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Superman/Batman #23

Superman/Batman #23

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 28, 2005

Cover date: November 2005

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Dexter Vines

"With a Vengeance!" - Chapter 4: "Smoke and Mirrors"

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Superman battles Batman, who is infused with the same Kryptonite Man that possessed Captain Atom. With the help of Robot the Man of Steel is able to free Batman just in time for the rest of the Maximums to show up to attempt to take the two heroes back into custody.

Meanwhile Bizarro and Batzarro face off against other-dimensional versions of Superman and Batman. During the course of their skirmishes they Boom Tube out of the realities they had been transported to and find themselves with their perfect counterparts. Bizarro grabs Batman and Superman and flies off with Batzarro in tow. Viking hurls his ax and severs the chain Batzarro had been holding onto and Batzarro falls to the ground as the rest disappear into another Boom Tube.

Bizarro finds himself on Themyscira and is greeted by a very angry Supergirl. Batman appears on a rooftop in Gotham City and decides to head back to the cave. As he swings through the city he comes under attack by female versions of himself and Superman. Superman materializes on Apokolips where Metron informs him that he must free Darkseid as part of the Man of Steel's debt to the dark god regarding Supergirl. A second Boom Tube sends the two to the Source Wall where Darkseid was imprisoned. As Superman comes face to face with the interned form of Darkseid he wonders who is manipulating him and Batman.

Elsewhere two figures argue over a game board filled with pieces representing Superman, Batman and the rest of the players ranging from Lex Luthor to the Maximums. Mr. Mxyzptlk threatens his opponent, the Joker that he better start playing fair. The Joker insists that Mxy can play as long as he wants to and the Joker will still win. Mxyzptlk counters that since all of the pieces are in place that the real game can begin.

4Story - 4: I stood in my regular comic shop for a long time staring at the copy of Superman/Batman #23 that rested in my hands. There was a sense of disbelief, a feeling that this couldn't be happening. After months of waiting the next chapter in Jeph Loeb's swan song on the book was here. Even though it had been listed as coming in last week I wasn't holding my breath. This is not meant to sound like an insult to the creative people involved, it's just this book is so freaking late and the solicitations of the title itself keep getting moved that a little shock and skepticism should be expected.

Luckily the issue itself was good enough that the wait didn't matter all that much. A lot happened in a short amount of time, but the action was paced out well and the surprises that Loeb had in store for us came off nicely. I was a little disappointed that Batman Beyond turned out to be Tim and not Terry, but it was neat to see the costume anyway. The Bizarro/Red Son Superman fight was amusing and I think that even though the sequence was short I thought Loeb nailed the characters involved.

I also enjoyed Loeb referencing the fight that occurred during the Hush storyline while Superman was brawling with the Kryptonite Man possessed Batman. Superman's thoughts regarding how prepared Batman was spoke to the differences between the characters. It isn't that Batman is better than Superman because of his paranoid arrangements and game plans. They just approach the problems they face from two different angles. Both are reactive (mostly) but Superman is better at using his environment to get himself out of jams than Batman. As soon as he saw Robot he knew what he had to do and while it wasn't fool proof or thought out months before in a strategy session it worked.

The revelation at the end of the issue regarding the Joker and Mr. Mxyzptlk was great. It really came out of left field and raised a good number of questions. Loeb took an interesting turn with bringing the two back together after the Emperor Joker storyline from 2000. It makes me wonder where Loeb is taking this, but at the same time this was a great cliffhanger ending. Between Batman meeting with the female versions of him and Superman, Bizarro getting knocked around by Supergirl, Batzarro in the clutches of the Maximums, Superman faced with having to free Darkseid and the whole Mxy/Joker thing I am really looking forward to the next issue to see what happens next.

Now if only it would come out in a timely manner.

5Art - 5: This was another great McGuinness/Vines issue. The two really cut loose in terms of page layout and action. The opening scenes of Batman and Superman fighting were amazing, especially the two-page spread of Batman punching the Man of Steel. The splash page was interesting and creepy all at the same time, especially the bloodied Superman with his glowing red eyes.

McGuinness and Vines seemed to have a lot of fun with the Batman Beyond and Red Son fights as well. I dug the two page spread that featured all three fights happening simultaneously. It was a great piece of art even if it was a little jarring. Thankfully they ended the fights separately but managed to have the three settings look unique and true to the characters that inhabited them.

This is the best issue, as far as the artwork goes, of the entire arc. Not only did McGuinness and Vines get to draw the Red Son and Batman Beyond (even if it was Tim in the suit), but also the female versions of Superman and Batman as well as a quick view of their version of Kara Zor-El. The pacing of the art was excellent and the different perspectives in certain pages created an interesting look to the issue.

And then there were Mxyzptlk and the Joker. Both characters looked fantastic in their brief appearance.

This is one of the first times where I felt the art was better than the writing, but only by a narrow margin. McGuinness and Vines pulled out all the stops and I hope that they keep up the same feel for the rest of the story arc.

5Cover Art - 5: This was a great cover. Superman and Batman duking it out never really gets old as far as these things go and this is a rare cover in that the scene on the front could actually lead into the action going on at the beginning of the story. The greenish Batman was great and the little detail of water as Batman brings his arms up was a nice touch.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

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