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Superman/Batman #7

Superman/Batman #7

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 3, 2004

Cover date: April 2004

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Pat Lee
Inker: Dreamwave


Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

San Francisco. Midnight.

Robin and Superboy stand atop Titans Tower discussing why their respective "mentors" asked to see them. Superboy believes Superman and Batman want to see them because of something they did, but Robin counters that they haven't screwed up recently. Superboy remains unconvinced. Robin asks his friend if he intends to tell Superman about their discovery that fifty percent of Superboy's DNA belonged to Lex Luthor. Superboy isn't sure and just as Robin begins to push the point Superman and Batman arrive.

Superman greets the younger heroes, but when he begins to talk about the reason he and Batman called them Superboy immediately shouts that they didn't do it. A bemused Man of Steel informs Batman that he owes him five bucks. Batman is surprised the reaction was so quick but Superman repeats his opinion that if he and the Dark Knight didn't tell Robin and Superboy what the meeting was about they would think they did something wrong.

Superman gets down to the matter at hand, explaining that there is someone he and Batman knows who is at a crossroads in his life and the two older heroes want to bring him over to their side. Batman follows up by explaining that this mystery person has serious trust issues and that he and Superman believed that this person will listen to Superboy and Robin. Robin asks his mentor why and Batman replies because the person in question is thirteen years old. Superman adds that the kid has a remarkable I.Q. and can build almost anything. Superboy asks if the kid has a name and Batman replies Hiro Okumura, who, Superman explains, thinks of himself to be the new Toyman who lives just outside of Tokyo. Robin and Superboy tell them that they are in.

Before the younger heroes leave Batman emphasizes the importance of the mission to Superboy while Superman chats with Robin about his recent work with the Titans. Before leaving Superman and Batman talk about Batman's trust in Robin and Superboy as Superboy and Robin discuss whether or not the older heroes have faith in their ability to get the job done. Superman and Batman depart with Batman asking the Man of Steel what is bothering him. Superman replies that his reporter's instinct tells him that Superboy is hiding something. Batman advises that he confront the boy about it now, but Superman remains convinced that Superboy will tell him what is wrong when he is ready.

Mt. Fuji, Japan. Seventeen hours later.

As Robin and Superboy reach their destination Robin reiterates his opinion that Superboy should tell Superman that half of his DNA comes from Luthor reasoning that he or Batman will figure it out anyway. Superboy asks how they would figure it out unless someone already told them. Robin turns his attention to the task at hand and knocks on the door. He announces that they are looking for Hiro, but a voice over an intercom asks if they had read the sign. As Superboy begins to ask what sign the voice was referring to, the doors open and a massive mechanical dog leaps out at them.

Superboy and Robin are surprised at first, but Superboy makes quick work of the robotic animal. Inside the complex Hiro watches the two heroes on a monitor musing how they apparently aren't going to take go away for an answer. Before leaving the room he tells a seemingly unconscious man floating in a tank of liquid, which he calls Mr. C, not to go anywhere. After Hiro leaves the room the man's eyes open.

Meanwhile Robin and Superboy have entered Hiro's complex. Hiro informs them that they are going to have to pay for the door they broke. Superboy charges at the boy, but passes right through him and crashes to the floor. The real Hiro approaches Robin asking him if he's the smart one. Robin comments on the cleverness of using a hologram, but adds that they were sent there to offer him a job but if he wants to just play around they have better things to do. Superboy and Robin begin to leave, but Hiro stops them asking what kind of job. Superboy begins by explaining that Batman needs someone to build all of his gadgets and vehicles with Robin adding that he would have an unlimited budget and that he would get to work with Batman. Hiro asks what the catch is and Robin tells him that he would have to work with Batman. Hiro inquires as to what happened to the guy that used to do the job for Batman and Robin replies that he was murdered.

As Hiro begins to tell them that he needs to think about it tremendous explosions rips through the floor and a giant robot bursts out of the complex. Robin picks himself up and asks Hiro what that thing was. Hiro explains that it was Metallo, or more appropriately John Corben, the man who was Metallo, driving one of Hiro's Techbots. He goes on to tell them that he gave Corben a DNA replicated version of his human body in exchange for the alloy known as Metallo, which made up his framework and was stolen from Hiro's grandfather's patents. Superboy charges after the Techbot but Hiro calls after him saying that there is something that Superboy should know. Superboy begins his attack but is surprised when Corben fights back with his Kryptonite heart. Corben is somewhat pleased at the irony of waking up with a Kryptonite heart and running into Superboy first thing.

As the Techbot marches off Superboy tells Hiro that the boy forgot to mention that he left in the Kryptonite. Hiro tells him that it was revenge for Corben having screwed over Hiro's grandfather. Robin is less than thrilled at the prospect of a former war machine driving a war machine while Superboy asks if Hiro has something that can beat the Techbot. Hiro is impressed, commenting on how Superboy is not as dumb as he looks.

Downtown Tokyo. Twenty-three minutes later.

Robin and Superboy confront Corben in Techbots of their own. Robin warns Superboy that Corben wants to fight it out and that they shouldn't have too much fun, but, at the same time, is impressed at how Hiro modified the robots to best utilize their abilities and excited at the prospect of fighting Corben. The battle continues with Robin taunting Corben as he cuts off one of the Techbot's arms. Corben fights back, telling them that he always thought that being human would make him more human, but all it did was let him show them what a twisted person he really was. Corben throws a section of building at Robin, knocking his robot to the ground, and prepares to kill him when Superboy intervenes; using his heat vision through the robot he is driving.

They search the rubble and though they find Corben's Techbot Robin can find no sign of Corben himself. Superboy wonders if he was killed, but Robin tells him no. Superboy is curious about how he can be sure of that, but when Robin tells him to look south he sees Superman holding Corben upside down by the leg. Batman is behind him, commenting on how they were lucky no one was killed in the battle.

Later Hiro talks with Batman and Robin, telling them that he worked with Batman before to save the entire planet. He adds that Batman was smart to send Robin and Superboy because they had fun. Hiro misses fun, so he agrees to take Batman's offer on a case-by-case basis, but if he is ever not happy with the work or if Batman asks for too many modifications he's out. Batman agrees.

A few feet away Superboy tries to tell Superman about the truth regarding his DNA. Despite the fact that Superman says that he is there for the boy Superboy decides against doing so, merely thanking Superman for all the trust he has placed in him despite the many screw-ups Superboy has had. Robin walks over at the end of the conversation and calls Superboy a wuss. As they watch Superman and Batman leave Superboy tells Robin to shut up.

4Story - 4: There were a lot of aspects of this issue that made this a very enjoyable comic. I usually enjoy these downtime issues. They give the reader an issue to take a breather between major storylines and are usually perfect for telling tight, character driven stories. In this respect Jeph Loeb did not disappoint.

Focusing on Superboy and Robin was a good choice for this type of story. While Robin (or Tim Drake at least) has always (at least within the past ten years) been a solid character Superboy has suffered at the hands of various writers. While I enjoyed Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett's version (and give them the respect due as the character's creator) Superboy has always been something of a one dimensional character. Peter David did some interesting things with him in the pages of Young Justice and Geoff Johns appears to want to infuse some depth to the character in Teen Titans but other than that the character has been kind of weak. It seemed that the various creators who worked on him didn't know what to do with him.

On the surface Jeph Loeb treated him as one-dimensional as well; a "shoot first, ask questions later" type of character. The way I see it Loeb is treating Superboy as if he is at a transition point in his career. He's still young and not as experienced or mature as Robin, but he's trying. He has a lot to live up to. Tim Drake has already surpassed his predecessors in terms of living up to a mantle, but Superboy has the S on his chest, which, I have to say, is more to live up to than the title of Robin.

Besides, if both Robin and Superboy acted responsible throughout the story it would be kind of boring. The "Odd Couple" angle worked out well.

Another aspect of this issue that I enjoyed was how Loeb managed to tie in elements from three separate titles into this story. Sure he wrote two of those stories, but that's beside the point. I've always enjoyed when events happening to a character in one comic are dealt with in another. I can't say enough about Geoff Johns' work in Teen Titans and his revelation that Superboy might share DNA with Lex Luthor has a lot of story potential. Loeb's use of the information added tension and depth to the story.

It was also interesting that Loeb tied events from the Hush storyline to the events from the previous arc in this title. Batman had made a comment in the previous issue of how Hiro's designs were inspired and it makes perfect sense for Batman to want to use this boy for his own purposes. Most writers who really have a good handle on Batman add that unspoken character trait of a man who uses people in a manner that suits his needs at the time. Sure Batman is the world's greatest detective and martial artist who has sworn to never take a life and protect the innocent, but really and truly his life is one of compromise to accomplish his goals. If I was a betting man I would say that Batman's opinion is that he can either use this kid to help in his war or have to take the kid out. So despite the fact that Hiro has something of a criminal background Batman is more than willing to hire the kid to make his gear.

I mean we're talking about a man who caught a kid stealing his tires and instead of giving him Scary Look number fifty-seven he made the kid Robin.

The dialogue was a lot of fun this time out. This story was not designed to be a serious one (despite the dark overtones to the art) and all of the action figure lingo and talk of eBay was amusing and made sense considering the age of the characters involved. I think Loeb went a little overboard at times, especially the bit of dialogue where Robin makes the comments about Hiro's ability to make the robots they inhabit mimic their powers. For me, that was a little too much, but understandable.

My only problem with this issue actually ties to a problem I had with the previous one. I like the linking of the Metallo alloy to Hiro's past, but too much happens off camera and very little is fully explain. While I realize it would be boring to show everything that led up to Hiro contacting Corben, him making the new body, implanting the Kryptonite heart, etc. a little more exposition would help. For one thing, unless the past has changed again Corben didn't steal the alloy; the scientist that created him did. Also, unless I am mistaken Metallo sold his soul during the Underworld Unleashed event and was turned into the mighty morphing psycho ranger. I know it sounds kind of silly but I would have liked more in the way of details regarding how Metallo's back story fits into Hiro's.

(By the way, if anyone has a better handle on Metallo's past feel free to e-mail me. I don't mind being told that I am wrong about something.)

Another quick question; why is Superman flying around when he is supposed to be in the Fortress while Batman and friends are busy picking up all of the Kryptonite that fell to Earth after Captain Atom got all noble? Just a question.

Other than that small detail I thought this was a really fun issue. It gave us readers a breather after such an intense storyline and from the looks of things Loeb is not going to be letting up any time soon.

The Girl from Krypton is coming. I am so psyched about this. It's nice to be excited about a Superman book again.

3Art - 3: Okay, here is where personal taste comes into play. I am not a huge fan of manga and manga inspired art. I am especially not a fan of manga and manga style art being applied to American super-heroes. Well, I take that back. When the established art style is manga-ish (such as Impulse) I usually don't have a huge problem with it. It's not that I don't have respect for the art form or for the very talented artists who work in that style. It's just that characters like Superman and Batman do not translate well into manga.

This is not a slam against Pat Lee and the folks at Dreamwave. I loved the artwork in the first Transformers mini-series that Dreamwave put out (and note that I did say artwork because that writing left a lot to be desired). Pat Lee is very talented and has a very interesting art style that is dark and moody. It's distinctive and that's kind of hard to find today since a lot of the art on the shelves kind of melds together. So please do not take my problems with the art as a slam against Pat Lee.

It's just that Superman has no chin.

Now, again, don't get me wrong. An artist has every right to interpret a character however he or she chooses. It's just there is a difference between a comic character (War Machine for example) and a huge, freaking icon (like Superman). There have been some very off-beat versions of the character and there have been some versions that I didn't like at first but eventually grew on me. Ed McGuinness is a great example of this. When I first saw Ed's art I, rather loudly, asked how a man with such huge feet and small ankles could wear boots. As time went on I grew to not only like Ed's art but he became the only Superman artist of that time that I liked.

So it is possible for me to like an unconventional approach to Superman.

But at the same time Superman has no chin.

I mean this is Superman. The man is all about strength and nobility and darn it all the man has to have a strong chin.

Don't talk to me about Gaston; no one has a swell cleft in his chin like Superman.

In all seriousness while the artwork was good and while the Mech battles were a lot of fun (and really let Pat Lee's ability to draw giant robots beating the snot out of each other shine). The page layouts were well thought out and the story flowed nicely. It wasn't bad; it just wasn't my cup of tea.

3Cover Art - 3: Like the interior art I thought the layout of the cover was nice, but the style of artwork turned me off. I remember when it was announced that Pat Lee was going to be drawing this issue there was a buzz and excitement, so I firmly believe that I am the only reader who didn't absolutely love the art in this issue. The cover was a nice preview of what was to come and despite my problems with the style I have to give this cover a ten on the "Grab Me" meter.

I just wish Superman had a chin.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2004

February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004

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