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Superman/Batman #8

Superman/Batman #8

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 17, 2004

Cover date: May 2004

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Michael Turner
Inker: Michael Turner

"The Supergirl From Krypton" - Part One: "Alone"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Under Gotham Harbor Batman searches for more remnants of the Kryptonite Asteroid that Captain Atom had destroyed. From his quarantine in the Fortress of Solitude Superman asks the Dark Knight if he can help and Batman once again informs him that they cannot take the chance of Superman being exposed to the Kryptonite, adding that the JLA, JSA, the Titans and the Outsiders are working overtime helping in the search. The two heroes banter back and forth when Batman locates another meteor. After successfully cutting the piece out and securing it in a pouch he notices a large space craft. Superman asks what he has found, but Batman refuses to answer as he examines the ship. He comes to the conclusion that with the condition of the hull, the ocean floor and the lack of barnacle and parasitic activity the ship had not been there for more than a week, maybe two.

As Batman examines the craft further a girl breaks the surface and enters Batman's Batboat. An alarm rings in Batman's ear notifying him of the intrusion and as the boat takes off he uses a grapple line to snag it. The boat carries him to the dock before it crashes into a fiery ball. As the Dark Knight pulls himself out of the water he muses that the markings of the ship were Kryptonian, but he didn't have time to translate. He also thinks that if someone wanted to draw him away from the crash site they succeeded, but he was going to make them pay for it.

Meanwhile a naked blond woman walks into an alleyway nearby. A couple of men see her and while one of them, a man named Gus, starts making snide comments the other warns him to stop. The woman starts to address them, but neither man can understand the strange language she speaks. Gus continues to be rude and the woman breaks his fingers. As a third man comes out to the alley, the heavier man grabs a hook and tries to defend Gus, but the woman tosses him aside with ease. She takes the hook and straightens it out while the third man begs for her to not hurt him, offering his trench coat to appease her.

The woman runs out to the street and turns in time to see the headlights of a car, which crashes into her. The woman is unharmed, but the car is virtually destroyed. As the driver gets out the woman sees a traffic light turn red, triggering her heat vision. She takes out a section of building that is in her line of sight, which scares her and the woman runs. The police arrive and try to cut her off, but her heat vision destroys one of the cruisers. The officers take defensive positions as the woman begins to hover over them. They open fire, but the bullets simply bounce off of her. She flies off and tries to find sanctuary on a nearby rooftop, but instead finds Batman waiting for her.

The woman starts speaking again and flies off, but crashes into a nearby blimp. The woman plummets into a nearby building as the blimp begins to crash to the ground in a fireball. Batman finally calls in Superman, who directs the blimp into the harbor. Meanwhile Batman confronts the woman and uses the piece of Kryptonite he had found to knock her unconscious.

Later Batman examines the woman in the Batcave. His initial scans confirm his suspicions, but he still can't shake the feeling that it could be a trap. The woman wakes up and goes into a rage, breaking free from her restraints. She screams at Batman and flies into the air. Batman had planned on this, however, and brought Superman along just in case. Superman grabs the woman by the leg and the two begin to speak to each other in Kryptonian. Batman listens to the conversation and demands to know who she is and what she said. Superman wraps his cape around her and informs Batman that the woman is Kara Zor-El, his cousin from Krypton.

4Story - 4: All in all this was a solid start to what looks to be a really fun storyline. I have been looking forward to this storyline since I first heard of it and even went so far as to buy an issue of Wizard magazine (something I haven't done in about two years) to read the preview. Despite the fact that I really enjoyed the Linda Danvers Supergirl I am jazzed at the thought of a new Supergirl who may just be Superman's cousin. Some may argue that having another Kryptonian would take away from Superman's uniqueness and this was one of the big things that Byrne established when he and Marv Wolfman revamped the character back in 1986. I agree with this line of thinking to a certain extent, but only if this snowballs into a thousand other survivors coming forward. One girl won't tip the scales too badly. Besides, it could turn out that she isn't Kryptonian and this is all a ruse. Either way it makes for a good story.

While there was a lot of action not much happened in the story and here is where Loeb proves his ability for characterization. The conversation between Superman and Batman at the beginning of the issue was amusing, especially with Batman threatening to call Lois on Superman. The friendship between these two characters is really opening up. Despite his gruff exterior Batman seems legitimately concerned for Superman's health, though he seems to understand Superman's frustrations. The inner dialogue was more telling and while I never really liked the thought of Superman dwelling on the fact that he is the only one of his kind for the purposes of this story it works, especially when he announces that Kara is his cousin.

Batman's musings were the most interesting of all. A lot of writers who deal with Batman put him in the "Superman is an alien and therefore a threat" frame of mind and Loeb has danced along those lines. In this issue he opens Batman up and, more so than before, you really get the sense that he not only respects Superman as a hero, but cares about him as a friend. This continues the change Loeb began in the first story arc regarding Batman and Superman's friendship. I hope this level of character work continues.

Kara's introduction was interesting. There was a bit of a vibe from the Supergirl movie with Gus and his friends, but Loeb's version was a little darker and a lot more violent. This makes sense when you consider the references Loeb made to the Superman films during his run on the title. It was interesting to see how Loeb had her discover her various powers, especially with all the havoc it caused. One of the touches I enjoyed was how the red in the traffic light and the lights of the police cruisers cause the vision to manifest. I could be reading too much into it, but that's the way the art played.

My one and only problem comes from the fact that all of Kara's dialogue was written in Kryptonian. It's a little funny to say that, as if Kryptonian were a real language and not a made-up one, like Klingon, but that's the only way I can think to talk about it. At first it really bugged me. I mean this wasn't a panel or two where you can't understand what she is saying. The conversation between Superman and Kara was infuriating because I couldn't understand what they were saying and despite the fact that I have the Kryptonian font in my Word program I didn't want to have to type it out to translate the page. Also, this storyline is attracting a lot of attention, at least in the fan press, and this may be the first issue a new reader picks up and my gut reaction was that the dialogue might be confusing.

As with most things involving comics, though, I changed my mind somewhat after thinking about it. If Loeb was going for mood, then having the dialogue without the translation adds an air of mystery to Kara. It heightens the tension of the story and gives the reveal at the end of the issue that much more impact. The frustration I felt at the conversation between Kara and Superman mirrors the frustration that Batman must have felt to having these flying freaks babbling in another language in front of him.

So while it was annoying I realize that there might have been a reason for it.

Still and all I would have preferred a translation at the back of the book. I am not going to complain too much since the last page was a memorial to Julius Schwartz and I am not about to bear the brunt of an outraged fandom because I complained about it, especially when you consider what an impact Schwartz had on both characters. I may have fanboy tendencies, but I'm not stupid.

Besides, there are translations on the web. You can always count on the fans to come through with something as obscure as this.

In the end I really liked this comic and look forward to the storyline playing out. My heart wants the new Supergirl to be permanent, but my head tells me that it's not going to be that easy.

5Art - 5: Wow.

I say again. Wow.

I am not overly familiar with Michael Turner's artwork. I never read Witchblade or Fathom, but I always had a certain respect for the man's talent. Besides, it's hard to say anything bad about a man who faced cancer and won.

Turner's figure work is incredible and he continues to draw decent looking women, albeit mostly naked, without tripping too far into the "bad girl" arena. Kara's clothing, or lack thereof, was somewhat confusing to me, but I let it go when I realized that a mostly naked Kara would sell better than a completely clothed Kara. What did I expect; Kara to pop out of the ship in a blue skirt and red cape?

Batman and Superman look iconic, but still human. Superman, in particular looks good, but Turner produces a really cool Batman, especially on page fourteen. Superman's rescue on pages sixteen and seventeen was sweet as well. I even liked the "Underwater Batman" suit and the detail he put into the gear and the suit itself made it all go down easy, especially when Batman comes out of the harbor.

The page layouts were fantastic. Turner shows a real talent for storytelling and knows how to use the number of panels to lead the reader in a certain direction. In the first sequence we're treated to a great two page spread of Batman, but Turner pulls back into a page of multiple panels leading up to the splash page revealing the ship. Batman looks small on that page, which adds to the effect that this is a big deal.

I also liked how he paced out to Kara's first interactions with people. Not showing her face was a good idea and like the earlier scene with Batman and the ship it adds to the surprise that this girl who put the smack down on a couple of longshoreman is just this pretty young thing with blond hair and blue eyes.

Turner also has a great eye for detail, which shows in his cityscapes. The detail is fantastic and makes the page come alive. There's emotion there too. After the blimp goes down there's a panel where Kara is huddled up in a ball. The lighting and facial expression lets you know that this girl is suffering and all she wants is to know what's going on and where she is.

I would be remiss to ignore the contributions of Peter Steigerwald, the colorist for this issue. The nighttime scenes would not have looked as good as they did without the coloring. The lighting effects used really made these scenes shine, likewise with the coloring of Batman coming out of the water. I usually don't mention the colorist, but in this case I feel the need to.

(Also, hats off to Richard Starkings for making the Kryptonian letters work. It could be said that if it was done on computer it's easy, but at the same time the letterer does add a lot to the dialogue.)

Like the story the art is off to a strong start. Turner was a good choice to go with this and probably had a lot to do with this issue going to a second printing.

And this time around Superman has a chin. Always an improvement.

5Cover Art - 5: Usually I'm not that big a fan of Batman's gear getting all tricked out like a Honda Civic, but I liked Turner's Batboat. It reminded me of something out of the later Batman films but at the same time it looked good, like the rest of this cover. Batman and Superman likewise looked good looming over the cover with an impressive cityscape and the figure of Kara walking off into the night, her eyes glowing red. This is the type of cover that defines the "Grab Me" meter and rates a definite ten.

I have to admit, though, that I gave a little snicker at the text, which read "The New Girl in Town!" All I could think was the theme song from the old sitcom Alice.

Other than that this was a nearly perfect cover.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2004

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