’s about character. It means doing the right thing when no one else will, even when you’re scared…even when you think no one is looking.”

Yes. A thousand times, yes.

What so many people either don’t understand or don’t appreciate about Superman is the importance of what he stands for. He’s not a boy scout. He’s not a sell out. He’s not an outdated product of a bygone era. It’s not as simple as that. He’s a man with a set of principles, and he acts on those principles in the hopes of making the world a better place. Tomasi understands all of this, and knows it’s critical that Clark and Lois raise Jon with these same principles. As Clark himself says in this issue, Jon may be need to wear the iconic S symbol sooner than later.

It’s very fitting that we’ve re-emphazied these elements in a story that has brought back a previous version of Clark. In a very real sense, this feels like Superman is back.

From an artistic stance, the colors are on point. In particular, John Kalisz’s reds and oranges really pop. Superman’s cape looks fantastic, which makes me miss his red boots even more. There’s also a sequence where Jon is trying to hone his heat vision, and the scene becomes engulfed in an intense red that really brings you into the moment.

Superman #2, 2016, Patrick GleasonIn interviews, I seem to recall Tomasi and Gleason talking about being fathers themselves. In Gleason’s case, that would explain why much of the body language in Superman, as well as Batman & Robin, seems very natural. Not always real, per se. But natural within the context of this world. The panel to the right is my favorite in the issue. That face says a lot. We’ve got patience, compassion, reassurance, protectiveness, and of course, love. Where has this Superman been?

Obviously this new Superman series is meant to be a starting point for new readers. But I maintain that the replacement of the New 52 Superman with the post-Crisis Superman from another universe makes things confusing for new readers. Especially once you get to the end of the issue, where a villain from the post-Crisis era seems to resurface. Mind you, this isn’t Tomasi or Gleason’s fault. And for the record, I’m in favor of this new direction for the Superman books. But this shake-up has come at a price. Picture yourself as a newbie picking up this series. You’d have all kinds of questions about where this Superman came from, what that other universe was like, and where it went. The upside is that might entice one to buy trade paperbacks. But someone on the fence might simply drop the book.

Either way, once you get past the confusion, this is good stuff. Tomasi and Gleason did about 40 issues on Batman & Robin. Obviously Gleason can’t be expected to do that many consecutive issues on a bi-weekly series. But if this team sticks with Superman for the foreseeable future, the smart bet is they’ll deliver quality comics. More often than not, that’s what they do.

Images from readcomics.net.

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A Superman: Rebirth #1 Review – Death and Rebirth

Superman: Rebirth #1, 2016TITLE: Superman: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
PENCILLER: Doug Mahnke
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 1, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman was created to thin out the number of “super” characters in the DCU. The idea was to restore his status as the Last Son of Krypton. Now, more than 30 years later, DC is using this same version of Superman to do the exact opposite. With this character comes a new Superboy, and a new Superwoman. Now that’s what you call, ironic.

The Superman we met when the New 52 launched is dead, having succumbed to Kryptonite poisoning. As the world mourns the loss of the Man of Steel, one man is certain he will return: Clark Kent. That is, the Clark Kent of another Earth, who has hid out on this world along with his wife and son. But Lana Lang isn’t convinced. She also has no idea there’s another Superman on her world. Thus when the two meet, emotions run high.

I’d love to hear someone try to explain the new Superman status quo to a newbie. It’s putting up X-Men numbers in terms of how convoluted it is. That being said, I’m very pleased to see the old Superman back. Why he’s not allowed to have red boots in this new “Rebirth” era is beyond me. But having him back has shaken things up nicely.

doug mahnke, death of supermanIn this issue, Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke acknowledge the elephant in the room in the aftermath of the New 52 Superman’s death. They take us back to The Death of Superman, and we get Mahnke’s take on some of those iconic moments from the fight with Doomsday. Considering how many big event comics Mahnke’s fingerprints have been on in the last decade, there’s something fitting about him getting a crack at this one. Later, we see Clark’s resurrection, and he and Lana even search for a New 52verse version of the regeneration matrix. As a longtime fan, it’s gratifying to see them go back and look at this stuff from a new perspective. I never understood why DC omitted this story from the New 52 continuity. It crossed over into pop culture, and kids who grew up in the early ’90s typically remember it. So why eliminate it?

Clark has an odd line during this issue, when he tells Lana: “…two Clark Kents on two different worlds were very lucky to have Lana Langs in our lives.” They need to be careful with this kind of thing, especially now that we have an infinite multiverse again. The idea that you’ve got an infinite number of Clark Kents on different worlds, some of which might be interchangeable, seems like the kind of thing that could lead to apathy from the audience. What do we care if our main character dies, if we can simply replace him with one from another world?

Clark Kent, Lana Lang, Superman Rebirth #1, 2016Mahnke’s versatility is on display here. On one hand, the flashbacks to the fight with Doomsday are very intense and high-octane. In contrast, we have a scene with Clark at the memorial that’s very somber. We also have scenes with Clark and Lana that, while they have a certain tension, are fairly quiet. But Mahnke manages to stay consistently strong throughout.

With this relaunch, DC has managed to make the Superman books more interesting than they’ve been in years. At face value, at least. How ironic that death winds up being the element that freshens the Man of Steel up a little bit. But who knows? Maybe a little family time is exactly what Superman needs.

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from bleedingcool.com.  

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A Superman: American Alien #6 Review – A Little Slice of Home

Superman: American Alien #6 (2016)TITLE: Superman: American Alien #6
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLERS: Jonathan Case. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 20, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Long story short? This issue gives us more of the same. Great art, good writing, and more out-of-place Batman stuff. Max Landis could be such a great Superman writer if he’d just let go of Batman…

Pete Ross and Kenny Bravermen, two of Clark’s buddies from Smallville, have come to visit him in Metropolis. Understandably, the city has one thing on its mind: Superman. It has at least that much in common with Pete and Kenny. But Clark’s friends have a different perspective on the Man of Steel than anyone in the city. So what do those who know Clark Kent think about his newfound fame?

My single biggest complaint about American Alien has been Landis’ use of Batman. In issue #4 he gratuitously used The Dark Knight, and in issue #5 he established Clark Kent wore Batman’s cape as part of a pre-Superman costume. In this issue, we get a page and a half of Clark and his buddies talking about Batman. Then on the next page, when talking about Clark flying around in a costume, Pete says: “Batman got in your head.”

Superman: American Alien #6, 2016, Jonathan CaseI understand not everyone feels the way I do. But as a fan of both Superman and Batman, I find this offensive. I won’t re-tread ground here. Read the reviews linked above if you’d like my arguments as to why this is so offensive. But sadly, what started as an annoyance has became a major flaw.

What makes it all the more frustrating is that this Batman stuff is stuck in the middle of an otherwise great issue. It gives us what you might expect from a story with two of Clark’s old friends. They look at what he’s become and have reservations, largely because they care about him. And he cares for them too. Landis shines a nice spotlight on both the human and alien qualities that make Superman who he is. What’s more, the dialogue between Clark and his friends feels very natural. That’s something Landis has excelled at from the start.

Penciller Jonathan Case shines in this issue. His style has a retro feel to it that made him a good fit for Batman ’66. But I’d love to see him take a crack at an ongoing Superman title. His art might not be what we’re used to seeing on Superman or Action Comics, but isn’t that the point?

Ryan Sook has been on the covers for this series, and this one is his best yet. What’s so hilarious is that it took me a couple of looks to see Clark Kent in the image. Therein lies the brilliance. This cover is a visual metaphor for Clark Kent’s existence, and how he’s able to stay hidden. No one is looking for Clark Kent. They’re all looking for Superman. And of course, the image is beautifully drawn as well.

Superman: American Alien #6, 2016, Jonathan CaseWe’ve got one issue left of Superman: American Alien. Based on these last three issues, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect. We’ll get some good dialogue, along with some excellent artwork (Jock is on the pencil next month). We’ll also have a sense that our writer truly cares about the Man of Steel, and understands him in a way previous few writers do.

But there’ll also be an infuriating idea in there that drags the whole thing down.

What a shame. What a crying shame.

Images from flickeringmyth.com.

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Best of Batman & Superman: “Super/Bat”

***Batman and Superman are friends. It’s an unlikely friendship, and one that can put them at odds. But ultimately, it’s a friendship based on mutual respect and trust. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on the horizon, we’re going to hear a lot about these two fighting. “Best of Batman & Superman” will show us the opposite end of the spectrum. These are the moments that showed us why Superman and Batman are better friends than enemies.***

Superman/Batman #55, 2008TITLE: Superman/Batman #53#56 (“Super/Bat”)
AUTHORS: Michael Green, Mike Johnson
PENCILLERS: Rags Morales
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL PRICE: $2.99 per issue
RELEASED: October 2008 – March 2009

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Batman with Superman’s powers. It’s a pretty simple concept. It’s not as though we haven’t seen stories where Batman gets super powers. And of course, Superman has lost his powers before. But while “Super/Bat” isn’t perfect, there’s some great character work on display here. Ultimately, that’s been the key to this story’s resiliency over the years. Granted, Rags Morales’ art doesn’t hurt.

After an encounter with Silver Banshee, Superman’s powers have mysteriously been transferred to Batman. But Bruce Wayne is a very different Superman than Clark Kent. Opting to forgo eating and sleeping, Batman devotes his existence to fighting injustice. On the other hand, Clark Kent can now be the average joe he’s always pretended to be. While positives do arise from this predicament, things are going to get ugly…

Superman/Batman #53, Rags Morales, Clark Kent, Bruce WayneGreen and Johnson kick off the story much like Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness started the series at large. We get a splash page split down the middle, with inner monologue from both Superman and Batman, essentially shining a light on their philosophical differences. From there we jump to a museum gathering, as Bruce Wayne is loaning antique armor and weapons to the collection. Rags Morales starts this scene a little too cartoony for my taste, particularly in the above image of Bruce Wayne. Still, Morales is charmingly old school in the way he draws certain characters, particularly Clark Kent. He’s got the classic suit and hat, as if he’s straight out of the ’40s. If you’re a fan of Morales and Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis, there’s an aura of familiarity about this story that’s very welcoming. My only major complaint outside of this initial one is that he Morales gives Superman the “S” spit curl. I HATE the spit curl. There’s a difference between art being cartoony, and making Superman actually look like a cartoon character. The spit curl does the latter.

In issue #54, Zatanna is brought in as Clark is teaching Bruce how to use his powers. Later, Alfred and Robin (Tim Drake) find Bruce handing upside down next to some of the bats in the Batcave, meditating to focus his newly sharpened senses.

Superman/Batman #55, Rags Morales, Suoerman shotFrom there we go to a scene where Clark and Lois Lane ponder his next move. Lois eventually opens Clark’s shirt to find that even without powers, he’s still wearing his Superman uniform. Maybe that’s hokey, but I love it. There’s a pathetic quality about it that’s very fitting of a powerless Superman. But to her credit, Lois sticks by him. Even when Clark gets shot trying to stop a mugging in an alley, much like the one that resulted in the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents…

We also get a sequence where Batman brings down Bane by punching a hole through his stomach. A teary-eyed Dark Knight then floats over Earth teary-eyed over the fact that he can now save everyone. Batman is now a god, at least in his own mind.

And an increasingly violent god, at that. After the Justice League pulls Clark up to their satellite base and heal him with some magic courtesy of Zatanna, they wonder if Bruce’s new powers have effected his mind. Batman, who just happens to be waiting in the wing, then lays into Clark with a rant that hits home for both the characters and the readers.

“You don’t get it. For me it’s not hard at all. You’re always talking about not being human. About how your gifts are a curse. … Your powers aren’t a curse. They’re what I’ve always wanted. To never have to stop. To be everywhere, anytime. To save everyone. I never realized it until now. The responsibility you have. And all you want to be is normal?”

Superman/Batman #55, 2008, Rags Morales, rantThis idea that Superman should always be busy has been floated before. In a world full of so many hazards and dangers, why should an all-powerful superhero ever take a break? Personally, I don’t subscribe to that theory. I think this story refutes it as well as any ever has. One can’t always be so single-minded, even when saving lives. It leads to bad things down the road. Case in point, the very next sequence where Batman has become so detached from reason and humanity that he injures Catwoman, and severely debilitates Nightwing.

Knowing Batman has to be stopped, Alfred give Clark a modified Batsuit with the “S” symbol on it, While the Justice League take on Batman, Superman and Zatanna find Silver Banshee and learn the powers were switched by way of a magic brooch. It grants a person their heart’s desire, but does so at the expense of someone else. When exposed to the brooch, Batman was unknowingly given what he’s always wanted: The power to save everyone.

A short time later, Zatanna creates an illusion of Bruce’s parents that lures him in allows she and Superman to switch the powers back. In the final scene, Batman admits that the powers ultimately cost him his mind, and he credits Superman with thinking tactically the way he normally would. In the end, Clark admits part of him has always wanted a normal life, and Bruce admits he secretly misses the power…

Superman/Batman #56, Rags Morales, Batman, Clark KentI like to think Bruce’s mind wasn’t compromised when he had Clark’s powers. At least not to the point where he had no control over his decisions. It makes a certain amount of sense for Bruce to react the way he did, given all the awful things that have happened to him. His mission is for no one to go through what he did. So why wouldn’t he try to save everyone? That doesn’t make him a bad guy. It just makes him a guy who lost control.

“Super/Bat” is also a great illustration of why Superman is the role Clark Kent was born to play. We see here that while Batman is largely isolated, Superman is a likable guy who cares about his friends, and his friends reciprocate. Even Commissioner Gordon seems rather fond of him. He cares about people. He’s grounded, which ironically makes him deserving of the power of flight.

“Super/Bat” isn’t nearly as well known, or renowned, as The Search For Kryptonite or a lot of the others stuff to come out of that Superman/Batman title. But for my money, it’s one of the better stories starring this duo to come out in the last 10 years. From a character perspective, it’s certainly better than anything we’ve seen since the New 52 reboot.

For more “Best of Batman & Superman,” check out Gotham Knights #27, Superman #165, Man of Steel #3, and Action Comics #654

Image 1 from comic vine.com. Image 2 from batmanytb.com. Images 3 and 4 from comicnewbies.com. 

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A Superman: American Alien #5 Review – The Wrong Cape!

Superman: American Alien #5, Ryan SookTITLE: Superman: American Alien #5
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLER: Francis Manapul. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: March 16, 2016

***Need a refresher? Head back to the beginning with Superman: American Alien #5.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s something about this issue that drives me absolutely nuts. We saw it on the final page of last issue, but it’s plastered all over this one. That’s a damn shame, because in almost every other respect this issue is damn good.

Now an intern at The Daily Planet, Clark Kent is still trying to find his place in the world. For six months, a mysterious “Flying Man” has been a super-powered good samaritan for Metropolis. As Clark’s fellow intern Lois Lane ponders the hero’s motivations, The Parasite makes his first appearance. Now, the Flying Man has no choice but to start communicating not only with the police, but with Lex Luthor…

I understand I may be hung up about this, but it drives me absolutely insane: Clark Kent is wearing Batman’s cape. I talked about this at length last time, but it bears repeating. To me, Superman and Batman have always represented two sides of the same coin. Light and darkness, hope and cynicism, etc. Superman drawing inspiration from Batman implies the latter has a certain wisdom and seniority the former doesn’t, which inherently positions the Dark Knight above the Man of Steel. As a fan, that offends me. Once again, we see Batman is far too central to so much in the DC Universe. It’s what I call “Over-Baturation.”

Superman: American Alien #5, title pageWhat’s more, it ruins a really charming costume. The black “S” shirt and jeans are reminiscent of Superboy’s old look. And the old school pilot headgear has a nice quirkiness to it. The outfit makes sense for a Superman who hasn’t found himself yet, and has simply thrown something together to start his mission. The dark colors also have a cool factor befitting a young adult trying to impress people.

Traditionally, The Parasite isn’t portrayed as a giant. But that’s how we see him in this issue. It suits Landis’ purposes well, and not surprisingly, Francis Manapul is really able to run with it. The explosive moments between Clark and Parasite are really well done, particularly the page when our hero simply grabs the giant by the foot and pulls him through the roof of a building. It’s a tribute to how well-rounded Manapul’s work is that he’s able to pull off both the action sequences, and the more intimate one-on-one scenes between Clark and Lois, with equal amount of finesse. And look at those colors. Wow.

Clark spends much of the issue with Lois Lane. But we also get our first meeting between Clark and Lex Luthor. Like Batman, Luthor is very much the yin to Superman’s yang, but obviously in a different way. So it’s fitting that as Clark is just starting out as a hero, he’s learning from both friends and enemies. We’re seeing portions of Superman’s philosophy and modus operandi molded before our eyes, and it’s true to the essence of the character.

Superman: American Alien #5, Francis ManapulThe exchanges between Clark and Lois are the strongest I’ve seen in awhile. Landis gives them a nice chemistry that has a certain modern vibe without coming off as obnoxious. I imagine that’s what a lot of fans are looking to Max Landis for. He’s made it clear he’s passionate about Superman, and he obviously has his share of ideas. Now he has an outlet for some of them, and at times they’ve been very refreshing.

Portions of American Alien have been extremely annoying. But I can’t deny it’s been a worthwhile read thus far. Landis’ heart is in the right place. I get the sense he understands Superman in a way that few writers do. In that sense, when you open one of these issues, the battle is already half won.

Image 1 from gamespot.com. Image 2 from author’s collection.

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A Superman: American Alien #4 Review – Playing the Batman Card

Superman: American Alien #4, 2016TITLE: Superman: American Alien #4
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLER: Jae Lee. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: February 18, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Superman: American Alien #4.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ugh. Max Landis, you were doing so well. I’d never have pegged such a good writer who cares so much about Superman to make such a textbook mistake.

You played the Batman card. Hell, you even played the Dick Grayson card! Not to mention the Oliver Queen card! What the hell, bro?

Shortly after moving to Metropolis, Clark Kent wins a student essay contest run by The Daily Planet. As such, he gets to attend the Cerberus Summit, a meeting of the three most important young businessmen in America: Oliver Queen, Lex Luthor, and Bruce Wayne. During his time at the summit, Clark gets some quality time with both Queen and Luthor. But he also gets to interview Bruce Wayne’s young ward, Dick Grayson. This garners the attention of a certain Dark Knight Detective.

Superman: American Alien #4, Batman capeI think I get what Landis was trying to do with Batman here. He was making a point about how Superman and Batman coexist in the same universe, and that Batman wouldn’t always have the upper hand in a fight. I appreciate that mindset. But frankly, I resent Batman’s shadow being cast over half of this issue, when this is supposed to be “an important juncture” in Clark’s development as a person.

On the last page, Clark even tries on Batman’s cape, with the caption reading “…do something big.” As a Superman fan, I find the notion that Batman helped inspire Clark to be a hero as the light to contrast his darkness to be offensive. And for the record, I love Batman as much as anybody. But it would be just as ridiculous the other way around. Picture a scene where Bruce Wayne somehow beats up a young Superman, then tries on his cape and an idea is sparked. Again, we go back to the idea of the DC Universe becoming “Over-Baturated,” with Batman being central to so many crucial events in this universe.

I’m tempted to think this might have been an editorial mandate, what with Batman v Superman coming out next month. But Landis did pitch a gratuitous Batman element in what would have been his Death of Superman story. Following Superman’s fight with Doomsday, Landis would have had Clark spend an extended period of time learning how to fight, courtesy of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. That was needless and disappointing, just like the Batman stuff here is needless and disappointing. Especially coming from Landis, who’s proven he can do so much better.

Lex Luthor, Superman: American Alien #4Less offensive are the appearances of Oliver Queen and Lex Luthor. Mind you, an early Superman/Green Arrow meeting still feels like something we’d see on Smallville. But given what happened with Batman, it’s tough to be cranky about this. Frankly, had Ollie and Lex been our only guest stars, the issue might have been just fine. Landis contrasts the perspectives of the two characters nicely, giving a young Clark something to think about. Queen sees himself as a spoiled rich kid given a chance to use his resources for good, while Lex predictably has a messiah complex. Lois Lane is also in this issue simply to foreshadow, which is something of a waste.

I stand by what I’ve said about Jae Lee being an ill-fit for Superman, his Art Deco-ish style being much more suited for Batman. Still, good art is good art. Lee draws a nice Lex Luthor here, fittingly in a dark and shadowy style typical of Lee. And while Dick Grayson is completely out of place in this story, Lee gives him a nice wisdom beyond his years. Our introduction to Lois Lane is also cool, with her figure drawn in front enlarged text.

Superman: American Alien #4 is a surprising letdown, considering what’s come before has been mostly good. I maintain that Max Landis is a great writer. He went on record saying this issue was supposed to make us think. Sadly, I wasn’t exactly thinking good things…

Image 1 from author’s collection. Image 2 from dangermart.blogspot.com.

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Best of Batman & Superman: Superman #165

***Batman and Superman are friends. It’s an unlikely friendship, and one that can put them at odds. But ultimately, it’s a friendship based on mutual respect and trust. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on the horizon, we’re going to hear a lot about these two fighting. “Best of Batman & Superman” will show us the opposite end of the spectrum. These are the moments that showed us why Superman and Batman are better friends than enemies.***

Superman #165, 2000TITLE: Superman #165
AUTHOR: Jeph Loeb
PENCILLER: Joe Madureira. Cover by Ed McGuinness.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL PRICE: $2.25
RELEASED: December 2000

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Don’tcha hate it when your arch rival becomes President of the United States? Man, that sucks…

We all knew tough times were ahead for Superman after the 2000 presidential election. In one of their wildest stunts, which actually stuck for a few years, DC Comics opted to make Lex Luthor the President of the United States. Naturally, this was a huge blow for the Man of Steel. When he’s written well, Superman is essentially a man of the people. So what does a man of the people do when the people make a potentially catastrophic choice?

For Superman, the answer was turning to those he trusted. Not just his wife, but his friends, colleagues and confidants in the Justice League of America. Superman #123 takes place in the aftermath of Lex’s election, and sees Superman visit with each member of the League. As it’s the holiday season, he gives each one a small gift. This issue is drawn by a number of artists, each of whom pencils a particular encounter. But naturally, we’re focusing on the Superman’s time with Batman, which is drawn by Joe Madureira. The scene is only three pages long. But it’s an interesting glimpse into how the Superman/Batman dynamic works.

Superman #165, Batman, Joe MadurieraClark and Bruce had disagreed about how to handle Luthor running for president. Batman had some even more bad blood than usual with Luthor due to his involvement in the events of the recent No Man’s Land storyline. When it looked like things were turning in Luthor’s favor, Bruce wanted to dig up dirt to use against Lex, whose reputation was squeaky clean in the eyes of the public. But Superman questioned the ethical nature of such a move, and insisted they trust American voters to do the right thing.

Obviously, they didn’t.

The tension between the two is obvious when we open the issue. Batman’s cartoony scowl aside, while all the other meetings started with friendly dialogue, this one begins with silence.

Bats then asks: “Wasn’t it you who said we have to put our faith in the America people to do the right thing?”

Swallowing his pride a bit, Clark then gives Bruce a small magnifying glass (Get it? He’s a detective.), with the words: “This…is from Lois.”

Batman replies with a thank you. Then we get the line that truly makes this exchange special: “When the time is right, we’ll take Luthor down.”

Superman #165, BatmanIn the final panel, after Batman has left, Superman repeats quietly to himself: “When the time is right…”

This may seem fairly small and insignificant. But to me it illustrates the compromise that makes the partnership between these two men work. It’s that balance of optimism and cynicism. Batman wasn’t wrong to be wary the country potentially choosing Luthor. But Superman’s ethical argument wasn’t wrong either. Superheroes shouldn’t necessarily have to stoop to playing dirty. Especially when it comes to politics, which quite frankly, is dirty enough already.

Still, Luthor won, and Superman had to eat crow. But in the end, Bats still trusts Superman enough to work with him in defeating this enemy. And Superman trusts him too, despite their differences.

Clark takes Bruce’s words to heart as the issues ends on the next page (pencilled by Ed McGuinness), as we see Superman and Lois Lane beginning a brief vacation in the Bottle City of Kandor. Tough times are indeed near. But after spending so much time with his confidants, Superman chooses to take some quality time with his closest confidant of all.

Both our heroes look pretty jacked up here, which isn’t really my cup of tea. But as a style choice, it’s fine. The only thing I don’t appreciate here is the aforementioned scowl on Batman’s face, which stays with him the whole issue. That’s not to say he has to get sentimental, or even look particularly happy. But Superman’s expression changes in the scene. So why can’t Batman’s?

On it’s own, this scene stands up just fine. But it’s even better when you consider taking Luthor down is exactly what our heroes do a few years later in another Jeph Loeb story, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. One might consider this scene a nice little prelude to that story. Luther may have gotten himself elected. But in the end, justice came calling.

For more “Best of Batman & Superman,” check out our look at Gotham Knights #27.

Images from author’s collection.

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