Batman/Superman #23 review

I do love Superman and monsters. It rarely fails to make me happy. In a nice diversion from the general gloom of the Truth sequence in the Superman books, writer Greg Pak gives us a nice side story in which the stakes are stacked, but the fun is foremost. 

Ukur, the Beastmaster of Subterranea - I just love writing that - has retreated into his hidden realm after Superman and Jim-Gordon-Batman stop him stealing WayneTech's mini-sun. Ukur needs it as a power source for his people, but Gordon saw only a criminal, endangering Gotham. Superman, currently lacking most of his powers, goes after the Beastmaster, keeping a distance so he can go undetected and learn more. Superman insists Gordon stay on the surface, and despite his relative weakness, doesn't call in any of his super-friends. Is he mad?
Pak is trying hard here, and Superman is almost convincing, but basically it comes down to this being a comic named Batman/Superman. I miss the days when a writer could simply say 'the JLA is off on a case across the galaxy'. 

Immediately after, follows my favourite moment from this issue - whether you consider his secret ID to be Clark or Superman, it's interesting to know he misses having one. 
Superman meets a group of Gotham citizens down in the tunnels and, quite reasonably, assumes they're prisoners. Nope, they're immigrants - inmates who fell down the rabbithole after some prison collapse (a regular occurrence, apparently) and decided it's better to live free underground than in chains above. The bonus for people like stable chief Angie is that they get to smuggle their whole families down with them, and be protected by Ukur

Now, I could see a desperate inmate making the choice, but demanding their loved ones join 'em? And said loved ones agreeing? Gothamites are deeply weird. 

That's not the oddest moment this month. This scene made me choke on my cuppa. 
Worst. Perry. White. Ever. 

Or is it? The Daily Planet editor has been hurt physically and emotionally, because of someone he cares for, but someone who put the rest of his 'family' - ordinary, non-powered people - at risk. Perry will calm down in time, but for now, his understandable anger is shocking. My more serious problem with this scene is that Pak is foregrounding a point readers have to refuse to think about in order to accept Clark as a responsible man. Instead, we'll have to forget about this exchange. 

It's fascinating to see Gordon with Perry, though.  I don't think versions of the characters have met since the Silver Age of World's Finest Comics. And the same goes for Lois and Gordon, who share a diner meal after her attempts to tail him prove a tad sad. 
I like this scene a lot. For all the talk of Lois' betrayal, or Clark's weasel ways, she knows that there are no villains here, just people doing what they think is right. 

(And would you want Metallo watching your back? OK, he's pretty sane this week, but still...)

Back underground, Clark is in trouble with the commander of the dead Subterannea warrior whose clothes he's been wearing. The good news is that his disguise holds. The bad is that he's about to be executed for presumed desertion. He's saved from that only by Urku calling his men to a summit to meet their new ally...

So yeah, I'm not spoiling that. Batman/Superman #23 is hugely entertaining, with Superman in Edgar Rice Burroughs territory, and Gordon in Superman's. The character moments for Superman, Lois and Perry made me think, with only Gordon sounding an off-note - his compassion has gone out the window. That's likely due to this millennium's tedious insistence that any Batman/Superman book has to continually contrast the leads. 

And Gordon doesn't look like himself either. Ardian Syaf is a cracking superhero artist, but he ignores the fact that even in the post-2011 continuity, Jim Gordon has to be at least early forties. He looks 35, tops. And has no eyebrows. That's the only visual misstep, though; everyone looks great, especially Superman in his sci-if barbarian suit. Syaf's pages, inked by Vicente Cifuentes and coloured by Beth Sotelo, are a feast for the eyes. Sotelo is a new name to me, but I hope she gets lots more work at DC - the range of tones she chooses for any given scene is perfect, whether she's evoking Metropolis night or the perpetual twilight of the underworld. The final member of the core creative team. Rob Leigh, does a commendable job on the lettering, while editor Andrew Marino pulls everything together nicely. 

Syaf, Cifuentes and colourist Ulises Areola's cover is decent, but I'm tired of the misery-laden covers. Far more eyecatching is the Bombshells variant by Des Taylor.  
All in all, this is a good-looking book that reads well and leaves us with some food for thought. It uses the overarching Truth sequence to motivate unusual character insights and interactions which act as the icing on a great Boys Own adventure. It's just great work all round. 


  1. Good review. As always trying to bring in the good moments, even if they are few specially since this Truth Arc started. Honestly I can't like Pak's run, I tried more than once to give him a chance, but honestly his writing of Superman and Clark seems off to me. He puts remaining things of what people used to like about Clark now and then, but we never get the full Superman's personality. Pak and the others are still relying on what Pre New 52 Superman used to be to sell their stories with this Super Dude that most of the time acts with no moral compass, who inspires no one to be better and who is now acting like a jerk most of the times. I don't know if this is part of what Editorial is doing with the character, though I am seriously tired of using Editorial's mandate as an excuse to justify poor writing. I just can't do it anymore. this team has been on this run for 2 years!!! and nothing has changed for the book. Numbers for Action Comics are bad. If it weren't for variant covers or gimmicks I really wonder where this book and Action would be with numbers.
    I agree those Perry panels were AWFUL!!!! Geez I really dislike Perry's bitchy comments! Wonder if people will call him out of his mean comments about Clark or is that only reserved exclusively for Lois. Ha!! Ironically Lois remain true to her personality, she knows who Clark is from the button of her heart and that's good thing, At least for her fans. If only DC will finally get rid of their disdain for Superman and give him back his full myth and supportive characters and stop bringing him down with each arc. If only!!!!! But seems to me that we only will get back our superhero when another reboot or a better leadership will run DCE.
    I am sorry for this rant on your blog. I am just one of the fans who feels left down by Pak and mostly by DC decisions with Superman.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Zoraida, they're always welcome!

      It's certainly not great that Lois and the rest of the Planet crew have basically been absent from this book (Jimmy's here now, looking like a ruddy tramp!), but I still say Pak and Kuder have brought us some fine Superman stories.

      Still, I'm counting down to the day that executive change comes, and Clark and Lois and Jimmy and Cat and all the rest fly again, working together and palling around and getting into trouble. Superman is the main event, but he needs his friends.

  2. That's the current Jim Gordon look? And I thought the BatBunny armor was bad. Oy.

    And with an attitude like that, no wonder Superman switched over to Jimmy for his ID reveal.

    Excellent review, though. (Why is Gordon on the main cover twice?)

    1. Yeah, Gordon has had a few months of training and stopped smoking. That's all it takes. Well, and the near-obligatory-these-days marine background.

  3. I felt sorry for Perry. As he told Gordon, he loved Clark. I think he's feeling his own betrayal, though he's older so I'd think he'd handle it a lot better. This can't be the first time he's experienced something like this, albeit not on this scale.

    I was struck by what Lois said to Gordon, that she doesn't publish stories if they hurt more than they help. This seemed like Pak breaking the fourth wall and answering the people who believe that Lois would out Clark for a "scoop" or bitterness.

    The exposition why Clark wasn't calling Diana or the rest of the league was forced but it did make some sense.

    1. You're probably correct about Pak's fourth-wall breaking. Happily, he's a good-enough writer that it wasn't like being hit in the face with a wet kipper.

    2. I have to say, I liked the Perry scene a lot. I think the betrayal he feels is entirely justified -- even if, big-picture, we as an audience have to assume Clark was in the right in keeping his identity secret. It was a surprising moment from him...and I like to be surprised by characters I've known forever.

    3. An interesting viewpoint, Rob. Did you see the Perry moment in the new Superman/Wonder Woman #20?

    4. I haven't, actually. The appearance of the Suicide Squad (particularly Bad Harley, rather than the fun one in her own books) soured me on that thread, so I dropped it after the first issue. I'm a one-Harley guy, with no stomach for the other.

    5. I popped into a store yesterday, and read the panel where he was being interrogated. It seemed to me like more of the same; the conversation with Jim Gordon rang more heartfelt and true to me.

    6. Well, thanks for trusting me enough to have a look, Rob!


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