Batman/Superman #31 review

Batman Superman 31

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Prepare to have your heart warmed, broken, and thrown in the blender once again. As Pete Tomasi’s two-month takeover of the Superman books continues, Batman gets involved, a mysterious new super-being flexes his muscles, and the World’s Finest must fight through a mysterious new threat.

When you happen to be looking for the world’s greatest detective…

In Part 1 of “Super League” (or “The Final Days of Superman”–I’m not totally sure what the actual title is), Superman learned of his impending death. Recent cataclysmic events have left him terminally ill, and he’s taken up the task of trying to ensure that the world will be okay once he’s gone.

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Batman/Superman #31 picks up in Gotham City, where Batman is busy with an old foe. After helping him clean up, Superman breaks the bad news, and enlists Bruce’s help in his final, noble task. In spite of Batman’s refusal to accept that this is the end, Superman implores his friend to aid him in locating his cousin–Supergirl–who has gone missing, and who Clark believes is Earth’s best shot once he’s gone. Along the way, we’re treated to the same strong characterization of Clark that oozed from Superman #51, as well as exciting artwork and a healthy dose of intrigue.

World’s Finest understanding of these characters..almost

As we saw a week ago, Tomasi’s Superman is very much on the money: when faced with his own end–when he would perhaps be most justified in thinking of himself–both his heart and his actions focus on the people and the world he loves. The same Clark Kent is present this time around, gently-but-firmly steering Bruce’s energy toward finding Kara (Supergirl’s name, for those of you who spend all of your time in Gotham) instead of finding a cure. He’s playing with Damian’s pets while Bruce tries to process the impending loss of his friend; he’s rushing off to save thousands of people while Batman works the case. I realize that the unswervingly good Superman bothers some people, but to me, it’s what makes him so appealing as a character. Clark’s deeds and power may make me want to be a hero, but it’s his heart that makes me believe I actually can. Hope–Tomasi gets it.

Batman, on the other hand, feels a bit off. He’s a little too overtly humorous in the field, and there are some lines that seem otherwise unnatural–especially when Clark offers him alternative transportation. It’s not terrible, and it’s not a deal breaker, but it is a little distracting. Don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of great Batman moments, too. Seeing him resist the finality of Clark’s condition makes for a moving reading experience, and I find myself revisiting it again and again. But I suspect it’s the mixture of (what I see as) this authentic Batman with the false, quippy Batman–the lack of internal consistency in the book–that I find most distracting.

The third “featured character” is the new “Superman” we encountered in Superman #51, and he’s a fascinating character, indeed. There’s not a whole lot of him here, but I think that’s a good call on Tomasi’s part. We learn a little more about him: enough to satisfy our curiosity from last time, but not so much as to ruin our appetite for what’s to come. I’m very interested to see where he’s going.

Everything we have at our disposal

Frequent Tomasi collaborator Doug Mahnke handles penciling duties for this issue, and his work is mostly stunning. He renders everything–from intimate character moments to sprawling action sequences–with great detail and quality. I do find myself occasionally unhappy with some of his faces (and head shapes), but overall, his storytelling abilities are an excellent complement to Pete’s.

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Jaime Mendoza’s inks are a little less impressive. Some panels are crisp and bold, but others–especially in the middle of the book–have much rougher lines. They just look messier. To his credit, Mendoza avoids any serious missteps, but I would have nevertheless appreciated a bit more consistency. Thankfully, Wil Quintana’s colors pick up a great deal of slack here, at times making it easy to ignore the shortcomings in the inks. I’m especially fond of the contrast he creates between Superman’s bold tone and the drabness of the Batcave (and its primary inhabitant).

All things considered, I missed Mikel Janin (the artist on Superman #51) a lot less than I thought I would. Mahnke, Mendoza, and Quintana produced good work with a number of great moments, and the book benefits immensely from their efforts.

Recommended if…

  • You’re reading “Super League”, or “The Final Days of Superman”, or whatever this thing is called, and you want to know what happens next.
  • You–like me–can’t get enough of Tomasi’s Superman.
  • You enjoy big, dynamic, detailed artwork.

Overall

It’s not as strong as last week’s Superman #51, but Batman/Superman #31 is a good read and and a very good second installment in Tomasi’s two-month event. Another strong showing from Superman, excellent work by Mahnke and Quintana, and enough mystery and foreboding to propel us into the next chapter make this one a must-read. If you haven’t already, pick it up and check it out.

SCORE: 7.5/10

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