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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DC Comics’ Batman/Superman #28, released last week, introduced a new creative team and separated the series from the Truth and Justice storylines previously woven through all the titles featuring the Man of Steel. ComiConverse’s Superman correspondent, T. Kyle King, brings you up to speed on the debut of writer Tom Taylor and penciller Robson Rocha.
For months, Batman/Superman has been tied to the Action Ace’s adventures in other books as part of an overarching plot. With Universe’s Finest, Taylor and Rocha provide a fresh start to the Metropolis Marvel and the Darknight Detective, getting back to basics with a superpowered Clark Kent in a cape and a driven Bruce Wayne in a cowl.
The lunar space station is damaged by an unexplained impact. After rescuing the astronauts aboard the orbiting observatory, Superman traces the trail to the surface of the moon, where he discovers the cause of the collision: the dead body of an oversized reptilian alien. The Man of Tomorrow calls in Batman to help him find answers.
Working together as an uneasy team, they use Superman’s Kryptonian powers and Batman’s investigating skills to figure out that the alien was killed by someone who wanted the death to appear accidental. The duo also discerns that outsiders are watching them before determining that the mysterious visitor had been bringing word of a shocking discovery from uncharted space.
It has been a while since we have seen a Bruce Wayne who knew he was Batman in a current comic alongside a Superman the world didn’t know was Clark Kent, so much credit belongs to Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn for providing a straightforward cover that sets the stage for an old-school adventure.
Once readers have been lured inside the issue, Taylor and Rocha make certain to hold the audience’s attention. Fans find themselves 50 kilometers above the moon and traveling at 3,579 miles per hour in the first two panels. The lunar space station is struck on the second page, an astronaut recites what she is sure will be her last words on the third, and we see through her eyes on the fourth as she beholds the source of her salvation: Superman, in flight in space with his eyes aglow.
Tom Taylor, you had me at heat vision.
Despite his natural (and quite understandable) bias in favor of the Man of Steel – Taylor refers to Batman/Superman as Superman/Batman “because Superman is my guy” – the writer does not sell the Caped Crusader short, as he takes us from the lunar surface to Gotham City so we can see a determined Batman saving Jim Gordon from the rampaging Clayface.
The separate establishing sequences effectively reorient the reader’s mindset. A caped Clark professes to be “a big fan” of the space station commander and exits the airlock in a blur of red and blue after politely telling the astronauts, “Excuse me.” A grim Bruce then blasts out from inside the malleable Arkham escapee’s innards before calmly commanding the commissioner: “Jim. Run.” The actions are simple and the words are few, but further explanations are unnecessary, and we are just happy to be back with the Batman and Superman we know.
It is only when they share page space, though, that they really begin to shine. The Man of Steel drifts downward, floating in the air above Gotham while the Dark Knight does battle. “You know I don’t like to get in your way”, Superman gingerly offers when initiating conversation. Batman’s response is matter-of-fact: “Then don’t.” Since time is a factor, Clark effortlessly incapacitates Clayface with a blast of freeze breath, prompting Bruce to grouse, “If I needed your help, I’d ask.” Comes the Kryptonian’s rejoinder: “No. You wouldn’t.”
While I understand the complaint that Taylor’s Caped Crusader is overly moody, I liked the contrast between the characters. The hero who emerged from a cornfield in Kansas exhibits the middle American manners he was taught on a Smallville farm, while the detective who arose from the ashes of a double-murder in Crime Alley is as fixated on the job at hand and unfocused upon social niceties as existence in the dystopian Art Deco landscape of Gotham City demands. At worst, Taylor slightly exaggerates the characters’ essential attributes for emphasis, but their interplay here seems well suited to the restorative first chapter in which their competitive friendship is renewed.
The artwork underscores the fact that the titular heroes’ inherent opposition makes them attractive as a team. The cover contrasts a nearly monochromatic Darknight Detective surrounded by black bats with a primary-colored Last Son of Krypton soaring amidst white doves. Inside Batman/Superman #28, Bruce is all deep greys and dark shadows, even in an armoured spacesuit giving off lens flares, and Clark invariably is bathed in brightness, even against the inky backdrop of space. Rocha’s responsibilities in this issue include depicting a wide variety of settings, characters, and gadgets, and he acquits himself well from the tiniest of details to the grandest of scales.
If Universe’s Finest isn’t overly subtle, it is only because Taylor was tasked with the duty to bring back the familiar forms of the historic heroes, pose a mystery whose resolution plays to each of their strengths, provide a peek at the villains behind the plot, and close with a cliffhanger reveal to set the stage for what comes next, as well as to accomplish all this without ever lacking action. Given those objectives, and the effectiveness with which each was met, I was impressed with his deftness of touch.
Batman/Superman #28, in short, is a solid beginning for Taylor’s and Rocha’s run on the book. Whether the series’ new writer-penciller combination proves to be the world’s finest duo remains to be seen, but it’s a good start.
Let us know what you thought of the new creative team’s initial issue by joining in the ComiConversation taking place in the comments!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
The world’s finest heroes get a welcome reset in the new creative team’s solid start.