T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Superman may have lost most of his powers and had his secret identity revealed in Truth, but Clark Kent is now fighting back against a complex conspiracy centered around Vandal Savage. This week’s chapter of Justice took place in Batman/Superman #27, which ComiConverse’s Man of Steel writer, T. Kyle King, is here to review.
In an issue released this Wednesday, Superman teamed up with the Batman Family in a straightforward story simply titled Trust. Penned by Greg Pak with artwork by Cliff Richards and Jack Herbert, Batman/Superman #27 wrapped up another part of the Justice arc in the Arctic.
While both Jim Gordon and Clark reflect back on the teamwork exhibited by the fully empowered Superman and the original Batman when the Supremacists attacked Gotham City, the two very different heroes now form an uneasy alliance against Vandal Savage. Batgirl has determined that the artificial sun is connected to the Nazi starship’s weapons, rather than to its engines.
Batman and Superman use the teleporter to invade and partially cripple Vandal Savage’s headquarters. This delays the villain’s eventual arrival in Siberia, where he claims his uranium from the miners and takes his place in the cockpit of the Nazi starship. When Savage attempts to turn the ship’s guns on the superheroes, he learns that Batgirl has rerouted the power to the engines, shooting the ship into orbit. Savage attempts to break free, causing the ship to explode. Gordon and Kent formally introduce themselves to one another by their real names and share a handshake.
The framing flashbacks to Clark Kent in a cape and Bruce Wayne in a cowl form the foundation upon which Pak tells a tale of trust. Forced to choose between stopping the descending Supremacist death machine that would have killed millions and saving the plummeting Jimmy Olsen, Superman had to fly into space to do the job only he could do and, despite his doubts that the Caped Crusader could arrive in time, trust Batman to save his best friend from death.
Jim Gordon, watching from below as a helpless Police Commissioner, admires and aspires to the purity of the superheroes’ blind faith in one another. The Man of Steel, however, was much less certain, and he thanks the Darknight Detective while bashfully explaining his actions. Batman shrugs off the Kryptonian’s choice as no choice at all, heading off into the night while saying: “I’d have done the same thing. And you’d have been there for me.”
Although Superman’s failure to find a way to save both Jimmy and the city does not ring true, this reflection on the series’ original title characters effectively sums up their relationship and causes Clark to consider how far they’ve come “from where we used to be.” At a time when many readers are dissatisfied with the changes to DC Comics’ flagship characters, Pak made the gutsy call to highlight, rather than hide, the differences, even as he is in the course of steering the Man of Steel closer to coming full circle. The issue’s ending underscores this by taking us back once again to the days when the New 52 truly was new and emphasizing the essence of what makes the Caped Crusader and the Action Ace alike.
The division of labor between Richards and Herbert, augmented by Beth Sotelo’s and Wil Quintana’s colors, gives distinctive and appropriate looks to both the earlier adventure and the present action. The fight sequences are well choreographed, and the background scenery sets the stage, from the rooftops of Gotham City to the snowdrifts of Siberia to the technology of Savage’s headquarters.
The focus on the newly humanized Superman’s strained relationship with the newly mechanized Batman crowds out the other characters, as the miners who were so central to the previous issue are virtually absent from Batman/Superman #27, and Grayson and Red Hood spend all their time on the sidelines, commenting on the action like Statler and Waldorf in the balcony on The Muppet Show. Batgirl, while also somewhat marginalized, nevertheless makes maximum use of her limited screen time by playing crucial roles in inspecting and reconfiguring Savage’s Nazi starship, risking harm in springing the heroes’ trap, and nudging the title characters toward their requisite rapprochement.
As with Pak’s other recent effort in Action Comics #47, the need to wrap up plotlines, advance the overarching story, and develop the characters in a course-correcting direction leaves little room for subtlety and makes some sequences feel rushed. Superman’s early explication in Siberia seems a tad too obviously intended to benefit the audience instead of his teammates, and, after months of playing the long game with Vandal Savage, Pak allows this portion of the villain’s plan to be foiled a bit too quickly.
These, though, are comparatively minor concerns in an issue that gets so much of the characters’ core correct. The dichotomy is mildly contrived, as it isn’t particularly clear why Jim Gordon would be so suspicious of Clark Kent that he felt the need to remind the Man of Steel not to let his teammates get killed, but this calls only for a slight suspension of disbelief in the service of the central point.
Slighted by Batman, Superman feels a surge of anger, yet keeps it controlled and silently questions: “But is that what trust depends on? Perfection? Invulnerability?” Deciding that it doesn’t, Clark confesses to the Commissioner that “all I think about is protecting everyone.” Though he cannot guarantee anyone’s safety, the Kryptonian recognizes that “we have to trust each other, or we don’t have any chance at all.”
After that, risks are run, chances are taken, and, through teamwork and trust, the day, ultimately, is saved. While I continue to understand why many Superman fans have grown frustrated with the need to search for the real Man of Steel beneath the false hero produced by Truth, the essential Metropolis Marvel slowly yet steadily has been emerging from his chrysalis of close-cropped hair and a T-shirt. As the storylines of Justice continue converging on their common conclusion, we were given additional cause for hope by Batman/Superman #27.
Let us know your thoughts on Greg Pak’s latest instalment in the comments below! We welcome your contributions to the ComiConversation.
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Greg Pak had a lot to do in this issue, but the theme came through, restoring trust for the characters and readers alike.