In this installment of Back Issue Review, we’re taking a look at an issue of one of the most underappreciated comic series of the past few decades: Superman Adventures. Based on the Superman cartoon from the 90s, this series was similar to the comparable Batman series in that it told some of the best stories featuring the title character… well, ever in some cases. Not just some cheap cartoon tie-in, Superman Adventures had the same spirit and tone of the show while going places a twenty-minute cartoon couldn’t. Exhibit A: the one where Superman is zapped with a shrink ray and gets so small that he goes subatomic before going around the horn and becoming the size of the universe. That’s some Silver Age wackiness if I’ve ever heard it, yet it still has a lot of heart. The series wasn’t perfect, but man did they tell some great stories.
One of those stories is Superman Adventures #25. After Bruce Wayne is kidnapped and held hostage by the Mad Hatter, everybody in Gotham scrambles to find Batman so the billionaire isn’t killed. When the Dark Knight doesn’t step forward, the citizens of Gotham become understandably upset. With Robin MIA as well, Batgirl has no choice but to try and rescue Bruce on her own without compromising his identity.
That is, until she is offered assistance by an unwelcome visitor. No points if you can guess who it is.
Yes, the World’s Biggest Boy Scout offers to help Batgirl rescue Bruce, much to her chagrin. His positive, uplifting approach doesn’t quite jive with the mood in Gotham, after all, and why should the citizens look to the sky for help now?
Mark Millar (yes, that one) writes a really solid script here, and nowhere is it better than Superman’s entrance. Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock are on GCPD roof by the Batsignal, waiting for the Caped Crusader to show up and reveal his plans, when instead the Man of Steel appears to offer his assistance. It’s fun seeing even a seasoned vet like Gordon get a bit awestruck with a guy like Superman, and even the cynical Bullock can’t fully disguise his admiration. It’s a really strong scene, and one that would have been great to see played out onscreen.
When Superman finally tracks Batgirl down, she begrudgingly accepts his help. Even with the darker tones of the New Batman Adventures style, Barbara is maybe a little too gruff and hesitant to work with Superman. I buy it that she wants to do it herself, given that it’s her city and Bruce is her mentor. It makes sense, but I don’t know. She didn’t need to fawn over Supes or be wide-eyed at his heroics, but they’re both good guys.
Granted, I’m also tired of superheroes being jerks to one another, and this is hardly the worst offender, so whatever.
Anyway, the two work together pretty well, leveraging Barbara’s detective skills with Superman’s… being Superman. There’s the added wrinkle of Robin being under the influence of Hatter’s mind control, so while Barbara tries to save Bruce Superman has to save Tim and the city. That scene in particular is a nice bit of action, with Tim hijacking the Batplane and Superman having to save Robin before he can hurt any civilians. Mike Manley draws some pretty dizzying aerial scenes, which are nicely juxtaposed against Batgirl’s infiltration of the police department.
I’d say it’s no surprise that they succeed in rescuing Bruce, which they do. The joy is in the journey and not the destination, though, as we get to see a team-up between two beloved characters who rarely interact. That it just so happens to be but one entry in a series that contained some of the best Superman stories of the Nineties is just a bonus.
Really though, if for no other reason, buy it for what will come in future collections: the best Lex Luthor story I’ve ever read, the second best Superman story I’ve ever read, and that really cool one where each page tells a complete story. The whole trade is solid, though, and will only set you back about fifteen bucks. Everyone could use more great Superman stories in their life, so go for it.
- You like a good Superman story.
- You love the different DC animated series of the Nineties.
- You like Batgirl.
Overall: A fun one-off adventure with the Man of Steel and the Dominoed Daredoll (should that be brought back?) If you haven’t checked it out, Superman Adventures is a truly fantastic series that’s well worth tracking down, even (and especially) for the stories that don’t feature Batman. Millar’s writing is snappy and Mike Manley’s pencils evoke the show’s style while having its own personality, which is indicative of the premiere talent the book had across the board. Pick this up for the Batman story if you want, but don’t be surprised if you become a fast fan of Superman when you’re done.