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Mild Mannered Reviews - Superman/Batman

Superman/Batman Annual #4

Superman/Batman Annual #4

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 2, 2010

Cover date: August 2010

"A Time Beyond Hope"

Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Terry McGinnis, the Batman of the future, takes down two thugs mugging a kid for his credits. During the fight Terry notices that the muggers have an accent that indicates they are from Metropolis. When Terry asks them why they are in Gotham one of them replies they are trying to get away from "the ghost".

Back at the Batcave Bruce Wayne and Terry do some research and discover that drug busts of criminals with backgrounds from Metropolis are up 72% in Gotham City. Bruce sends Terry to watch the Metropolis Monorail line for potential criminals coming into town. During his surveillance a group of Jokerz tries to mug a man in a hat and trench coat but both Terry and the Jokerz are shocked to find that the man is actually Metallo. Terry follows Metallo after he takes the Jokerz out and after six hours of Metallo visiting one drug den after another Terry finally makes his move and knocks Metallo into the river. He grabs Metallo's bag and takes it back to Bruce. They soon discover that the drug samples Metallo was carrying contain Kryptonite leading Terry to believe it is time for a road trip.

Once in Metropolis Terry does some reconnaissance and discovers that the Kryptonite in the drugs doesn't seem to have much of an effect on the user but might be enough to keep Superman away. Bruce has Terry trace Superman and the only clue comes in the form of a purchase every week like clockwork for flowers. Terry visits the grave of Lois Lane and wonders how Superman could have let Metropolis fall so far from what it was.

Superman hovers above Terry and thinks that Terry isn't as tough as Bruce, who would never understand the bond he shared with Lois. He lands and sheds a few tears for Lois before flying off thinking that he will take his city back. Superman watches a gang break into a drug store and begin to raid the inventory. A guard rushes in to stop them but one of the gang members gets the drop on him. When the member moves in for the kill he disappears and the others run away thinking it is the work of the ghost.

One of the gang members doesn't flee into the night and it turns out to be Terry working undercover. Superman wonders if Terry will be able to help him with Luthor but Terry's main concern is to grab what the gang had come for so he would better position himself to infiltrate the group. His plan works and he joins a small group on a mission to break into the Fortress of Solitude and grab the Solar Power Concentrator. Terry and the other surviving gang menber bring the Concentrator to Lex Luthor who immediately kills his minion and reveals that he knows that Terry is Batman. Terry asks how Luthor knew. Luthor replies that it was Terry's DNA that allowed them into the Fortress and attacks Terry. The villain tells the young Batman that he served his purpose again because HE is here.

Superman flies in and asks why Luthor is ruining Metropolis. His nemesis explains that unlike Superman he is getting old and when he dies Metropolis dies with him. Luthor summons his "Superman Beyond", a man in an armored suit who attacks Superman and because of the Kryptonite the Man of Steel doesn't fare all that well. Terry leaps on to Lex's chair and causes it to fly into the next room. Superman's power returns and he easily defeats Lex's armored champion. After that Superman says he has one last chore and sends Lex to the Phantom Zone, where he sent the other criminals. He gives Terry the Zone projector and asks that he allow the criminals out when he thinks they learned a lesson but to keep Luthor in there forever.

Terry asks where Superman is going and the Man of Steel explains that there are worlds out there that he wants to see before he dies. Terry suggests that he sticks around and uses the armor Luthor created to train a new Superman like Bruce did with him. Superman tells him that while he is on the way to becoming Batman you have to be born to be Superman. He then gives Terry a signal watch that will alert him no matter where he is. With that Superman takes to the stars and Terry heads home.

4Story - 4: This annual broke tradition by traveling to the future instead of mining the past. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed the past three annuals to this title and they were all entertaining retellings or reimaginings of older stories and concepts but I appreciated the fact that Levitz decided to look forward, literally, with this tale.

More than anything this was a solid story from beginning to end. I was and am a big fan of BATMAN BEYOND. I thought it was a great show and took the concept of a Batman of the future and made it work. Terry was an interesting character and not the type of person you would expect to succeed Bruce as the Dark Knight. Levitz did right by both Bruce and Terry to the point I could hear the voices of Will Friedle and Kevin Conroy in my head. Levitz nailed the dynamic between Bruce and Terry and it was interesting to get into both Bruce's head to find out what Bruce thinks of his protégé especially since he isn't going to say it out loud.

The plot was enjoyable as well. It made for a meaty story and some great characterization. The mystery angle was fun and drove the story along. Levitz even managed to use Kryptonite in a very novel way by having it cut into the drugs the people of Metropolis were using as a means of keeping Superman at bay. By far the neatest angle Levitz played with was Superman using a Phantom Zone Projector to put fear into the hearts of the bad guys of Metropolis. Fear is not a usual weapon in Superman's tool belt. In fact Superman is all about having people trust him, so the fact that he had to rely on something of a Batman tactic is interesting. I am glad Levitz brought up the moral and philosophical implications as the end but to me the ends justified the means because Superman couldn't work within the system. Lex Luthor was the system. This may be one of the reasons Superman left at the end. It was never spoken aloud but he had to rely on tactics he never would have dreamed of while in his prime. I did, however, like the fact that Superman gave the projector to Terry at the end saying to leave Luthor in there forever but to let the others out when they have learned their lesson.

Also this sets up some interesting prospects for Lex Luthor to pop up in the future, maybe in a Legion story, for example. It may not happen but the possibility is there.

Another aspect of the story that I liked was how Lex created what is essentially Superman Beyond with an armored "champion" wearing Superman's shield. Sure he was a bad guy, but I liked the concept of Superman having to fight what is basically a future version of himself. Terry brings up the point at the end that they could use the armor for good but Superman says something that hits to the heart of the character. By taking on a protégé, whether it is Dick Grayson or Jason Todd or Tim Drake or Terry McGinnis the door was open for the chance that one day someone else could be Batman. Batman, as a concept, is a self-made man. Superman's powers were innate. He was born with the potential to have them as long as he was under a yellow sun. He never had a sidekick and outside of Supergirl there was never really anyone that could take his place. So it would make sense that there could never be a "Superman Beyond." I like that because it makes Superman unique as a character and concept.

The only real problem I had with this annual was the inclusion of Metallo. This is a minor quibble to be sure but he felt out of place. The only real reason to bring in a character like Metallo is to see how Terry would stand up fighting him and all we got was Terry dumping him into a body of water. It's not that I hated it, I just didn't see much point.

All in all this was a good annual. The story had a quick pace to it but it didn't take five minutes to read. It's the type of story where you can settle in and know you are getting your money's worth. I have read two SUPERMAN/BATMAN stories written by Levitz and if this is the sign of things to come I think the title is finally back on track.

4Art - 4: I really dug Renato Guedes' artwork in this annual but through the entire issue I could not shake I thought Terry looked in costume. I realized about halfway through that my problem stemmed from the fact that it didn't look like the animated series version and once I realized that I knew I was being unfair. The art in this was solid, like the writing. The storytelling was clear and I liked how the characters looked.

4Cover Art - 4: I really dug this cover. It looked good and the fact that Terry was on it and Superman was in another costume promised at least an interesting story.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2010

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