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Superman/Batman Annual #1

Superman/Batman Annual #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 25, 2006

Cover date: December 2006

Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Ed McGuinness, Ryan Ottley, Sean Murphy, Carlo Barberi
Inker: Dexter Vines, Cliff Rathburn, Sean Murphy, Don Hillsman II, Bob Petrecca, Andy Owens, Rodney Ramos

"Stop Me If You've Heard This One..."

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

The Past.

After fighting with alternate reality versions of themselves Superman and Batman, in their guises of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, go on a cruise to the Bermuda Triangle. Clark and Bruce "meet" for the first time when the two men are forced to share a room thanks to a booking error. During dinner Slade Wilson (a.k.a. Deathstroke), who had accepted a contract on Bruce's life and makes his first attempt to kill Bruce, but fails thanks to Clark's heat vision.

Later in the evening a strange vortex engulfs the ship. Bruce and Clark try to think of ways to get away from each other so they can change into Batman and Superman but Wilson makes a second attempt on Bruce's life and a poison tipped error bounces off of Clark's neck. Clark and Bruce realize who the other really is seconds before a strange costumed figure breaks into the room claiming to be there to save Bruce's life. Deathstroke isn't finished, though and shoots the newcomer before launching a grenade into the room.

Elsewhere on the ship Lois Lane is busy covering the strange event when she thinks she spots Superman and Batman arrive. She rushes over to greet them and discovers that it is not Superman and Batman but Ultraman and Owlman of the Crime Syndicate.

Bruce and Clark split up to investigate who is trying to kill Bruce and the light show respectively. Superman finds Ultraman and the two begin fighting. Bruce runs into Superwoman of the Crime Syndicate who mistakes him for Owlman. The unnamed costumed figure shows up again and saves Bruce, but before he can introduce himself Deathstroke shoves a sword into him.

Superman and Ultraman continue fighting as Deathstroke, Bruce, Superwoman and the seemingly immortal unnamed figure spill out onto the deck. Bruce uses the confusion to jump overboard and retrieve the craft he had brought with him. After assisting Superman underwater Batman and the Man of Steel engage their counterparts on the deck of the ship. The battle is epic (apparently) but the rift begins closing and Batman and Owlman realize that they will be trapped in some sort of null space if something isn't done. Batman quickly forms a plan which involves Superman taunting Ultraman into chasing him. Without realizing it Ultraman helps Superman pull the ship out of the rift.

Ultraman, Superwoman and Owlman disappear with the rift and all is set right again. Lois Lane rushes towards the two heroes trying to prove that they are really Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, but Superman uses his super speed to throw off her suspicions, though the process causes some stomach problems for Batman.

In the end Mr. Mxyztplk reveals that he was behind the entire mess. He hired Slade and Superwoman to kill Bruce and tossed in a pan-dimensional rift to mix things up because to Mxy today's stories need angst.

The End.

4Story - 4: Well, that was certainly a Joe Kelly story wasn't it?

I've always had this love/hate thing going on with Joe Kelly's writing. He's good. I've enjoyed most of the stories he's written, but at the same time he has a tendency to go a tad overboard. There are instances where this works and there are other instances where it kind of falls flat.

This Annual had examples of both and because of this I am left with mixed feelings on what I really think about it.

The story was solid. It was all over the place, but it was solid. Superman #76 (cover date May/June 1952) was one of the first Superman comics I ever read, so I appreciate the attempt to update the concept. I mean I was fond of the Post-Crisis explanation that Superman had given the scrapbook that Lex Luthor had stolen from the Kent house (the one that Ma Kent had been keeping which was mailed to Clark by Amanda McCoy after Luthor had fired her) to Batman to investigate (before he knew it was his mother's) and Batman used that to deduce that Superman is Clark Kent. That was interesting, but part of me likes the old school, two guys sharing a room on a cruise ship and stumbling across the fact that they are the World's Finest too.

Yeah, I'm funny that way.

This issue kicked off strong. It took me a minute to realize that Superman and Batman were fighting the adult Titans from an alternate future but once it sunk in I rather liked it. It was a total throwaway scene but fun nonetheless. The end result was a nice little sequence between Superman and Batman that cemented the fact that once again things have changed and while they weren't chums so to speak Superman and Batman got along well in their early years. The little game Kelly developed with the two trying to figure out each other's secret identities was a great touch, especially Batman's line about looking through the "Who's Who" of every college from the last twenty years to find that chin of Superman's.

I also liked how Kelly worked the Crime Syndicate into the story. As much as I dug what Grant Morrison did when he brought them back six years ago there is also a part of me that wants to see the alternate versions just beat the snot out of each other. It may not be the most mature or enlightened desire, but sometimes you just can't fight what you like. It was a bit out there, but having the dimensional rift occur at the Bermuda Triangle worked even if it didn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense.

Then there were the parts of the story that I remain undecided on. It's not that I disliked them per se I just don't know how to feel about them. The banter between Clark and Bruce was amusing and it was interesting to see the rich guy face off against the farm boy, but it seemed a bit off. It just seemed a little odd that Clark would use his heat vision to shatter Bruce's drink for calling him a hayseed.

Then there was the unnamed Earth-Two version of Deathstroke who seemed an awful lot like Deadpool to me. This makes sense, however, since Joe Kelly made a name for himself writing the character. Again, it was fun but it just pointed to how out of place Deathstroke was to the story. I never saw Deathstroke as a comical character, but that could just be me.

And Superman got kicked in the crotch by Ultraman. Has that ever happened before? This could be a first.

What all of these have in common is Kelly's unique sense of humor. It's funny and I can't help buy enjoying it but the more rational (read: stick in the mud) side of me can't help but wondering if it makes any sense. I'm all for showing the lighter side of the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel but this story nearly went overboard in certain places. Superman getting nailed in the bad place, Bruce upchucking over the side of the ship, the whole ending with Mxyzptlk, it was just a tad overdone.

But I can't be too harsh. The story was what it was. Kelly set out to tell a fun tale of the early days of the World's Finest and he succeeded. I could sit here and type about how everyone was out of character but it doesn't feel right. As silly as things got it was funny and I can't deny that. I mean that two page spread where Superman and Ultraman and Batman and Owlman fought while the most epic battle ever was being described was hilarious.

And in the end that makes all the difference.

Or something like that.

4Art - 4: It's amazing. You had three people on pencils, two guys doing the inking and one person pulling double duty and everything blended together well. There were differences to be sure (especially in the Superman getting hit below the belt scene) but overall the art was consistent throughout the story. It also fit the tone of Joe Kelly's writing as well. I have no complaints in this department.

3Cover Art - 3: This cover had symmetry but at the same time it didn't do too much for me. Maybe it's the white background. The cover served its purpose, though and gave the reader a taste of what they were going to find. And there is something cool about having a character point a gun at the audience. It wasn't a bad cover, just not the best I have seen Ed and Dexter do.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2006

February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006

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