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Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves #5

Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves #5

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 10, 2008

Cover date: February 2009

"Dead of Night!"

Writer: Kevin VanHook
Penciller: Tom Mandrake
Inker: Tom Mandrake

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

Click to enlarge

Starting from where we left off last issue, Etrigan the Demon is addressing several of the key characters in our story: Marius Dimeter, Janko, and Dr. Combs; with Batman and Green Arrow also in attendance. Etrigan speaks entirely in rhyme; which is compulsory since he is a rhyming demon. Etrigan's words would best be described as mystical orations rather than mere speech. He provides commentary and additional insight into what has transpired so far. We learn that Dr. Combs has been using a serum derived from the blood of Marius and Janko to infect innocent people. When Combs claims that he has run out of serum, nobody present believes or trusts him. Etrigan declares that Combs has "no soul", and has been stripped of his power. When Batman mentions that he previously saw a hellish creature emerge from Combs' mouth, the Demon peers down Dr. Combs' throat and proclaims that the portal to the land of the un-dead has now been closed.

Green Arrow and Etrigan head out with Dr. Combs in tow; planning to head to Arkham Asylum to deposit the professor. Suddenly, Combs does an about face, charges Batman, and proceeds to rant and rave at him. The Demon has seen enough! Etrigan opens his mouth and projects hellfire at Dr. Combs, which renders him unconscious!

Meanwhile, Superman is flying with a single passenger, Chadd Cole, the young boy who has been infected and transformed into a vampire. Superman is heading for Dr. Kirk Langstrom, hoping that since Langstrom is the world's foremost authority on bats, he will be able to help find a cure for Chadd. As the reader will soon be reminded, Langstrom is important for another reason; since he is able to transform himself into the hideous man-sized, bat-like creature known as Man-Bat.

As Langstrom prepares to give Cole a blood transfusion to counteract the vampire infection, they are interrupted by some violent sounds outside. Superman's x-ray vision confirms that some vicious werewolves have arrived. In another instant, they burst through the wall and begin attacking. As Superman engages the werewolves in battle, Langstrom grabs two syringes: one containing the serum to transform himself into Man-Bat; the other containing the antidote. He asks Superman to revert him using the antidote after the battle is over; and then he injects himself with the Man-Bat serum.

Man-Bat's enhanced strength, agility, aggressiveness, and flying ability allow him to be a particularly effective combatant against the werewolves. Simultaneously, Superman is handily defeating his share of the creatures. In his narrative, VanHook reminds us that Superman needs to be very careful during the battle. Although his strength and speed are very effective against the werewolves, Superman can be hurt by them. Because they possess magic, they can pierce his skin; so he needs to avoid their jaws and their claws. As the battle comes to a close, Superman uses the antidote to transform Man-Bat back into Dr. Langstrom as requested. Blood, werewolf bodies, and some severed werewolf parts litter the lab. Superman expresses the theory that the werewolves arrived because they were attracted to Chadd Cole; and urges the doctor to hurry with the transfusion.

In front of Gotham City Cathedral, Marius and Batman are in a conversation about what to do next. When Marius expresses frustration, and asks Batman how they can handle the remaining monsters that are on the loose, and convert Marius and Janko back to normal, Batman indicates that more detective work is necessary. Marius leaves, since it is almost daylight; and as a vampire, he must avoid sunlight.

But when Marius arrives home, Batman is there to question him and warn him. While Batman acknowledges that the hunger for human blood must be intense, he warns Marius to resist that hunger or face the wrath of Batman. After the Dark Knight leaves, we see that indeed the hunger pangs and the urge to drink blood are difficult and ultimately irresistible for Marius. Dimeter telephones a young, gothic-looking lady friend, who arrives and willingly offers her services. He promises to take only a little bit, "just enough to survive"; and then hungrily chomps down on her neck, while she assumes a submissive pose.

4Story - 4: Let me admit that on my first reading, I was not enthralled with this installment. But on my second reading the next day (in preparation for this review), the book had grown on me. I found myself once again caught up in the dark and sinister mood of this series.

This is not a typical Superman/Batman comic book at all. It is a rather moody, macabre, and unusual series; but for me, this adds to its appeal. Despite the unusual characters and situations they are forced to deal with, Superman and Batman continue to tackle these problems with level-headed determination and good judgment; and continue to be portrayed in a manner that is consistent with what we know about them.

I really like the scenes with Etrigan the Demon. We know that he has special insight and knowledge on occult matters. I liked when he used that knowledge to castigate Dr. Combs, and to assess the current state of things. The Demon has a certain "commanding presence"; and the supernatural creatures in each scene seem to be in awe of him. Etrigan the Demon is perfect for this story! And if I were Batman; I would be quite discouraged to see Etrigan leaving with Green Arrow, since the Demon has been so invaluable in their battles against the creatures.

I liked the action scenes with Superman and Man-Bat fighting the werewolves. We know that Superman tends to pull his punches, due to his great strength and his aversion to killing. In contrast, Man-Bat shows no such aversion. He attacks the werewolves with true viciousness; even decapitating one of his victims. I thought this whole fight sequence was well done.

And I thought the ending was very effective. We see Marius trying very hard to resist the hunger, but ultimately failing and succumbing. We see his "creative solution" to the problem, getting a small donation from his young friend, who clearly has issues. Marius may think this is a reasonable solution to the problem; but I don't think that Batman is going to be too pleased when he finds out!

We have only one more issue to sort everything out. I will be curious to see how VanHook ties up all loose ends.

5Art - 5: Once again, Tom Mandrake gives us terrific artwork! There are lots of great images here!

I loved the panel on page three where the Demon is peering down the throat of Dr. Combs. There is something darkly humorous about this panel. And that something has to do with the expressions on each of their faces and their very close proximity due to the Demon's highly invasive maneuver.

I loved the scene where Superman uses x-ray vision to spot the werewolves' arrival. The look on his face is one of pure contempt and determination. The x-ray effect is nicely done. I like the panel on the next page where Superman is forcefully handling two of the werewolves, while Dr. Langstrom injects the Man-Bat serum. Mandrake can convey motion and aggressive action well; and he does so here.

And I love the splash on the following page where we first see Man-Bat! That is such a powerful image! Just look at it!

4Cover Art - 4: Etrigan the Demon is giant-sized. Superman and Batman are battling the other creatures, using the Demon's hand as the rather cramped "battlefield". The Demon has an expression that is both menacing and almost "playful". Another good cover.

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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