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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Batman/Superman #29 was released this week, and the second issue of Tom Taylor’s tenure as writer of DC Comics’ team-up title continued the action-packed early adventure pairing a wary Man of Steel with a skeptical Darknight Detective. ComiConverse’s Superman Correspondent, T. Kyle King, is here with his review of The Lost Kryptonian.
Aided by artists Robson Rocha and Julio Ferreira, Taylor has taken readers of Batman/Superman #29 back to a time when Bruce Wayne wore a cowl, Clark Kent wore a cape, and neither hero was fully trusting of the other. After a solid start in the previous issue, Taylor and his team built on that momentum with a successful follow-up in The Lost Kryptonian.
Batman and Superman are joined on the moon by the father of the giant reptilian murder victim, who has come to retrieve the body of his late interstellar-exploring daughter. The superheroes surreptitiously slip aboard the alien’s ship and speak to him using a universal translator. They learn that their host’s daughter, Mylara, made her startling discovery in “scorch space”, in which a super-sun generates heat too great to sustain life.
Superman flies ahead to investigate while Batman remains aboard the oversized alien’s starlight-powered spaceship. The Action Ace, overcoming the withering heat of scorch space and the defenses of the solar-shielded interlopers encamped there, rescues the elderly bearded Kryptonian they have imprisoned. The Caped Crusader spends this time piecing together clues, confirming his disturbing conclusions as Lobo arrives, intent upon collecting a bounty for killing Batman. Bruce issues a warning to Clark, but the revelation reaches him too late.
Are you kidding me?
Re-read the first sentence of the synopsis; if that set-up didn’t reach right out and grab you, we may simply have to agree to disagree about what makes a good superhero comic book. With DC Comics on the verge of Rebirth, the purest distillations of the Man of Steel are appearing in titles ancillary to his central storyline. To the iconic champion of Dan Jurgens’s Superman: Lois and Clark and the insightful quirkiness of Max Landis’s Superman: American Alien may now be added the balanced amalgamation of Tom Taylor’s portrayal, which draws judiciously from various eras in a well-blended throwback adventure.
Rocha’s and Ferreira’s images, emboldened by Blond’s colors, bring out the best in Taylor’s script. There is much subtlety in the facial expressions and physical movements of the titular twosome, but a good many of the artists’ nuanced touches might be missed on an initial read-through. The boldness of the plot points and the vastness of the stage on which the story plays out give the vibrant artwork a degree of immensity even when confined to tiny panels, so it is easy to overlook such fine details as the perfectly played glances exchanged between the characters.
As in the previous issue, the banter between Batman and Superman highlights the distinctions between them and does justice to both heroes. Even in the midst of a rapid succession of story developments, the snappy patter leavens the worsening circumstances with lighthearted humor. Clark’s innocent suggestion of a code word for Bruce to use so no one else will know when he is asking for help and the Dark Knight’s deadpan declaration that the Metropolis Marvel is “better at talking to giant lizards” provide genuine moments of comedy without slowing the hurtling momentum of the drama.
Although the look of Batman/Superman #29 is decidedly modern in the most favorable of ways, Taylor has reached back to the Silver Age to concoct a space-based plot filled with aliens, big weird ideas, and an odd couple pairing of DC’s flagship characters. Even the name of the alien murder victim who started this story into motion by conveying a message about a Kryptonian, Mylara, is suggestive of one of the Silver Age’s ubiquitous “L.L.”s: Kal-El’s birth mother, Lara Lor-Van.
The Lost Kryptonian, though, has depth and darkness to a degree seldom seen in the Silver Age. Although that era certainly had its pathos, Batman/Superman #29 features bloodshed and betrayal in the midst of a murder mystery. While Taylor does not take these grittier elements to an unsavory extreme, he does not shy away from these plot points, as evidenced by Yanick Paquette’s suggestively blood-flecked but not gratuitously gory cover.
Recognizing Lobo as a Czarnian and realizing that means the alien assassin “can heal from any damage” inflicted upon him, Batman unsheathes a set of Wolverine-style claws from the gloves of his space armor and slices off the finger his assailant has threatened to jab “right through” the costumed hero. Though a little on the gruesome side, this relatively minor violence is suited to the scene and the seriousness of the situation; given the unfortunately anatomical surname of Bob Kane’s inadequately credited collaborator, there is also a twisted humor to the particular digit that bit the dust.
Even in its more ghastly aspects, though, Batman/Superman #29 is true to the cores of its central characters. Despite announcing with something akin to grim glee the comparative rarity of encountering an opponent “I don’t have to hold back with”, the coldly analytical Bruce susses out the situation and takes the necessary steps with an economy of effort, doing exactly as much damage as circumstances warrant in the dim and drab setting of the spaceship. Clark, on the other hand, charges into the breach with righteous recklessness, undeterred by the solar bursts and laser blasts bathing him in bright whites, blues, yellows, and oranges.
“If what she discovered led to her death,” the alien father asks Batman while the two of them are alone, “you’re not concerned for your friend?” The Caped Crusader answers simply: “No. He’s Superman.”
Yes, he is, and Tom Taylor gets that.
The Lost Kryptonian highlights the defining attributes of two characters who, not coincidentally, made their respective debuts in comics titled Action and Detective. Batman/Superman #29 would be a good story about these heroes in any era, and I am looking forward to the next issue for reasons beyond merely wanting to see the resolution of the cliffhanger ending.
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
This issue contains a variety of elements that are balanced and blended together effectively.