Superman is in Gotham on the trail of tech that could kill him. New Batman Jim Gordon wants to arrest the newly outed Clark Kent, insisting that he can't be trusted. Lucius Fox's energy research lab has been targeted by tech raiders. And an old enemy of Superman shows up to scratch a grudge.
And thank goodness for the surprise appearance of Ukur, who debuted in writer Greg Rucka's Action Comics run last year. He adds a bit of colour and fun to what, until then, had been a depressingly grim book. 'Officer Batman' has no patience with Superman. Superman is being a borderline bully with his contempt for his friend's replacement.
As well as hurting Superman, Ukur wants the miniature sun hidden in Fox's lab - and boy, does the currently underpowered Superman's face light up when he sees that. Ukur needs power for his subterranean realm, Superman having wrecked the previous energy grid, which depended on the pain of innocents. It's at this point that Pak reminds us that the super-scrappy, hot-tempered guy we've been reading about really is Superman - even his speech patterns have completely changed of late - when he appeals to Urku's reason. And that leads to a fine climactic scene that makes things a lot more interesting.
So, Pak course corrects the tone of the comic, ensuring I'm a lot happier at the end than I was for much of the read. Last week's cop punch or no cop punch, I simply find it really difficult to believe Jim Gordon would unquestioningly buy all the recent bad publicity Superman's been having. This is Superman, who's saved the world, and helped the little guy, every day for years. This is Superman, trusted friend of his trusted friend.
And for his part, Superman treats the new Batman with contempt, as if he's never met a legacy hero previously. If Superman knew Gordon was New Batman, there's more chance they'd have an immediate connection - as it is, they should at least be smart enough to deal with the problem at hand, and discuss their PR issues later.
While I'm not delighted with Superman being a fugitive, I have to commend Pak and penciller Ardian Syaf for this terrific little scene.
Superman's really not used to being the most listened-to person in the room, is he?
And I'm very impressed by Lucius Fox, who quietly stands around for several pages, holding a ruddy great wrench, ready to defend his baby sun.
Syaf does fine work throughout, capturing the intensity of the situation with style. So far as presenting Gordon's emotions goes, he has little room for manoeuvre - the RoBatman mask never comes off. There's no bar to energetic action sequences, though - Syaf goes big every chance he gets; his Ukur is especially imposing, as he takes Action artist Aaron Kuder's design and runs with it. And look at the tension in Superman's back. The finishing by Vicente Sifuentes really brings out the power in the pencils, with various line weights used for emphasis. Kudos, too, to the colourists - Dean White, Beth Sotelo and Blond share the job, and I can't see the join, it's excellent work all round. Rob Leigh, as letterer, has the least showy assignment, but he does a great job too.
As for that cover, it's a nicely conceived image, effectively executed by Syaf, Danny Miki and Ulises Arreola; the trade dress for this arc adds to the film poster feel.
I'm looking forward to next issue a lot more than I was this one. Monster-Men make everything better.