In this issue, we get the conclusion of Taylor and Rocha’s “Universe’s Finest” arc. Superman contends with his mysterious captor, Batman cruises the cosmos in Lobo’s ride, and–not satisfied with merely capturing our imaginations–the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel capture our hearts.
How long have they kept you here?
I haven’t been reading comics as long as many of you, but in my short experience, I’ve learned something: endings are hard. Either the writer reveals too much too early, or the final installment feels hasty, the writer scrambling to bring resolution with precious few pages left. Batman/Superman #30 falls, somewhat, into the latter camp. There’s some villainous expositional monologuing, a confusing explanation or two, and a moving scene that would have been ten times stronger had its components had more time to develop. It is still a very good book, though, and I am satisfied with Tom Taylor’s conclusion; I only feel like the arc was just getting started, and to have it wrap up as quickly as it does here is at least mildly disappointing.
Batman took my face off
Thankfully, Taylor continues the excellent characterization that has made this arc my favorite Batman and/or Superman story of the year. There are subtle, inside-joke type things, like Batman casually telling Hal Jordan (yes, he’s here, too, and he’s not wearing a cloak) that he’s reverse engineered the comms in Hal’s ring. There are equally understated, but touching things, too, like Superman’s anger at the suggestion that individual lives are expendable for the benefit of greater goods. I said it last month, but Taylor just gets it, and you can see his love for the characters shine through with each well-crafted line of dialogue. And as if that weren’t enough, he and Rocha just destroy you with you something like this:
If that doesn’t touch your heart, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.
I should have thought of a more inventively painful way to kill you, you cape-wearing &%$#
Taylor could easily have phoned it in on the book’s supporting cast, but he does no such thing. Hal is clearly Hal, even in his few pages, and seeing him in both familiar character and guise after these many months of DC You is a breath of air. Lobo is just downright likable. He isn’t quite the “Main Man” that folks have come to love over the years, but he is a serious improvement over recent iterations. He persists in underestimating our heroes, and we have the delight of getting to laugh at his oft-graphic failures.
Graphic and spectacular:
And while I’ve got you in this hermetically-sealed, rose-scented spoiler chamber, I’d like to talk about the trick that Bats and Supes play on Lobo (hereafter referred to as “Ye Olde Switcheroo”, or “YOS”). I saw it coming a mile away, or at least, I was fairly certain from a mile away, but I almost get the sense that Taylor expected this. And his characterization is so strong that I’m all the more convinced that this was the moment where he wanted long-time fans to know for sure:
To me, this line, in its context, just screams Superman. To Superman, there’s no such thing as acceptable losses. There is no scenario where the loss of one innocent life is justifiable unless the life is his own. If I strongly suspected that it was Clark in the Batsuit before, this moment cements the idea in my brain. That and the fact that he just survived being strapped to the outside of Lobo’s ship for a ride through the cold vacuum of space. But whatever.
We won’t be doing that again, will we?
The key to this arc’s success has been the joint excellence of Taylor, Rocha, and Blond. Take any one of those guys away, and you have a product that, while still good, just isn’t nearly as good as this has been. Rocha draws excellent versions of both Batman and Superman. He chooses to show Batman’s eyes, and while I’m not always a fan of that (I’m not nuts about Gary Frank’s rendition of “The Eyeballed Batman” in the Earth One series, for example), I think it really works here. There are moments in this story that benefit greatly from Bruce’s humanity, and his visible eyes bring that humanity out, even as his facial expression remains “Batman-grim”.
The only ding on the art for this issue is consistency. Things never get bad, but there are varying levels of quality. This arc has seen a number of inkers in just three issues, and for my money, the last issue had the best finished product, perhaps because Rocha himself took care of some of his own inking. Overall, we’re talking a pretty small ding, though. Jay Leisten does not, by any stretch, wreck anything, and this installment is still chock full of beautiful pages.
- You’ve been reading the “Universe’s Finest” arc and you want to see how it wraps up, or you haven’t been reading it but you have enough good sense to stop what you’re doing, read the previous two installments, and then get this one.
- You miss Batman and Superman and you want to enjoy a great World’s Finest story that isn’t shackled by current continuity.
- You want to see something as simultaneously awesome and gross as this:
While I would have loved to see this arc get a few more issues to stretch its legs, I don’t really have all that much to complain about in the final product. Sure, some threads were wrapped up a bit hastily and there’s still a little mud on the window, but Taylor’s characters are written so well, and drawn so well by Rocha, that I can only smile each time I look at this book and its two predecessors. Here’s hoping DC does right by Tom Taylor (and us fans!) and puts him on a major book when Rebirth kicks in.