Monday, January 07, 2008

With a Vengeance! Chapter Four: Smoke and Mirrors (DC)
Superman/Batman #23 When: November 2005 Why: Jeph Loeb How: Ed McGuinness

The story so far...
When a Kryptonite meteor is headed for Earth, Captain Atom is volunteered to pilot a rocket ship of intervention to protect not only the planet, but also it's greatest hero, Superman, from a life-threatening shower!

When Captain Atom reemerges in Japan, Superman and Batman soon discover the meteor housed a conscious entity called Kryptonite Man, capable of possessing and embuing a host body with incredible powers of Kryptonite radiation!

Amidst struggles with inter-dimensional elopers called the Maximums, Superman and Batman find themselves unwitting pawns in a much larger plot waged between Mr. Mxyzptlk and the Joker. Kryptonite Man returns to become the latest piece in the conflict, possessing Batman to best strike at his enemy, Superman!

Tale of the tape...
ARTWORK: Ed McGuinnessARTWORK: Jim LeeStrength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach Speed)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Superman 5 (Lasers)

- When he witnessed the street murder of his parents, the young Bruce Wayne's destiny was forever shaped to be one dedicated to an ideal. Having spent his formative years studying the various sciences, martial arts, and crime fighting techniques, Bruce is ultimately inspired to become the one-man war on the criminal element in Gotham City: Batman.

Perhaps Batman's greatest power is the millions inherited from his industrialist parents, and the various facilities that came with that. They prove crucial in the design and construction of his many weapons, which are typically non-lethal, and have a variety of uses.

Complimented by his keenly strategic mind is Batman's expertise in the martial arts. He is extensively trained in multiple fighting styles, and commonly regarded to be one of the greatest hand-to-hand fighters in the world. He is also extremely proficient in general urban warfare.

- With the planet Krypton on a path toward destruction, a scientist, Jor-El, bundles his only son into a rocket ship designed to take him far from the impending doom. The young Kal-El would be rocketted far from his home to come to land on the planet Earth, where a yellow sun would grant him the powers to become the man of steel - Superman!

A spiritual leader for the superhero community; Superman has a wide array of physical capabilities to back his presence up, the stalwarts being; super strength, flight, heat-vision, super breath, and super speed. He also has a keen intellect, his Kryptonian brain enhanced in much the way his body is.

A keen strategist, Superman has a broad understanding of sciences and battle tactics, but is often hindered by his own sense of caution and responsibility.

Additional: The rivalry in Frank Miller's dystopian superhero future has set the tone for the relationship between DC's, if not the entire medium's, two most prominent characters. The tradition of their friendship is restored today, but often with the tense undertones introduced vividly in Dark Knight Returns.

Jeph Loeb was responsible for the previous encounter on record [Batman #612], when it was Superman who was acting against his will, influenced by the potions of Poison Ivy, who herself was part of a larger plot in Hush.

The other recorded battles came from Miller, both set in the DKR future, where Batman's superiority was challenged by few. Common to all of three fights is Superman's role as aggressor, and his resulting defeat.

History: Batman (3-0-0)
The Math: Superman Ranking: Batman (#2)

What went down...
Having spotted Batman, Superman descends toward The Maximum's island headquarters, unaware that the Kryptonite Man has returned and taken possession of his ally's body. He soon gets the picture:

Emitting Kryptonite radiations, the possessed Batman easily matches Superman's invulnerabilities and rocks him with a devestating blow.
Weakened from the moment he drew near the island, Superman struggles to pull himself up by Batman's costume. He's punished for the naivity with a stiff headbutt reminiscent of Batman's own arsenal, as much as any Kryptonite Man's.

Kryptonite Batman continues the assault, raking at Superman's chest, before putting him down with a devestating roundhouse kick. His blows prove powerful enough to spill the blood of the badly weakened Superman.

Despite the sapping presence of Kryptonite, Superman is still strong enough to tear away at part of the Maximum's headquarters, using the architecture as a battering ram.
Alas, the lithe body of the Batman provides Kryptonite Man with the tools necessary to leap the clumsy shield, and swoop dowm with a punishing boot to the face!

The kick sends Superman hurtling like a wounded bird, downward from the top of the elaborate design of the Maximum's dome. His landing is a harsh one, cracking the landing pad of the Maximum's jet, and alerting the attentions of the Maximum called Robot.

Rattled by the devestating impact, Superman gingerly rises to ask for help from Robot, who was only recently his adversary. The bulky android remains silent while Superman shares his plans, not long before the Kryptonite Batman descends.

Emitting a flaming green glow, Kryptonite Batman lunges sloppily at his target, underestimating the Superman. Kal shows a little fighting skill of his own, whipping his super-strong hands into Batman's torso.

The pressure point blow leaves Kryptonite Man unable to move half of his host body. The moves gives even the ailing Superman all the room he needs to move at super-speeds to surround the paralyzed Batman with the metallic casing that makes up Robot's hull -- made of lead!

The lead casing creates a safe barrier between Superman and the weakening substance. With no organic alternatives, and Superman's body a death sentence fo the Kryptonite spirit, he's left with few choices when Superman demands he exit Batman, or face the prospect of permanent imprisonment within the suit.

The intervention of the Maximums and an order for Robot to suit-up puts an end to the stand off, but as the armor leaps off of Batman's body, he confirms that the presence of the Kryptonite Man is gone. A small consolation given yet another impending confrontation with the Maximums!

ARTWORK: Ed McGuinnessThe Hammer...
Well, it took four tries, and the assistance of a Robot, but let the record show that Superman has finally scored a victory against his statistical inferior, Batman.

Granted, it's not a particularly good start for Batman in what guarantees to be a big year for the character, but even with the conceit of featuring 2007's top ten characters, we try not to give that kind of thing too much thought. Also, I thought it would be nice to recall our first month of Infinite Wars, where two of the previous Superman/Batman showdowns were showcased, albeit in a much shorter form.

Jeph Loeb's work is one of those things that seems to polarize a good many comics readers. While I tend to think some of that is due to a process of absorption by readers indulging in online forums, there are also those inevitable qualities about something like Superman/Batman that can be jarring.

As seen with a concept like the Kryptonite Man; Loeb goes very broad with his Superman/Batman work, indulging in the bold action that Ed McGuinness is so capable of serving, without any large intent to rewrite the face of comics. This arc in particular reads so much like an exercise in popcorn, bringing together two cultural giants for little more than a rip-roaring good time.

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, one tends to wonder how this book was representing DC editorial meetings of the time. Dan DiDio, and other editorial staff assure readers that much of the DC canon is being intimately mapped out years in advance, which would be one explanation for the story's penchant for showcasing some of the parallel Earth's coming to prominance in the new 52-Earths Megaverse.

Preceding even Infinite Crisis; the B-story of Bizarro and Batzarro serves up visits to well known parallel universes now identified as: Earth-11 (Reverse Genders), Earth-12 (Batman Beyond), and Earth-30 (Red Son).

Similarly, Loeb played extensively with parallel realities and dimensions during the Absolute Power storyarc. Events across all stories are mostly inconsequential romps in alternate universe fun, but much like Brian Azzarello's work on Superman served an inadvertant prelude to Project OMAC, [For Tomorrow], one wonders if these aren't fun little easter eggs for fans of the megaverse to go back an discover.

I suppose, amidst the changing references and measurements, it's worth acknowledging that these universes all existed prior to the emergence of the Megaverse at the end of 52. Before that, there was a never ending sprawl of fictional alternate universes referred to as the "Multiverse", which made no attempts to elaborate on the specifics of Elseworlds tales, or anything else.

Today we have 52 numbered worlds in what is again being lazily referred to as the Multiverse. Because of the distinction between the old and new, I preferred and continue to use the early reference of Megaverse, specifically because it implies a greater importance, which speaks to the structure of it all.

If you've been reading DC comics like Countdown, which we haven't, you'll have seen these worlds coming and going regularly. Earlier in the week, in response to One More Day, we made reference to DC's ability to hold on to and utilize ideas, and I think the canonized Elseworlds tales are one of those examples.

The potential to do something amazing with some of the surrounding fifty-two Earths seems so fantastic, which probably makes the promise of a Final Crisis so potentially disheartening. Countdown caught up this week with events from Countdown: Arena, which saw icons of many Earth's murdered in an effort to collect together an army of characters to combat the Monitors.

When we talk about objecting to the license One More Day gives editorial to stop-and-start repeatedly, I think this is the kind of thing we're talking about.
It's about a contemporary standard of storytelling, and avoiding sloppy misdirection and slate wiping because someone doesn't feel they can write their way out of it.

Which brings us back to Loeb's work here on Superman/Batman, which manages to weave in and out of a lot of dated and cheesy concepts, without batting an eyelid. Granted, you need to approach The Kryptonite Man without any baggage, and get ready to go for a fun ride, but it's a prime example of just some of the things DC can achieve with their 52 Earths. A lot of fun!

Of course, now there's the issue of how we categorize alternate counterparts...

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5.5

Half-asleep and exhausted we're still bringing you the very best we can in superhero fisticuffs, discussion, and review. If this entry managed to be coherrent enough to inspire joy, why not seek out With A Vengeance in collected format! The Infinite Wars receive Amazon kick-backs every time you order with a referred link, which means we can bring you even more fast fighting fantastic fisticuffery!


Cvazi said...

I would have to question whether this is a match between Batman and Superman. I would rather have this match catagorized as Kryptonite Man (using Batman's body)vs Superman since Bruce was obviously not in control of his body.

The fight lacked Bruce's meticulous planning, vast array of toys, or hallmark undetectability which gives him the advantage over vastly stronger opponents like Superman.

Krod said...

You'd think Superman would regularly use his super speed to defeat Batman (in their regularly occurring fights). If he can rapidly encase a Kryptonite man in lead, you'd' think he could do the same to a Kryptonite-ring-wearing Batman.

Mike Haseloff said...

Cvazi: Yo! We have an unwritten bible for just such occasions, and alas, sometimes it's an unkind mistress!

Working against Batman are two key factors:
1) As the vessel for Kryptonite Man, Batman's body sets the baseline for what KM can physically do.
2) Batman allowed himself to be possessed, and was unable to break free of it.

If it's any consolation, KM and Batman share the defeat. (And it's worth noting, Robot only rates an assist)

Krod: Yeah, I think given the many non-lethal applications of super-speed, it's got to be about the biggest oversight in the Superman fighting arsenal.

Then again, if there's a criticism of this fight, it's probably that Supes got a few too many second-winds, given KM emits the same radiation as Kryptonite.

Cheers, guys!

Anonymous said...

I think dc comics is a big shit, poor overpowered heroes, wheres the evolution of the characters i never se in the most comics of this trash company.