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Can Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman put a stop to Superflare’s rampage-of-terror-mixed-with-occasional-acts-of-heroism? Is the Dark Knight’s will stronger than Lois Lane’s? Is Classic Clark squatting in a solitary fortress not built by his own hands? None of these questions are answered in Superman/Wonder Woman #29, but it is nevertheless a welcome return to the tighter focus that began this arc, even if the point of that focus has shifted.

A league of one’s own

Last week’s Action Comics #52 closed out on the ground in Salinas, California–land of Kryptonian refugees and the families they love. As we pick up this week, the battle between the Trinity and Superflare begins. Other than a short digression to see what Classic Clark (Klassik Kal?) is up to, and an even shorter digression to see Batman get Lois away from danger, and an even even shorter digression to setup Supergirl’s return to the arc in its finale, the entire issue focuses on what (right now) appears to be a futile battle with Superflare. And I think that’s a very good thing.

Focus

As I reflected on this installment of “Final Days of Superman”, trying to understand why I liked it so much more than the previous few, I realized that, where I thought I had one problem with recent chapters, I actually had two. I believed that my biggest beef had been the shifting of Tomasi’s attentions from Clark’s character-driven “last rites” with his gallery of besties; however, I now realize that there was something else bugging me (which I did perhaps touch on in my review of Batman/Superman #31): there was just less focus in general than there had been in the earliest issues. Tomasi had gotten himself into a pattern of trying to do too much in each issue.

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This time around, Tomasi takes a smaller slice of story and gives it more room to breathe, and for that, I’m very grateful. It’s not as beautiful or memorable as what he was doing at the start, but it stands on its own feet much better now–as strong this week as it will be when the trade comes out. With more space devoted to the battle, we get some verbal and visual clues about Superflare, and these tidbits are allowed to take root in our imaginations because we aren’t rushed to a premature conclusion or whisked away to some other point of interest.

Jimenez and Sanchez do a great job of keeping things interesting, the latter’s bold colors a perfect fit for the former’s stylized realism. The pallete could easily have been one-dimensional with Superflare lighting up the night, but Jimenez’s perspectives and character staging give Sanchez the opportunity to vary the temperature. The fight is far more visually interesting for it.

Needs more Batcowbell…

Tomasi has a great deal of experience writing Batman, and he did a decent job with him earlier in the arc, but the interactions here between Bats and Lois rub me the wrong way. Bruce talks down to Lois, and Lois doesn’t challenge the implication that she’s just a stereotypical, compassion-free, disaster-chasing reporter. She’s a little more familiar when hiring a helicopter, and Classic Clark’s Lois has an even better showing in the Fortress, but after reading it twice, I’m still a little bugged by Bats and Lois. Thankfully, Jimenez and Sanchez nail this beauty, which is well worth the cover price of the comic, and redeems Batman’s inclusion in the book:

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Now there’s a Bat-man…

Classic Clark goes to Washingtona stronghold in a remote location.

As alluded to earlier, we do get a few pages to see what’s up with the pre-Flashpoint Superman and his family, and these pages feature the strongest character beats in the book, particularly from Lois (Jon has a small but good showing, too). There are also some interesting questions raised: how could this Superman have created a new Fortress of Solitude and avoided detection by the other Superman and his paranoid, pointy-eared friend; is this even a new Fortress, or is Classic Clark taking advantage of genetic similarities with Contemporary Clark and spoofing a retinal scan? I know that this Fortress doesn’t look much like what we’ve typically seen in The New 52, but when you see a panel like this, you can’t help but wonder if there’s more than meets the eye (pun very much intended, and I’ll be laughing about it for days):

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I’m happy that Tomasi left this hanging until next time. It may make for a bit of a cram in the final issue, but it sure helps this one. He plants a good mystery without having to hijack too many pages from the present concern, and I’m just about at the point where I’m as vested in Classic Clark as I was in Contemporary Clark at the start of the arc. Job well done on that front.

Recommended if…

  • You’ve been reading “Final Days of Superman”.
  • You haven’t been reading “Final Days of Superman”, but you just read the first six installments today.
  • But seriously, you–like me–have been craving a narrowing of the lens for the last few weeks, and you want that narrowing to be brought to life by an artist and a color artist who seem made for each other.

Overall

We’re almost at the end. This issue wasn’t great, but it has returned to “pretty dang good” after a dip these past few weeks. Other than my beef with Batman and Lois, I don’t have any major complaints. The shift of the focus away from characters lowers the ceiling over my potential enjoyment, but the narrowing of the focus gives the big battle the space it needs to make it more than a mindless brawl. This is my kind of scuffle.

SCORE: 7/10