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Superman/Batman #31

Superman/Batman #31

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 27, 2006

Cover date: January 2007

Writer: Mark Verheiden
Penciller: Matthew Clark
Inker: Andy Lanning

"The Enemies Among Us" - Part 4

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Superman finally believes in whatever those responsible for "The Call" have been telling him and joins with the other aliens who have turned against humanity.

Meanwhile in the Fortress of Solitude Batman tries to calm Plastic Man down after his corruption by the Blackrock. Plastic Man refuses to listen and escapes. Seconds later Batman discovers the shape changer that had been attacking him and Superman was really Zook, the former sidekick of the Martian Manhunter. Zook explains that he had left after feeling unwanted and insulted but recently he returned after hearing "The Call". The Martian Manhunter arrives and explains that "The Call" begins with an uncertainty followed by an unknown clarity. When the Manhunter finally understood he followed Zook. Batman asks why they don't finish him off. J'onn replies that they want him to watch as humanity dies ignorant as to why they are being destroyed.

Plastic Man tries to double cross Lex Luthor but fails.

Ultra the Multi-Alien goes on a rampage as his alien components hear "The Call". Supergirl arrives but instead of fighting him she helps him escape.

Lex Luthor tortures Plastic Man in an effort to separate him from the Blackrock. Batman attacks Luthor but before he can get anywhere he is attacked from behind by Ultra. Ultra informs the Dark Knight that "the Others" want Luthor alive for the moment. Supergirl continues and tells him that Ultra has been sent to protect Luthor and that she has been sent for him. Batman tries to talk some sense into her but it doesn't work. Suddenly Superman arrives and informs Batman that it is time for him to die.

4Story - 4: Zook?

Zook was the mystery villain?


I think I need a minute here.

I mean I know that Verheiden was going for some obscure Silver Age/Bronze Age vibe with the inclusion of Titano, Dr. Phosphorus, Blackrock and in this issue Ultra, the Multi-Alien, but wow. Zook is like a gold medal winner of bizarre characters to throw at us.

My hat (if I had one at any rate) is off to you, Mark Verheiden. This one required some Internet detective work to learn more about.

I mean I'm good when it comes to DC trivia, but I am not that good.

Despite my admiration for Verheiden's choice in characters I was a bit conflicted on my feelings for this issue. On one hand I thought that there were aspects of this chapter that worked beautifully. Alfred's narration was one of them. In the "real world" it works as a storytelling device for Verheiden to explore Batman as a character. There is a lot going on in this story and with all of the action and the colorful characters coming and going there is little time for characterization. The journal entries are an organic way to bring some of that into the mix. In terms of the story itself it shows what Alfred thinks of his boss and allows us as readers to get a look at the inner workings of the Dark Knight Detective. Who better than Alfred to really speak to Bruce's mind? Sure Dick Grayson or Tim Drake could make some good guesses, but Alfred is the only one who has seen Bruce both before and after his parents were killed and has seen him at his best and his worst.

So I enjoyed that. I also enjoyed the scene where Zook and J'onn explained why Zook had been assuming the forms he had. The line that he had taken those forms of the "villains" of his time was pretty striking and brought everything together from the last three chapters, especially the version of Lois Lane Zook took on complete with her pillbox hat. It made the choices in supposed villains seem more than just an excuse to drag out some weird, hardly used characters. Add the coldness of J'onn and Zook's decision to leave Batman alive with the knowledge that the human race is about to die and I thought this scene was one of the strongest so far.

After that things got a little shaky. The story slowed down a little. After the revelation of the mystery shape changer's identity the only mystery left is what alien force is behind everything and it looks like we're at least an issue away from finding out that bit of information. It's not that I don't like a good mystery and I certainly don't think that everything about a story should be revealed up front but the fact of the matter is that six issues is a lot a space to fill with a story and because of that there are moments that drag more than others when the piece is read on a monthly basis.

So it was great to see Ultra, the Multi-Alien, but at the same time I want events to play out a little faster. But maybe that's just me. It's a personal opinion and not an indictment of Verheiden's writing, which I happen to enjoy quite a bit.

Next issue seems to promise that a throw down is going to occur between Superman and Batman. I'm looking forward to this if only to see what wrinkle Verheiden will throw into it.

4Art - 4: Matthew Clark takes up where Ethan Van Sciver left off. I am going to jump to the conclusion that something happened to Van Sciver's schedule to necessitate a new artist coming on. Clark was a logical choice given his previous association with the Man of Steel and his ability to handle a large cast of characters. I was really glad to see him bounce back from the minor heart attack he had back in May because I really dig his work and for strictly personal reasons I hate to hear of anyone going through something like that.

Clark, along with Andy Lanning, came out swinging and produced some really moody artwork. Zook in particular was handled well. Clark and Lanning took this silly little stuffed animal looking thing from the Silver Age and gave him a sinister edge. I also dug the two panels where the art actually shifted to a Silver Age style, which I thought was a neat effect. The scenes with Plastic Man and Luthor were enjoyable as well as were the bits with Ultra. Overall this issue had some solid art and I look forward to see what Clark is going to bring to Superman and Batman's little tiff.

4Cover Art - 4: I'm not quite sure what is supposed to be happening on this cover. Superman and Batman seem to be fighting someone who can really light up a room. (Yeah that was a bad pun. Sue me.) I don't know what this has to do with the story at hand but Van Sciver turned in a nice piece of art nonetheless.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2007

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