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 #30 was released this week, bringing to a close the three-part Universe’s Finest adventure featuring a wary pairing between the Action Ace and the Caped Crusader. ComiConverse’s Man of Steel Correspondent, T. Kyle King, is here to review the tale’s concluding installment.
Writer Tom Taylor and penciller Robson Rocha teamed up to close out the arc that has sent Superman to scorch space, put Batman in a pilfered spaceship, and brought the unlikely duo into contact with giant lizards, Lobo, and an apparent survivor of the death of Krypton. Now that Taylor and Rocha have our collective attention, let’s take a look at Batman/Superman #30.
The wounded and weakened Kal-El awakens in the space station from which he previously freed the elderly alien who later attacked him with a kryptonite knife. Superman learns his assailant is Si Bar, a captive Daxamite who was promised his release in exchange for his aid in apprehending the Last Son of Krypton. Upon learning from Superman that his captors only were willing to let him go because he is terminally ill, Si Bar helps the Man of Steel make his getaway. The Kryptonian and the Daxamite rush to meet up with Batman, who has a plan.
Lobo tracks down his stolen ship using a homing device, asphyxiating the Darknight Detective in the vacuum of space and bearing his body back to the giant lizard creature. There, Batman comes back from the dead to ask the alien why, learning that he used his daughter’s death to lure Superman into scorch space. The Caped Crusader turns out to be the Metropolis Marvel in disguise, and Hal Jordan leads the Green Lantern Corps against the villains after hearing the lizard leader’s confession. Si Bar accompanies the heroes to Earth, where he passes away peacefully.
In the larger context of the DC Universe, the Universe’s Finest trilogy has been an odd animal. Batman/Superman spent months as part of the Truth arc, and the series will be woven into Peter J. Tomasi’s upcoming Super League story before becoming one of the cancellation casualties of Rebirth, but, in the midst of the intervening interregnum, Taylor and Rocha were assigned the task of bridging the gap, evidently without the obligation to tie anything they were doing to anything else DC Comics was doing.
This afforded the temporary creative team the liberty to pull out all the stops, and the resulting story, capped off by Batman/Superman #30, was a joy. Continuity considerations fell by the wayside while the artists simply told a quality superhero story, complete with Silver Age conceits about fighting interstellar space crimes.
Where does this fit into the New 52 timeline?
It’s about to be the Yesterday’s News 52, complete with Action Comics and Detective Comics resuming their historic numbering, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Rocha helms a graphics group that also includes inker Jay Leisten, colorist Blond, and letterer Rob Leigh, who together create a richly textured and nuanced book. From the beak-like nose of the Batman’s profile to the literally explosive anguish of Si Bar, and from the mutilated face of Lobo to the green squish of reptilian flesh foolishly misused to accost Superman, Rocha and his cohorts deliver varied imagery with distinctive subtleties that nevertheless possesses a consistent style that makes it all look effortless.
The superb visuals complement Taylor’s strong writing. The far-reaching pieces of the plot’s complex puzzle ultimately fit together, and there are some nice revelations along the way. It makes perfect sense that Si Bar, who shares Superman’s powers and speaks Kryptonian but is impervious to green kryptonite, is a Daxamite (and, perhaps, one who is based on the similarly named crazy uncle from Duck Dynasty). Calling in the cavalry, in the form of the Green Lantern Corps, also adds up, and it provides a nice exchange between Bruce Wayne, who’s “working through” his inability to ask for assistance, and Hal Jordan, who briefly fears that the Guardians have given Batman a power ring so the test pilot can be replaced.
Having devoted much of the previous two issues to emphasizing the differences between the two heroes, Taylor cleverly highlights what unites them by having Superman don Batman’s costume without letting the reader learn the plan before it is unveiled to the villains. We think it is Bruce Wayne who asks the sinister lizard, “Why did your daughter have to die?” before snarling in response to the evil overlord’s callous answer: “No life is nothing.” The lines are credible coming from the Dark Knight, but they read equally sincerely coming from Clark Kent, which effectively underscores the heroic qualities they have in common.
Because Taylor was limited to a three-issue run, parts of Batman/Superman #30 feel hurried, but, on the whole, the tale is well paced. The allocation of the final three pages of Universe’s Finest to the sun setting on Si Bar’s dying day was a judicious use of space, and the creators wisely choose not to overdo either the words or the pictures. The result is an understated and powerful conclusion that leaves us with the sun-strengthened Man of Tomorrow and the shadow-skulking Darknight Detective in harmony as a balanced partnership sitting astride the dividing line separating daylight from darkness.
The creators are careful to make each hero an equal contributor to the team, but Superman fans specifically will be pleased with Taylor’s treatment of the Man of Steel. Much of the weird wild wackiness of the Silver Age was in response to the limitations imposed by the era’s mundane live-action pseudo-superhero TV show, and Universe’s Finest similarly provides an exuberant counterpoint to the earthbound grittiness that weighed down much of Truth.
Nowhere in the three-issue arc is that more apparent than it is one-third of the way into Batman/Superman #30. His powers reduced through a wound inflicted by a kryptonite knife, Kal-El confides to Si Bar that he will need time to recharge. The dying Daxamite doesn’t have the luxury of patience, so he takes the Kryptonian close to the blazing ball of fire at the epicenter of scorch space. When next we see Superman, he is explaining to Batman: “My cells have been charged by a super sun.”
That short sequence is straight out of the Grant Morrison playbook of Superman as the sun god from Smallville. The image of the Last Son of Krypton being reinvigorated by an astronomical marvel shines like a sliver of a sunbeam emerging from the interstices between the intersections of All-Star Superman and DC One Million. That positive portrayal of the Man of Steel could not more sharply stand in contrast to the comparable, yet less effective, efforts of the diminished Superman of Truth.
Batman/Superman #30 rounds out a brief but exhilarating roller-coaster ride with Tom Taylor and Robson Rocha. In the midst of so many surrounding Event Comics, Universe’s Finest is likely to get lost in the shuffle, but its numerous virtues should not be overlooked, and this creative team should be given the opportunity to craft Superman stories in the future.
How did you enjoy Batman/Superman #30?
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Tom Taylor and Robson Rocha have crafted an exuberant tale that does justice to both title characters.