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Superman/Batman #49

Superman/Batman #49

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 18, 2008

Cover date: August 2008

"K" - Chapter 6: "Cache"

Writer: Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Penciller: Shane Davis
Inker: Matt "Batt" Banning

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge



Superman and Batman fly towards LexCorp headquarters in Metropolis only to be greeted by an armed response. Batman heads into the bowels of the building while Superman confronts the CEO of the company, Lana Lang. She admits that LexCorp has been supplying the military with kryptonite weapons and explains that by doing so she saved the company from economic collapse. Superman demands to know where the Kryptonite is being held but Lana refuses to divulge the location, which proves to be unnecessary as Batman has already located it.

Lana has an ace up her sleeve, though, and informs Superman that not only is there more than one cache but that if he tries to destroy them she will detonate explosive devices that will act as Kryptonite dirty bombs and render the Earth uninhabitable for Superman and those like him. Superman calls her bluff which turns out to be anything but and Lana detonates the charges.

Superman and his family's exile is short lived as Hiro, the young Toyman, releases his "spiders" that scrub the Kryptonite away down to the microscopic level. Superman is able to return to his adopted world just in time to attend the premiere of the World's Finest movie. Afterwards Superman confronts Lana about her actions before heading to Gotham City to entrust the final piece of Kryptonite left to the one man he can trust with it; Batman. Batman places it in the most secure portion of the cave, praying that he never needs to use it.

2Story - 2: I've noticed this trend towards negativity in the last few months of reviews that I've written for this site and while I know where some of it comes from (personal stuff, you wouldn't be interested) the rest of it comes from the slow and nearly horrifying realization that I am not liking a lot of the comics I'm currently reading. Put those two together and you have a very grumpy Mike.

So when it came to this month and this issue of SUPERMAN/BATMAN I went into the story totally prepared to find something about it that was good, something that I liked. It was on. I was going to enjoy this comic. I was going to see the good in what Michael Green and Mike Johnson were doing. This was going to be the beginning of a bold new adventure in comic book commentary.

And then they went and did what they did with Lana and all of that goodwill disappeared like Krispy Kreme doughnuts when the hot light is on.

Looking at the story arc as a whole this was a very disjointed story from beginning to end. It wasn't so much an arc but a bunch of vignettes exploring the inner psyche of Superman and Batman with an ongoing sub-plot of the two heroes trying to get rid of the world's supply of Kryptonite. It's not a bad premise to hang a story around and in all honesty I think they did the best job they could with the ideas they had but at the end of the day it all comes down to characterization and I happen to disagree with the way they presented about eighty-five percent of the people in this story.

Here's the thing; I realize that everyone has their own perceptions of who these characters are as people. I'm cool with that. That actually goes to the heart of being a writer, especially one that has to deal with characters that are owned by someone else. I will also admit that there are times that a story is so good that a character gaff doesn't bother me as much and I am a firm believer in the fact that sometimes to tell a good story you have to have the character act in a way that is contrary to the norm. Superman executing the Phantom Zone villains is a perfect example of this. Superman doesn't kill, but what if he did? What is the fall out? What would happen next? In that case I think the writers did a fantastic job of dealing with what effect such an act would have on Superman. Sometimes you have to push the boundaries because that is what fiction is all about.

I look at writing an ongoing narrative with some semblance of continuity kind of like a legal proceeding. The writer is acting as the prosecution. He or she is making a case that a certain course of events will transpire and that the characters would act in a certain manner. The readers act as the defense. They are the ones who will call objection to something they think is out of order. Sometimes the writers are right and sometimes the readers are right but in both cases they are dealing with precedents in how the character has acted in the past. To my mind you can have a character act any way you want and as long as there is some reasonable and hopefully non-clichéd explanation than I'll be satisfied but when you have a character act out of character just for the sake of doing so then I think the writer has failed on a certain level because they are wanting shock over substance.

In this issue Michael Green and Mike Johnson have put forth the argument that Lana Lang, former girlfriend to Clark Kent, the confidant of his youth and the first true love of his life would not only stockpile Kryptonite so that the government can use it to create weapons in case Superman ever went over the edge but that she would also create measures that if Superman ever tried to stop her from doing so those stores would detonate and make Earth uninhabitable for him and everyone like him. What motivated her to do this? Well, she's the head of a multi-billion dollar international corporation that was on the verge of collapse when she took over and she has all of these people who have all of these families and those are more important to her than one of the people she's known all her life and who, on occasion, has saved the world and by extension all of the lives of those people that work for her and her families.

Objection, your honor.

I have two problems with this; one involves character and one on a general storytelling level. We'll focus on the character issue first. While I think that Lana wasn't acting in character, for my tastes at least, my issues with how Lana was treated here go deeper than that. Admittedly some of those issues come from the fact that Lana was treated very poorly right before Infinite Crisis and I wanted some vindication for her, which Kurt Busiek did to a certain extent, but I thought her motivation to create weapons to kill the man she once loved on the off chance he would go nuts was very weak. "I have all of these people working for me. They're my responsibility," she says and instead of coming up with a better solution and being, you know, clever she goes for the easy out, which doesn't speak for her business acumen.

To Green and Johnson's eyes Lana Lang is a friend to Superman but only if he doesn't interfere with her business in which case she'll release a substance that can kill him into the atmosphere, which to me is not only bad characterization but pretty lousy writing.

Speaking of lousy writing we come to my second problem with the way Lana was treated, which is that her betrayal of Superman came out of left field and smacks of being done for the sake of shocking the reader. "Look what we did! Lana Lang pressed the button! Isn't that dramatic?" Well, yeah, but its drive-by characterization because I doubt that Green and Johnson are going to deal with the fall out. Shocking a reader is fine. Giving the reader a sit up and notice scene is fine, but Lana Lang is a long standing character in the Superman mythos and other writers might want to use her in the next few months and if they do they either have to ignore this story or deal with what she did, neither of which are a very good position to be in.

And therein lays the problem. A story regarding that takes a supporting character and has them betray their former love with no plans to explore the ramifications is bad storytelling, especially when you add in the deus ex machina that was the Toyman having the Kryptonite scrubbed from the planet, which took the sails right out of Lana's act.

Sigh

And these guys are going to be on the book for the foreseeable future.

Maybe it will get better.

Or maybe we'll get more of a teenage boy going on a date to Paris with a grown woman.

Because that's funny, right?

4Art - 4: As always I like the art. Davis and Banning had some interesting layouts and their takes on Superman and Batman have improved over the last six issues, but it just wasn't enough to save the story.

Good art, though. Really good art.

4Cover Art - 4: I liked the cover too. I kind of dug the fact that the logo is shifted to the right, as if it, like Superman and Batman, was blown back by the Kryptonite explosion.

Dramatic and effective, unlike the story inside.


Mild Mannered Reviews

2008

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

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