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Superman/Batman #4

Superman/Batman #4

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 3, 2003

Cover date: January 2004

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

World's Finest (Part Four): "Battle On"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Vice-President Ross briefs President Luthor on the progress of what he calls Asteroid X. The Kryptonite laden asteroid has not wavered in its course and will impact with the Earth in seventy-two hours. Luthor is somewhat displeased with the name of the asteroid and is even less thrilled with the defeatist talk coming from his Vice-President concerning the course of the asteroid.

Elsewhere Superman and Batman are surrounded by the combined forces of Power Girl, Katana, Captain Atom, Black Lightning, Green Lantern, Starfire and Major Force. Batman suggests they go with Plan "B", but Superman thinks they could be expecting that. Batman tells him that is what makes it unexpected. Captain Atom informs Superman that they have a Federal warrant for his arrest and warns Batman that if he attempts to prevent them from carrying the warrant out in any way he will be arrested for aiding and abetting a fugitive. One last time he asks them to stand down. They refuse and the battle begins.

The fight is brutal, but Superman ends it by creating a mini-tornado to disable his opponents. He grabs Power Girl and flies off, telling her they need to talk. As Captain Atom and his crew recover Major Force is insistent that they should have killed them when they had the chance. Atom counters that it is his team and his rules adding that he answers to the President and no one else. Before he can continue dressing Force down he realizes that Batman and Katana are gone.

Beneath the White House in an underground bunker dating back to the Eisenhower administration Luthor answers questions from Amanda Waller concerning his plans regarding Superman. Waller is concerned about the talk that he hasn't thought the situation through. Luthor informs her that he has thought of little else and that when the American people learn the truth about the asteroid they may even repeal the twenty-second Amendment that limits the number of terms a President can serve. He then injects himself with a green liquid, leading Waller to ask him if he is worried about the side-effects. Luthor dismisses her concerns and Waller turns to a suit of armor, asking what it is. Luthor tells her that it is the future, a future he plans her to play a very large role in. Luthor wraps his arms around Waller and kisses her. Captain Atom interrupts and apprises him of the failure to capture Superman and asks if they should proceed. Luthor replies with the question of what part of "by any means necessary" and "to the ends of the Earth" does he not understand.

Meanwhile Batman and Katana teleport onto the streets of Tokyo, with Katana slightly ill from the experience. Batman thanks her for keeping him and Superman informed and asks if she has located the boy. Katana informs Batman that the boy has a jisho at the foot of Mt. Fuji and that he has made some amazing headway, but wants to talk to Superman directly. Superman and Power Girl arrive with Superman saying that they should get started. He tells Batman that they can trust Black Lightning and Green Lantern, but the others are another matter. Power Girl is particularly wary of Major Force and is sickened to be dealing with Luthor.

Captain Atom calls out from behind them and orders Power Girl and Katana to step aside and their surrender will be taken that into consideration after their arrest. Power Girl attacks, punching Atom into a nearby building. Major Force retaliates, but Katana defends her by slicing of Force's hands with her blade. Major Force's energy flows out of control starting a dangerous chain reaction. Superman tells Lantern to get a containment bubble around him and after a brief argument he gets Starfire to help as well.

Batman asks Captain Atom to help too and after pushing the right button Atom agrees. Atom tells Lantern to open a small hole so he can enter and adds that once he is in to seal it up. Superman asks if he can help, but Atom refuses, adding that he should turn himself in. Atom absorbs the energy and disappears, leaving a large crater and the dried husk of Major Force. Power Girl is curious why she and Katana were the only ones who were spared and before she can ask any further questions Superman and Batman agree they should get to the boy before the others wake up.

At JSA headquarters Mister Terrific tells the heroes before him that Wonder Woman is concerned that bringing the Justice League in may start World War III. Terrific is concerned that Superman and Batman's actions in Tokyo may eventually be used against them by Luthor. He tells them that they don't have to like it, but if anyone isn't going to hold back and actually stop them Captain Marvel and Hawkman are the ones to do it.

Near Mt. Fuji Superman lands with Katana. Batman asks what took him so long and despite the fact that Superman knows it probably has something to do with the Kryptonite asteroid approaching Earth he was also trying to fly below their quarry's radar. Batman instructs Power Girl and Katana to reach the boy at all costs since everything hinges on him completing his work before Luthor finds out. Katana is concerned since the boy made it clear that he wants to talk to Superman. Batman counters that the boy is thirteen years old and they should find a way to distract him. Power Girl suddenly realizes that they are all looking at her and wonders how she is supposed to distract the boy, but her costume answers the question.

Superman begins to speak, but is interrupted when Captain Marvel suddenly appears and attacks. Hawkman joins the fray by throwing a net over Batman. Marvel tells Superman that he should stay down since every other fight they have had has ended in Marvel winning. Power Girl wants to try and reason with her JSA teammates, but Katana is insistent that they continue with their mission.

Batman and Superman fight with their respective sparring partners before Batman suggests castling, which is a maneuver in chess where the King and Rook trade places. Superman throws Captain Marvel towards Batman before grabbing Hawkman and flying into the upper atmosphere. Batman kicks Marvel as he comes down, a maneuver that sends him into a nearby snow bank.

In the upper atmosphere Superman tries to explain his actions to Hawkman before the golden-age hero passes out, but Hawkman surprises him and slams him with the Claw of Horus, a device that draws its power from the magnetic core of the Earth. The blow lands with the relative power of hitting him with a planet and Superman plunges back to Earth.

On the ground Batman approaches where Marvel landed and finds a boy close to Robin's age. He asks the seemingly unconscious lad who he is. The boy opens his eyes and smiles before saying Shazam, which sends the magic lightning bolt that transforms him into Captain Marvel and knocks Batman out in the process. Marvel fireman-carries Batman to Hawkman, who stands triumphant over the bleeding form of Superman.

5Story - 5: A funny thing happened on the way to this review.

This may be getting a little personal, but I am getting married on December 14th, so my time is kind of short these days as the final arrangements are made and while I am getting ready to take the plunge into married life, I also wanted to get this review done because this title is one of the few that I really look forward to month after month. So I woke up early Saturday morning (early for me anyway) and rushed to the comic shop to grab this book before work. Time was short, but I succeeded in my quest and during my first break I sat down to read SUPERMAN/BATMAN #4 so I could then go home and get the review done as fast as humanly possible.

As I began to read the book I noticed something funny. Pages kept repeating themselves. The comic started on page nine and continued to page fourteen before going to the splash page and continuing to page fourteen. The story unfolded as normal until page twenty when it repeated the last four pages until the comic ended. After a quick call to the comic shop where I purchased the book and was informed that I was the third one to call about the misprint. Luckily there is more than one shop in the area and I secured another copy, making sure that the entire story was there.

So am I mad about the misprint? Heck, no. Turns out it's the best six bucks I've spent on a comic in some time.

With this issue Loeb continues with the characterization that is his trademark. There were some complaints on one of the Superman message boards that this comic was nothing but a series of fight scenes but I would disagree. Yes, there is a lot of action and a lot of Superman and Batman throwing down with some of the heavyweights of the DC Universe. More than that there was a lot of depth to the story. While the inner dialogues of Superman and Batman were not as heavy this time around but still there is a lot of character interaction that showcases Loeb's ability and his love for DC history.

I enjoyed the characters Loeb chose to pair with Batman and Superman. While Katana and Power Girl may not be part of the heroes' respective "families" right now, but each of them played a role in Superman and Batman's past. The relationship between Katana and Batman is pretty much clear, but the Superman/Power Girl dynamic is still being explored, especially in the pages of JSA. You can see there is a connection between the two and I look forward to seeing how it plays out, either here or in the pages of the aforementioned JSA.

Power Girl was handled very well. She is a tough character to write and while Geoff Johns has done some good work with her and I liked Chuck Dixon's take as well, Loeb manages to avoid the whole, "I am woman, you can't tell me what to do" attitude without weakening the character. I especially liked how she was completely oblivious to how her appearance could be distracting to a thirteen year old boy.

The battle with Hawkman and Captain Marvel was one of the high marks of the issue. The fact that Loeb flat out stated that in a toe-to-toe battle Marvel could take Superman was kind of daring, especially within the confines of a "Superman" book. It makes sense, really. Superman is rather sensitive to magic and since Captain Marvel is all about some magic he is one of the few people Superman would be wary of taking on.

The castling aspect of the story seems obvious, but Loeb manages to turn this on its ear by having Hawkman and Marvel turn the tables on them. Again, this is different since Superman and Batman are not often taken by surprise. The bit with Hawkman dressing Superman down about the castling maneuver highlighted this and I liked the whole "Claw of Horus" angle.

The other part that intrigued me was Luthor shooting up beneath the White House. At first the sequence turned me off, but after thinking about it I started to like the idea. There is obviously a lot going on with Luthor that Loeb is not revealing yet. The green injection, the armor, the swapping of spit with Amanda Waller. It all makes Luthor look like he is going crazy, but I think there is more to it than that. Having Luthor injecting himself with (what I am assuming is) Kryptonite-laden liquid and going crazy because of it seems a little thin for Loeb. I am sure the injections aren't all that good with Luthor, but I look forward to seeing how Loeb plays it out and wonder if this was his plan for Luthor becoming President all along.

My only real quibble is with the Marvel/Batman face-off. How did Marvel turn back to Billy without the lightning attracting Batman's attention? It could be that the impact of hitting the snow could have covered it, but this isn't explained, so I am left with my own theories.

The other big question is who is the boy that Superman and Batman are seeking? Some seem to think it is the Toyman that Loeb and McGuinness introduced a few years back and I can buy that. Another sub-plot to look forward to.

Besides that and the creepy feeling I got when Luthor kissed Amanda Waller, a really fun issue. This arc has taken an interesting turn and the best thing I can say about it is that I am really looking forward to the next issue.

5Art - 5: The art gets a five for pages two and three alone. The layout of this fight was cool, especially the Batman sequences at the bottom of the pages. Only Batman would take Major Force on with no real super-powers. Page four was equally as good, especially the first panel where Superman locks Starfire's arm. It's rare to see an artist show Superman with any kind of martial skill, even in the current books and I liked seeing it here. It broadens the character as a fighter and makes him look like more than a man who simply hits something until it stops moving.

McGuinness' take on Power Girl, Hawkman and Captain Marvel were fantastic as well. Power Girl is a tough sell artistically and I find it interesting that McGuinness and others have opted to return her to her original costume. The open chest seems kind of ... revealing for the character. Captain Marvel looked great and McGuinness managed to make him look a little like the C.C. Beck version, just buffer. I really liked the detail McGuinness put into Hawkman's costume and gear. Hawkman has to be a tough character to draw, especially with all the feathers, but Ed manages to do a superb job.

The end battle sequence was also great in terms of page layout. The use of perspective and the varying panel layouts made the battles interesting and fun to look at.

All in all another solid issue art-wise. McGuinness continues to do a fantastic job with Superman and Batman, giving them an iconic feel while maintaining his own style.

4Cover Art - 4: I enjoyed this cover. I really did. I would even give it a 10 on the GRAB ME meter. Superman and Captain Marvel duking it out on the bottom was great to look at and Batman and Hawkman above them was also done very well. As silly as it sounds it was the background colors that really bothered me. The past three cover have had darker tones and the yellow and red of this cover was a little distracting.

Not a bad cover, just a poor choice for a background.

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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