Batman/Superman #27: “Trust”
Written by Greg Pak
Illustrated by Cliff Richards & Jack Herbert
Colored by Beth Sotelo & Wil Quintana
Lettered by Rob Leigh
Change is a constant.
Superman is de-powered.
Jim Gordon is Batman.
Jason Todd sucks.
Ok, that last one is also a constant, but two out of three isn’t bad.
For better or worse, those status quo changes have led to new storytelling possibilities, allowing for different types of conflict and fresh interactions between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel. They may not be changes we wanted or that will even matter in the long run, but if nothing else they can provide an interesting juxtaposition and counterpoint to the typical Bats/Supes relationship.
Ultimately, that’s what this issue does, both to its benefit and detriment. The flashbacks Pak uses flesh out the relationship between Bruce and Clark, focusing on the (yes) trust they had with one another, while the story in the present day deals with the lack of trust Jim and Clark have.
And also there’s Vandal Savage and some weird gun thing with an artificial sun and oh Dick, Jason, and Babs are there too. Sadly, the Red Hood hardly strikes as the cover would lead you to believe, resulting in significantly less punching of Jason’s face than I wanted, but whatever.
Alright, I’ll tap the brakes on the Jason Todd jokes.
The flashback, which serves as a framing narrative, is the strongest part of the issue, and it is strong indeed. Detailing the “worst day of Superman’s adult life,” the Neo-Nazi group the Supremacists strike, leaving Superman with an incredibly difficult choice: save a falling Jimmy Olsen and doom the city, or save the city and lose Jimmy. He makes a hard decision, which Gordon was on hand to witness (making it likely the first time Jim saw him in person, with all the awe you’d expect a person to have), electing to save the masses at the risk of losing his friend.
Luckily, he knew Bruce was near even though he wasn’t sure if he could reach Jimmy in time, but he trusted him to do what he could.
I genuinely loved that page, giving us a feeling of friendship between the two that is too often glossed over. Clark is smiling openly, being the symbol of optimism Superman should be, and even Bruce isn’t being a dour brood-fest. They’re genuinely friends, they really care about each other, and even though their methods differ they’re on the same side with the same goals.
If you haven’t been able to tell, I’m a big fan of small moments like these: quieter bits where relationships are formed and strengthened, opportunities for these larger than life characters to seem like real people. Don’t get me wrong, I’d watch Superman and Batman wreck Nazis all day long, but I want to know their shared desire to punch said Nazis in the face, to know they actually feel something when fist meets face.
Jack Herbert’s work is strong, too, to the point that the rest of the artwork actually looks pretty rough compared to it. It’s a neat gimmick having two artists illustrate the two separate timeframes, and when utilized well it can create a really great contrast between the two stories, but in this instance it just makes the lesser of the two look worse. Not to say that Cliff Richards is bad, just that the change is noticeable and not in a remarkably good way.
Pak’s script seems to suffer, too, as for every good thing the flashback does, the main story does three things wrong. In fact, even though it takes up the bulk of the book, the story just feels rushed. I’m all for crazy plots with gunships and artificial suns and teleporting immortal cavemen, but even serving as the conclusion to a multi-issue story this just feels like an afterthought.
Even worse is the characterization of literally everyone:
- Clark is a jerk.
- Jim is a jerk.
- Dick is a jerk.
- Jason sucks.
- Babs is a jerk.
- Vandal Savage is an idiot.
There’s some resolution to the tension between Clark and Jim, both finally earning the other’s trust, but everyone else is wasted. There’s no reason for each member of the Bat-family to be here this issue. Nothing is added by them being here, and everything they do could have easily been done by the title characters.
And, alas, as I made fun of earlier, there’s another typo. It’s almost gotten to the point that these errors are funny, but it shouldn’t be. Whatever the editorial process is needs to be strengthened or reinforced, because scarcely a week goes by where I don’t catch at least one error.
While I appreciated what the team is trying to do, especially with such a strong theme as trust in one another, that couldn’t carry what was ultimately a rushed, lackluster story.
But hey, at least that Prince song is still pretty rad.
- You like a strong, solid friendship between Bruce and Clark.
- You’ve been reading thus far.
- Uhh, you’re a Vandal Savage fan? Even though he’s kind of stupid here?
Not recommended if:
- You want to see the Red Hood strike.
Overall: What’s good is really good, but what isn’t really drags it down. As an exploration of Bruce and Clark’s relationship it works very well, but the actual bulk of the story just feels silly and empty. The attempt to redeem Gordon and Clark’s respect for each other was a valiant effort and could have yielded some good storytelling possibilities, but it’s undone by the pointless inclusion of Batman’s allies, a silly villainous plot, bad characterization, and just okay artwork.