***It’s easy to put Batman and Superman against one another, as they’re so different. But those who truly understand them know that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are better together! “Best of Batman & Superman” celebrates their best moments as a team!***
TITLE: Superman/Batman #1
AUTHOR: Jeph Loeb
ARTISTS: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines (Inker), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL COVER PRICE: $2.95
RELEASED: Fall 2003
By Rob Siebert
It’s hard to believe this issue is creeping up on 20 years of age. And yet, among Batman and Superman stories, it’s a timeless classic.
If I could bring one person back to work on Superman and Batman, seperate or together, it would be Jeph Loeb. He understood both characters, and cut to their core better than almost any of his peers. That’s why, in the early 2000s, DC tapped Loeb and his former Superman collaborator Ed McGuinness to work on an all new title featuring the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight: Superman/Batman.
Loeb would do more than 25 issues of Superman/Batman, roughly half of which were with McGuinness. Almost all of them were great. But the book’s inaugural issue, Superman/Batman #1, delivered pure magic. You’ll won’t find a better example of why these two characters are better working together than against each other.
The series is narrated by both characters simultaneously. Thus, we get duel perspectives on the events of the story. Loeb makes perfect use of this tool right out of the gate, as our heroes narrate their origins in alternating sequences (shown below).
Loeb, McGuinness, and the team start out with dueling sequences in which Superman and Batman narrate their origins. What’s brilliant about this is that it showcases not just the differences between these two characters, but their similarities. Yes, they have different methods and demeanors. But its this common ground that ultimately brings them together. These are two heroes born of tragedy, who used that tragedy to forge their identities for the betterment of mankind. That mutual desire to better the world serves as the foundation of every Superman/Batman story we’ve ever seen.
Our main antagonist for the issue (though not the story at large) is Metallo, a machine with the brain of John Corben, and a heart of pure Kryptonite. Coming out of the opening sequence we get a fight between he and Superman in Metropolis. We then jump to Gotham City Cemetery, where Batman is examining Corben’s grave.
Here we get a great little moment between our heroes. One of my favorites in the entire six-issue story. Superman talks about going through Corben’s files at S.T.A.R. Labs, and speculating about his actions of late. Batman asks, “Which one of us is the detective again?”
Superman replies with a line I absolutely love: “It’s called investigative journalism.”
I love this moment because it illustrates that while Superman isn’t the detective Batman is, he’s not just some brute with super powers. Writers like to emphasize that Batman is the brains of the team, while Superman is the braun. But the best writers are the ones who show us it’s not as simple as that. Superman is perfectly capable of putting on a detective hat, just as Batman can hold his own against some of Superman’s more powerful enemies.
We’re reminded of that moments later as Metallo attacks, shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. And of course, he falls directly into John Corben’s exhumed grave. After briefly incapacitating Metallo, Batman goes to work trying to extract the bullet. Loeb provides us with another great little moment as we get this little exchange…
Batman: “Do me a favor, Clark. Lose the sense of humor.”
Superman: “Do us both a favor, Bruce. Buy a sense of humor.”
We get a cliffhanger for next issue as Metallo then proceeds to dump a mountain of dirt on top of our heroes, burying them alive. Then to close the issue, we go to the Pentagon and President Lex Luthor. We’ve got a crisis on our hands, as an asteroid made of Kryptonite is headed for Earth. To complicate matters, President Luthor has recruited his own team of heroes…
Visually, the issue is gorgeous. Everything is bright, crisp, and clean. Ed McGuinness’ superhero figures are always jacked beyond belief. Practically every muscle in both Superman and Batman’s bodies are bulging for display. It’s not my favorite style choice. But it works for McGuinness in a cartoony, popcorn-flick sort of way.
Simply put, this issue has it all. Action. Drama. Beautiful art. Character exploration. Character origins. It’s appealing to fans, but 100% accessible even if you’ve never picked up a comic book before. What’s more, it’s the first chapter in one of the best Batman & Superman stories ever told.
Now that’s how you kick off a series.
Email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check us out on Twitter.