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Superman/Batman #19

Superman/Batman #19

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 27, 2005

Cover date: May 2005

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Ian Churchill
Inker: Norm Rapmund

"The New Adventures of Supergirl, The Girl of Steel"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

After being alerted to a distress call from Air Force One Supergirl takes off to save the plane and the President of the United States. From the Batcave Superman and Batman monitor her activities. Superman believes she may need back-up, but Batman is quick to point out that if she does he will know it and not before.

Elsewhere Noah Kuttler, known to the underworld as the Calculator, also monitors Supergirl's progress. He contacts the man he calls Mister X to alert him to the fact that the fish took the bait. Mister X isn't surprised since they had alerted her using an ultra-high frequency that only dogs and one individual can hear. His desire is to get two responses and hopefully one of those won't be a dog.

Supergirl works quickly and the pilots are shocked that the plane suddenly rights itself. Noah asks Mister X if he thinks that Air Force One was too big of a target. Mister X is dismissive since he is not on the plane.

Batman informs Superman that Supergirl has already broken off the wing, so if Superman manages to keep his distance she might need some help. He realizes quickly that Superman has already left and resents Clark's ability to sneak off without his noticing.

Keeping his distance Superman watches as Supergirl drops the wing and saves the plane. From the Batcave Batman watches the same scene and muses on how Kara is improving.

Noah also watches the plane's rescue and informs Mister X that she is getting more skilled. Mister X's various tests at the Hoover Dam and Eiffel Tower have made her run the gauntlet and the Calculator believes that pretty soon he will have another "S" to worry about. Mister X is quick to point out that the only thing beginning with S that even remotely concerns him is stupidity and that the Calculator should calculate how less than beneficial his opinion on the subject is given what Mister X is paying him.

Supergirl flies off from where she places Air Force One with Superman following her at a distance. Superman is not sure why she is keeping her existence a secret since he and Batman had introduced her to half the super-hero community. He was sure that one of the various teams she met would try to recruit her.

From the Batcave Batman notices that Supergirl's rate of acceleration is amazing. He has several theories about why her abilities seem to rival and maybe surpass Superman's, but he won't share them until he has more data.

On the JLA Watchtower J'onn J'onnz and the Flash watch as Supergirl, followed by Superman, fly by. The Flash wonders what they are up to. J'onn believes that it could be a training exercise or, since Supergirl is a teenager and Superman is an adult she could simply wish to ditch him.

To Superman's astonishment she does just that, despite all of his abilities. Superman feels he should be impressed except for the fact that his belief that she did it just to prove she could. Noah is also impressed, but thinks that maybe Superman allowed her to do it. Mister X asks if the Calculator is saying that she is faster than the alien. The Calculator begins to answer, but is taken aback when Supergirl seems to stare straight at him through the monitors. Mister X demands to know why Noah isn't answering. Noah replies that while he isn't sure he thinks that for the briefest of moments she was aware of him. Mister X reminds him that such a thing should be impossible, which Noah agrees with since his operation transmits at a continually changing frequency at every end of the spectrum. Even though Mister X thinks that Noah is just being paranoid the Calculator tells his employer that he is going off-line to re-calibrate.

Back at the Batcave Batman discusses with Superman via radio the fact that they both lost sight of Supergirl. Batman turns and finds Supergirl hovering behind him. She asks what he is doing. Batman at first ignores her questions and asks how she got into the cave. She replies that she gets in the same way Kal does and that she has been there before. She points out that he still hasn't answered her question and reminds him of their agreement. Batman explains that they do have an agreement of no interference unless there is a situation of extreme jeopardy.

Supergirl wants to know how long they have been spying on her. Batman tells her that Clark didn't want her to get hurt. Supergirl instructs him to tell Clark that if that was his intent then he failed. She also makes it easy on both of them by telling him that she will be patrolling Gotham City for the rest of the evening. Before leaving she reveals that she believes that he and Superman aren't the only ones watching her.

Later Supergirl hovers over Gotham when the Barbara Gordon Batgirl introduces herself. She asks if Supergirl wants in on something she is in the middle of and the "Maid of Might" agrees. That "something" is a bank robbery perpetrated by Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. As Ivy controls the guards Harley breaks into the safe with what appears to be a giant wooden mallet. Inside the safe they find Supergirl and Batgirl, who immediately go on the offensive.

Harley slams the mallet into Supergirl, who flies back. Based on the success Harley is excited and wants more of the mallets. Suddenly Supergirl takes the mallet out of her hands and wraps the handle around her. Harley calls no fair as Supergirl confronts her with the fact that she almost felt that. After Harley begins to verbally harass her, Supergirl knocks her out.

Meanwhile Batgirl knocks Poison Ivy to the ground. Ivy orders the guards to shoot her, but Supergirl arrives just in time and the bullets bounce off of her. Supergirl helps Batgirl off the ground when Poison Ivy catches her by surprise and kisses her. Supergirl violently knocks her back. Batgirl comments on how weird that was. Supergirl agrees, especially since it was her first kiss. Batgirl tells her that the kiss wasn't weird and explains that Ivy did the same thing to Superman and was able to take control of him with the help of some synthetic Kryptonite she got from Lex Luthor. She wonders why it didn't affect Supergirl.

Supergirl explains that she doesn't know, which prompts Noah, from his control center, to give the signal for Batgirl to attack. Batgirl punches her and follows it up with three more, the last of which causes Supergirl to crash through the bank's window. As Batgirl walks through the broken window she assumes her true form of Clayface who tells her that they now know that synthetic Kryptonite has no effect on her but the real stuff, which he possesses, seems to work. As Supergirl begins to dig her hands into the ground he begins to taunt her about the fact that he was able to assume the form of the old Batgirl without her noticing.

Suddenly Supergirl lifts up a large chunk of the ground Clayface is standing on and carries it into the air. She tells him that she knows what happened to the original Batgirl but played along because she knew that sooner or later he would reveal himself. She tosses the trapped Clayface into the harbor where he sinks to the bottom.

Later she explains to Superman that she didn't kill him and that as long as he stays stuck to the hunk of ground Clayface should sink to the bottom of the ocean where he can reconstitute himself in a few months. Superman assumes that she has been studying the Oracle Files. Supergirl tells him that she has a lot of time on the Island and Diana encourages her to keep up to date. She then asks him if he had something to say or did he just come for the show. Superman smiles and replies that she did well in her first time out against a metahuman super-villain. Supergirl thanks him and adds that she knows that there were a few times when he must have wanted to help but he let her do it on her own, which is the only way she is going to learn.

As they fly off Superman tells her that they need to work on the bullets bouncing off of her thing and begins to explain that she can use her heat vision when she jokingly tells him that he wrecked it.

Back at his Control Center Noah tells his employer that he will get started on bail for Harley and Ivy. He is sure Clayface will turn up eventually, for his check if nothing else. Noah relays his concerns about what it means to have a new player with this kind of power. He is worried that the balance of power could shift. He asks Lex Luthor if he wants to call it off. Lex tells him that rather than being a problem Supergirl's presence has made things a lot more interesting.

4Story - 4: Prologue Part 1: I would like to take this opportunity to say good-bye to sharing this book with Michael O'Connor. I always enjoyed his reviews and part of me is going to miss tag-teaming the book with him. I thought that our different styles made for a good balance. I wish him luck in all of his future endeavors.

Prologue Part 2: I really wish DC would stop sticking advertisements into their comics. Last year I had to put up with two months of SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW posters and CD-ROM's and all of the other mini-comics and Trivial Pursuit cards they have foisted upon us. I realize that DC's parent company also owns MAD MAGAZINE and I am all for corporate synergy (like putting Christian Bale in the Batman costume on the cover of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY) but it is annoying as all get out that I have to keep pulling this stuff out of my comics so that they read properly.

(To those who believe that by pulling these inserts and advertisements out of the comics I am somehow damaging and hurting the value of the book and look down on my practice of taking these inserts out I have this to say; my comic, leave me alone.)

Prologue Part 3: Last week I bought the Alex Ross inspired JUSTICE LEAGUE Superman and Bizarro figures. Any self-respecting Superman fan needs to pick these figures up. This has nothing to do with this month's issue of SUPERMAN/BATMAN, but I felt it needed to be said regardless.

So I went to my comic shop last week and was quite surprised when I was looking though my hold books to find SUPERMAN/BATMAN #19 in there. Pleasantly surprised, mind you, but surprised nonetheless. I could sit here and complain endlessly about how this book has been late time and time again, but that really serves no constructive purpose. I would like the book to be on time and am curious as to why it is so late, but why complain? It's here and that's all that really matters. I mean it isn't like Jeph Loeb started a series and wrote the first issue and then went off and seemingly forgot about it like some writers.

Jeph Loeb told Newsarama last month that SUPERMAN/BATMAN #19 was, "... essentially SUPERGIRL #0," for the upcoming SUPERGIRL ongoing that premieres this summer. If by zero issue Loeb meant that it would set-up the series and introduce some of the themes he wants to explore I believe he succeeded. I think that, as a set-up, this issued was very entertaining but worked as a story on its own as well.

In the review I wrote for issue number thirteen I asked what was going to be done with the character now that she has been introduced. (I also said that OUTSIDERS was a terrible book, but I have since changed my mind on the subject.) I made the guess that she would bounce around the DCU before settling into her own book.

Looks like I was wrong.

I'm pretty glad I was wrong too.

I never really cared for the Pre-Crisis Supergirl, especially her Silver Age stories. It's not that they were bad because, for the time, they were pretty much par for the course. It would be unfair to compare them to the stories done today. That said I still didn't like her all that much. She seemed to be a pretty thin character with her only saving grace was how compassionate she was. It's kind of sad that one of the best things to ever happen to the character was that she died in the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.

The Supergirl that came along after the CRISIS was hit and miss. I liked her and thought that the various creators that worked on her did the best that they could, but the character didn't really start working for me until the Peter David book. I was really upset that the book got cancelled, especially when it seemed to be cancelled to make room for Cir-El.

So, as much as I am still kind of bummed that the old SUPERGIRL series was cancelled, especially when it was getting so good, I have faith, based on this issue and the themes Loeb has begun to explore therein, that the new series should turn out just fine.

As far as setting up the character Jeph Loeb did a fantastic job. I like this Supergirl. Unlike the Pre-Crisis Supergirl, this one has a personality. She is forceful and independent, but still has the sense of duty that makes her a hero. Loeb did a great job of making her a competent woman who is capable of seeing through the ruse that Luthor and Noah concocted. I have to admit that when I turned the page and saw the Barbara Gordon Batgirl. I thought, "This is a set-up," but it never occurred to me that Supergirl knew it was too. I mean she's new, so I made the same mistake that the villains did. So when it was revealed that she knew what was up and was not only prepared for it but made it part of her plan I really fell for the character and I have an idea this is what Loeb had in mind.

Another difference that makes this Supergirl better, for me at least, is the fact that she is making the decision to keep her existence secret rather than Superman making the decision for her. I always hated the early relationship between the Pre-Crisis Superman and Supergirl. I mean all he needed to do to make himself look like an even bigger overbearing jerk would be pat her on the head and tell her that girls don't need to be heroes and that she should get back to learning how to be a good wife for the man he picks out for her to marry.

Okay, maybe that was a little extreme, but you get my point.

I enjoyed Supergirl's reactions to Batman and Superman watching her. I also liked the fact that she knew that Noah was watching her. Loeb has made it apparent that Supergirl is more powerful than Superman, which some might find annoying but I think is an interesting angle for the character. I really like the concept that this Supergirl was older and sent to take care of Superman. It reverses the roles Superman and Supergirl had previously played and though it kind of, sort of makes Superman look weak as a character as far as drama and entertaining stories go it works for me.

The revelation that the synthetic Kryptonite doesn't work on Supergirl wasn't much of a shock. I mean the girl traveled through space in a giant Kryptonite meteor. It wouldn't surprise me that she had a higher tolerance for Kryptonite than Superman does.

I actually feel bad for Superman in this issue. From his standpoint he is trying to protect Kara. Letting go is hard, especially for a person who is so used to taking charge in any given situation. Then again he married Lois Lane, so you would think that he would be used to a strong, assertive woman. I guess it comes from the fact that she is his cousin and only other survivor from Krypton. I'm sure this will even out eventually, but it was something that Loeb had to explore in this issue.

Then there's Batman, who didn't play a large role in this issue. He still distrusts her, but that's Batman for you. His exchange with her did a lot to cement her as her own character and you have to love Batman getting upset when two different people sneak up on him in one evening.

I really enjoyed the fact that Loeb tied what is going on in the rest of the DCU into the book. The revitalized Calculator was one of the better things to come out of IDENTITY CRISIS and the fact that he and Lex Luthor were watching the new Supergirl makes sense. Not only would they try to keep track of any new heroes that come on to the scene, but since it is tied to Superman Luthor would especially want to know about it.

Luthor's appearance was the only thing I didn't like about this issue. Not the actual appearance, but the fact that they tried to make it a surprise. I understand the dramatic reasoning behind it, but throughout the issue Noah refers to him as Mister X, which suggests that he doesn't know who his employer is. Then, at the end of the issue he calls him Lex. A minor problem, but one I felt I needed to mention.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that Loeb once again threw in some great references to the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Supergirl's various rescues at Hoover Dam (from SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE), the Eiffel Tower (SUPERMAN II) and this issue's rescue of Air Force One (SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE again) all had me happy. I dig these kinds of references and the fact that Loeb is very liberal with their usage.

4Art - 4: Is it me or did it look like Lex Luthor was wearing the Infinity Gauntlet on the last page?

Ah, it is probably just me. I realize that the gauntlet probably contains several forms of Kryptonite, which is pretty cool, but more on the very small glimpse of the armor later.

Ian and Norm did a great job on the art in this issue. The page layouts were great. The initial scene with Supergirl rescuing Air Force One played out great, especially with the way the flames licked over the plane and Supergirl. Some other highlights include:

Ian and Norm's Batcave was great, especially their design of Batman's computer.

Their design for Noah and his control center worked great as well. I liked the similarities between his set-up and Batman's on the first page and again on page five.

The splash of Superman on page eight looked fantastic, especially the detail on his boots.

The two page spread on pages ten and eleven were great. A little ostentatious, but it seems like a contest between current artists to outdo each other as far as the Batcave and Batman are concerned. Batman looked fantastic.

The sequence between the supposed Batgirl and Supergirl flowed well and I especially liked the splash on page eighteen with Batgirl punching Supergirl. Awesome.

And the capes. I love the way Churchill and Rapmund draws capes. While there is no way that it would work in the real world they work very well on the page.

Supergirl's costume has really grown on me. While I am still not sold on the mid-riff showing and the ultra-short skirt the overall design is great. I especially like the yellow trim on the sleeves, boots and cape. It separates her from Superman while still looking similar and giving her a Captain Marvel Jr. vibe as well.

Now, for Luthor's armor. The last page looked good. The little robots floating around while working Lex's armor had a great high-tech feel. It's the armor itself that I have a problem with. Now it's not Ian or Norm's fault that the armor looks like this. They didn't design it. Ed McGuinness did, so this is not an attack on either of them.

While I like the fact that the armor has been brought back I wish it was a little more streamlined. I realize that large armor is popular these days since anime and manga is so prevalent in popular culture. The thing is that bulky armor looks bad. It's just that simple. I'm not saying that the artists should go back to the armor from the mid-'80s. Sure I have the Super Powers Lex Luthor figure sitting right near my desk and I plan on buying the DC Direct Crisis figure when it comes out in December, but that doesn't mean that I am not open to different interpretations, just make them slimmer. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Overall I have a good feeling about the art in the upcoming SUPERGIRL series. I am looking forward to what Ian and Norm are going to bring to it and their version of Power Girl.

3Cover Art - 3: A funny little observation I made this week while writing this review; contemporary comic book covers are better than those of ten to twenty years ago. Not in terms of art or composition, but in terms of the paper they use. As I was putting my comic back in its bag (yes, I bag my comics) the cover got caught on the tape. If this was an older cover I would have to call a Hazardous Materials team to remove the cover from the tape with sanitized tools specially designed for the task. With the glossy, slick feeling to this comic's cover the tape came off easy as pie.

And to think I used to complain about this paper stock. Thanks, DC!

Anyway, I have mixed emotions about this cover. On one hand it has artwork by Ian Churchill. Ian Churchill, as mentioned, is a phenomenal artist. The problem with this cover is that as much as I like Churchill's art on the interior I thought the composition of the cover was a bit off. Supergirl looked good. A bit Jokerish, but she looked good nonetheless. Superman has a rather odd look on his face, but he doesn't look all that bad either. What hurts this cover is the image of Batman. He looks odd. I guess he's supposed to be looming in the background, but he just looks odd.

Even with the creepy looking Batman this cover still gets an eight out of ten on the 2005 Edition of the Grab Me Meter, mostly because it has a scantily clad woman on it, which usually draws the eye of your average comic book fan.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2005

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