Superman/Batman Annual #5 review

Doomsday has hunted down the Cyborg Superman, Hank Henshaw, at the JLA Satellite while, trapped inside with them, are Supergirl and Batman. Outside, Blue Lantern Saint Walker and Starman Mikaal Tomas are helpless as the station morphs into the face of, first, Henshaw, then Doomsday. Neither bad guy is much interested in Batman, so he's sidelined by Henshaw and made to fight constructs of some of Earth's most heinous villains - can he stay alive without the help of Supergirl, who is struck down by a mysterious malady?

I wouldn't have bought this comic, but I've been following Justice League of America, from which it's continued. Going into this special, we know two things for certain - against all odds, the non-powered Batman will survive, and that as the Reign of Doomsday storyline is ending in Action Comics #900, not here, our heroes aren't going to stop the Kryptonian monster. Still, that doesn't mean there isn't an awful lot of fun to be had. 

I'm not a fan of Doomsday - he's boring, and if that statement needs explaining, you've never read a Doomsday story. 

Oh all right. All Doomsday ever does is show up, grunt and pound people into the ground. We don't even know why he's currently dropping by various DC books and attacking onetime substitute Supermen Steel, Eradicator, Cyborg Superman and, next week, Superboy. I find Henshaw more interesting due to his twisted psyche, his always frustrated desire for death, but he's been overused in the last few years. Nevertheless, writer James Robinson fills many of his 46 pages with a surprisingly entertaining back and forth between Doomsday, who once (kinda, sorta) killed Superman, and Henshaw, who's jealous of that fact. 

What's more interesting to me, though, is the pairing of Kara with Dick Grayson. It's something we've seen in recent issues of JLA, and here their relationship has room to breathe. For some unknown reason, Kara's in 'Dark Supergirl' mode - spikier than usual, in a silver version of her regular suit. It's a look she sported in her own comic book once, but then she was all-out evil; here she's more the brat, still basically good. When she falls ill Dick has her go to the JLA's sickbay-cum-panic-room, where she's checked out by holograms of a couple of JLA members - DC Universe holograms, it seems, are exceeding clever, with their ability to not only analyse, but interact.

It's a cute conceit by Robinson that helps the story reach its satisfying semi-conclusion, but it's not my favorite thing he comes up with here. No, that would be the concept of 'synthetic magic' which Dick posits has weakened Kara. What a lunatic idea. What a glorious, lunatic idea - we've had synthetic Kryptonite messing Superman and Supergirl up for decades, so why not an energy which resonates with properties similar to enchantments?

Robinson is in fine fettle throughout, filling in the details of Dick and Kara's feelings for one another, going beyond the comic book obvious. He also has fun with his old mucker Starman in his few panels, and even makes me warm to lovely and wise Saint Walker.

The book is illustrated by Miguel Sepulveda and the pages are breathtaking. The compositions, the designs, the execution ... this is beautiful work. The splashes and spreads are particularly stunning, and if someone doesn't offer this guy an exclusive soon, I'll be amazed. The work is dramatic, and detailed, though when a simple rendering is best, Sepulveda goes there and trusts the brilliant Jose Villarrubia to colour up a storm. 

Credit too, to John J Hill, who has to letter all those annoying, internal narrative boxes we're inflicted with because somebody thinks thought bubbles are passe. Actually, they're a tried and tested way to convey thoughts without slowing story flow.

As a chapter in the story of Doomsday (because NO ONE demanded it!), this is terrific. As a Supergirl and Batman team-up, it's perfect.


  1. I haven't read this comic yet -- picked it up on your suggestion. But I have to say, the image you scanned doesn't come close to conveying how nice this art is. It's really, REALLY impressive -- not just the images, but the layouts as well. Lovely stuff, and I'm looking forweard to digging in.

    The Superboy follow-up has some really nice, unusual art as well -- a far cry from the artist of his preview backup in Action Comics some months ago.

  2. Absolutely, but so many of the wonderful images were spreads and splashes, or reveals, or big moments! It sucks to be my wee scanner!

    I've not gotten to Superboy yet - bedtime now, tis nearly 1am.


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