Fiziko reviewed Superman/Batman #1 when it came out; I followed up with a review of issues #2-5. The first story arc ends with issue #6– and the Silver Age is back.

Spoilers ahead.

General Information

Title: Superman/Batman #6
Author: Jeph Loeb
Illustrator(s): Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines.
Original Publication Date: March. 2004.
Cover Price: US: 2/95 Can: $4.50

Gather ’round, kiddies, and I’ll tell you about *wheez* the Silver Age of comics.

Well now, they wrote comics for kids then. Heroes were good, villains were evil, and both wore the most unbelievable costumes. Bizarrely-designed, oversized items appeared frequently. Why, Gotham City alone had near fifty different businesses decorated with outsized objects! And genius inventors never went for efficiency in design, no. They made the silliest looking contraptions….! Lord knows where they got the budget.

Superman…. His enemy was Luthor, a hunted criminal. And because Superman was so powerful, they had to invent “kryptonite” to keep him at bay. Lots of kryptonite. Why, even the humblest of petty thieves would suddenly produce kryptonite. Kryptonite and lead-lining must’ve been sold at corner stores in the disreputable end of town.

But then they had a Crisis, see? And after Crisis, they tried to codify the slightly more realistic approach they’d been taking as the Silver Age gave way to…. The Bronze Age, or the Polyester Age, or whatever the historians of comic books are calling it these days. Along the way, they toned down Superman a bit. Made Lex Luthor all legal and respectable-like; he wore a business suit and used money to hide his foul deeds, just like so many real-life super-criminals. And like a lot of those, he eventually ran for public office.

There was only one or two pieces of kryptonite around, too, so that it couldn’t be overused as a plot device. Also….. Where was I? Right. Thank you, You’re right. Superman and Batman had entire support staffs back in the day, the Superman and Batman “Families,” with Supergirl and superpets and Batgirls and the like. Crisis got rid of all that, too.

I rather liked the DC comics of the post-Crisis era. Some of ’em, anyway. But over time, the old world kept creeping back. A sort of Modified Silver Age. And it finally triumphed in DC, round ’bout aught-four, with the Superman/Batman series.

Premise:

Superman, Batman, and Captain Atom, aided by the Toymaker, have to take out a fragment of Krypton that’s heading for the earth, while dealing with a singularly uncooperative President Lex Luthor.

High Points

Going out to buy the comic and hearing the shop owner, who resembles uncannily the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons argue with a kid who was insisting that the ancient Egyptians invented pizza.

What…? High point of the comic? Oh, all right….

They develop a plausible (well, in the context of the DC universe!) explanation for a good deal of what has been happening lately in DC comics, especially with Lex Luthor. Lex has been getting assistance, both of his own development and by contracting out….

This development of his own has clearly warped his mind. That explains why he would go over to the Darkseid for help.

I also found some laughs in the way they handled the more ludicrous, comic-book elements. The Daily Planet staff’s reactions to seeing the President in an SF super-suit is conceptually good enough that I only wish Alex Ross had drawn it.

Low Points:

I suppose it was time for a change, but Business Class Lex made sense. The DC universe is filled with enough deranged criminals who have a vendetta and nothing to lose. I’m not certain we need to see another.

Likewise, having tonnes of kryptonite fragments spread all over the world will likely become the cheap plot device it was in the past.

The Scores

Originality: 1/6 A powerful but ultimately not terribly marketable character makes the ultimate sacrifice– ambiguously enough so that they can bring him back at a moment’s notice. The villain gets exposed before the world, partially due to the fact that, despite his brilliance and the fact that he’s in a fight to the finish, he’s so certain of victory that he explains everything at the climax. Superman throws punches and clears his name. Batman refuses to break his own moral code, despite the advantage it will gain him.

Lex survives, but only we know it.

Sound original?

Artwork: 4/6 They’ve included some nice details. The colouring on Lex’s super-suit is oddly effective, and the spitcurl on the Toyman’s Superman/Batman Rocket Ship humorously recalls Harry Potter’s scar.

Story: 3/6 See High and Low points.

Characterization: 3/6: It’s consistent, but also rather hokey.

Emotional response: 3/6 If you enjoy experiencing a morally simplified world (this is escapism, after all), here it is. The issue gives us little else.

Flow 4/6 Unlike the last few issues, the story flows inexorably to the conclusion, without throwing in a lot of gratuitous cameos.

Overall: 3/6

In total, Superman/Batman #6 receives a score of 21/42.

Problematic Area

The collapse of the Lexcorp Towers is not just excessive symbolism; it’s too close to certain real-life events without any reason to be.