Friday, March 21, 2008

Darklight (DC)
Superman/Batman #43 When: Late January 2008 Why: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning How: Mike McKone

The Story So Far...
With global concern for the environmental impact of carbon emissions becoming a priority, two of America's greatest superpowers take it upon themselves to investigate a solution. WayneTech, in partnership with STAR Labs, develops a space project designed to utilize alien Kryptonian technology, from Superman's Fortress of Solitude, in an effort to harness the the unknown potentials of dark matter in the universe.

During a tour of the satellite, Gotham investor, Bruce Wayne, finds himself in the middle of catastrophe as the station comes under assault from apparitions of Kid Flash, Speedy, Robin, Wonder Girl, and Aqualad -- the Teen Titans!

Superman arrives just in time to combat the Titans, revealed to be deadly holographic projections designed by the villains, Dr. Light. Light, having disguised himself as one of the scientists on board, seeks to transport himself to the secret Fortress of Solitude, but little does the villain know, another has followed him from the space station, and he is anything but light...

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Ed McGuinnessARTWORK: Mike McKoneStrength: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Dr. Light 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Power: Dr. Light 6 (Mass Destruction)

- After witnessing 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.

- For decades Arthur Light plagued the superhero sidekick team, the Teen Titans, but during his many defeats as Dr. Light, he held within him a dark secret about himself, and the superhero community he bitterly fought against.

Light joined the ranks of villainy when a fellow scientist working for STAR Labs created a hi-tech suit capable of harnessing and manipulating light in a number of fantastic ways. When Light accidentally killed the suits inventor, Dr. Jacob Finlay, he took it as his own and began a career in crime. A career that would eventually lead him to the Justice League's satellite, and the identities of each member. Worse still, it would lead him to Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man, whom he would brutally assault in a vile act of vengeance.

After having his mind selectively edited by the magic of Zatanna; Light would become a somewhat pacified threat. His suit allowed him to manipulate light to achieve invisibility, flight, force fields and energy blasts - abilities that all became inherent to his genetic make-up over time. With his memory restored, Light resumes his penchant for sadism, and a great control of his power.

The Math: Batman Ranking: Batman (#2)

What Went Down...
Having distracted the Man of Steel sufficiently with his "soligrams", Dr. Light evades detection when transporting himself to the arctic Fortress of Solitude -- or so he thinks. Lurking in the darkness is an opponent far less forgiving than Superman! He springs forth from the shadows, knocking the ponderous villain with down with a punishing two fisted attack -- the Batman!

Light knows immediately what he's up against, and attacks accordingly without hestitation. His beams of light energy stream past the dark knight, whose cape and insignia stand out in the uncharacteristic light settings of the Fortress.

Light's energy beams bounce around the chromatic surroundings, refracting to nothingness while Batman slips a handful of chaff grenades from his utility belt. One of the devices finds the target, bouncing to land directly at Dr. Light's feet -- the explosion sufficiently rattles the good doctor.

Largely defenseless against Light's superhuman abilities, Batman uses the break to look for an equalizer in the battle. Using the Fortress' Kryptonian computer, he remotely taps into the satellite, in order to activate the onboard technology that can funnel dark matter into the Earthbound headquarters.

With his powers nullified, the recovered Dr. Light grows ever fearful.
Slowly engulfed in darkness, he begins to panic, shouting into the shadows for a sign of the Batman's presence. His fumbling is soon brought to an end when the Batman descends on his prey, making himself known with a whisper soon lost to the cries of a defeated Dr. Light...

ARTWORK: Ed McGuinnessThe Hammer...
Y'know, lately we've been playing around oddities and obscurities, like The Phantom or the Hulk movie, which is great! That's exactly what the Infinite Wars, ill-defined as they are, are all about! Still, there comes a time when sometimes you've just got to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty with a good old fashioned inconsequential superhero battle; ergo, I give you your winner, and next entrant into the soon-to-be on the big screen list: Batman!

Now, don't get me wrong. If you're a Superman/Batman fan, more power to you, but this isn't exactly an issue I would've been running to the store to grab. This was what you'd call a "casual impulse purchase"; something available locally and conveniently enough that such a decision could be made, despite being unhealthily behind on comics I'd much rather be reading. It's complicated. You'll understand how these things make sense, when you're older.

So, anyway, what's the deal with this issue?
Well, I'm probably not giving the issue enough credit. On the surface, sure, it's a stand-alone read that positions itself between a depthy arc dealing with the New Gods, and another arc confronting various elements in the DCU, and the status of Kryptonite on Earth. Neither are headliners on the DC Countdown parade, but as full figured storyarcs, they carry a bit more weight than a random Dr. Light issue.

As has been customary of DC's 2008 line-up, the cover includes a corresponding issue number for the weekly Countdown to Infinite Crisis. And what I'm not doing a great job of is acknowledging the conclusion of the story, which, does tie the issue to greater goings on in the DCU, leaving Dr. Light's fate in the hands of an ominous shadowy figure -- revealed elsewhere to be the Injustice League's reinvigorated leader: Lex Luthor, still fresh off of the Infinite Crisis debacle!

As reviews of recent issues of Justice League flood in from the online critics, the curtain gets drawn back on the state of DC editorial. Dwayne McDuffie, besieged writer of the top level supergroup, has defended his work as not entirely his own, revealing the stiff intervention of editorial mandates that require only dressings from the man tasked with juggling the major properties in situations deemed secondary to their solo endeavours.

With that in mind, one looks at this fairly mediocre issue of Superman/Batman, and wonders exactly how much the influence of [Nova] writers on the rise; Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett; had to do with the overall quality.

Coming out of 2007 DC seem to have learned that the heavy handed approach of Countdown has not been the recipe for success that 52 might have been. In contrast to the first weekly series; (which showcased unlikely stars like; Black Adam, Steel, Elongated Man, and The Question); Countdown provided a far more specific spine of events for the DCU, constricting everything around it, whilst depicting contents within the core book, sometimes with limited involvement.

For 2008 this already promises a fresh approach to the editorial landscape of the DC Universe, and I'm quietly looking forward to it. Personally, as anything but a timid new reader, I've greatly enjoyed DC's 52-post net of continuity and reality! With limited experience with Countdown tie-ins, I'm probably less offended by the strategy than others, but still conceptually anticipating the promise of 08's movement forward: Trinity. A series that boasts DC's biggest icons in adventures that touch-upon, but in no way dictate, the rest of the company line-up.

Box Office Top 25
#1 Spider-man (Marvel)
#2 Batman (DC)
#3 Hulk (Marvel)
#4 Wolverine (Marvel)
#5 Mr. Fantastic (Marvel)
#6 Superman (DC)
#7 Daredevil (Marvel)
#8 Thing (Marvel)
#9 Human Torch (Marvel)
#10 Invisible Woman (Marvel)
#11 Venom (Marvel)
#12 Ryu (Capcom)
#13 Steel (DC)
#14 Catwoman (DC)
#15 Storm (Marvel)
#16 Beast (Marvel)
#17 Silver Surfer (Marvel)
#18 Rogue (Marvel)
#19 Dhalsim (Capcom)
#20 Phantom (King Features)
#21 Ken (Capcom)
#22 Dr. Doom (Marvel)
#23 Elektra (Marvel)
#24 Kitty Pryde (Marvel)
#25 Ghost Rider (Marvel)

With so many heroes making
it to the big screen, who do
the Infinite Wars rankings
show to be the top fighters?
Opinions? Drop a comment!
I would admit to being a little disappointed in not seeing second-tier properties return to the spotlight like 52, but also remain hopeful that a renewed spotlight on the top three franchise brands will allow for greater perspective in other books. Not that that hasn't been the case with many of 52's allumnists enjoying tours in books like; Infinity Inc (Steel), Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood (The Question; Batwoman), Countdown to Adventure (Adam Strange; Animal Man; Starfire); although, even the brightest of supporters would question the noteriety of many of these titles, if not the quality. As a chartered Steel fan, I confess my own dismay of the disinterest inspired by his new title, but I digress...

... At least, I digress as much as one can in a post touching upon a disjointed and expansive number of subjects that amount to a convoluted explanation of Superman/Batman #43's associated importance in the fabric of the current DC publishing schedule. Which, without the degrees of Kevin Bacon, amounts to very little.

Fortunatley for us we've got ourselves a movie star line-up this week as part of our tour of the upcoming trio of feature film stars, which reminds me... Because it's Easter and because I've been so busy I had to push this entry back to Friday, we're going to break format and bring you another entry tomorrow, no extra charge!
With Hulk, and now Batman, already down, that leaves only the next character who'll star in a feature being headed up director Jon Favreau, and Robert Downey Jr. I am of course referring to Iron Man, and like this entry, I think we're going to dive into the classic bag for an even more inconsequential fight than this!

Despite the many desperate, late-night attempts to pad out the discussion section of this entry, there is one undeniable purpose to this post, and that's the characters. So often on the Infinite Wars it all comes back to the characters that have made the fiction of these comics so memorable, and just as Steel Serpent provided some buzz around a recent review [Immortal Iron Fist #11], Dr. Light provides a different kind of thrill in this entry.

As someone who spent very little time reading the Teen Titans, I have few experiences with Dr. Light prior to Identity Crisis, but that doesn't make me appreciate the history of the character any less.
I mentioned earlier that I'm anything but a "new reader", and in that respect, I draw a bitter distinction between readers of my generation who came in late and dived straight into the world and history of back issues, and the contemporary equivalent; lazily and illogically intimidated by the fiction they should be enjoying and joyously soaking up!

Maybe that can be today's challenge. You've got your Johns', Millars, Bendis' and Brubakers, but where are your heroes? Next time you're at the racks grabbing your usual haul, think about investing in a comic for the character contained within. It might just lead to not only a relationship with a new favourite character, but also a greater understanding of this enduring genre of superhero comics!

You know who else is an enduring dominator of his medium? Bahlactus!
While we've been running behind schedule each week, Bahlactus has been bringing the fights to the entire blogosphere! With the purse on the line, it's do or die! Think you've got what it takes to step-up to the devourer of blogs? Check out Friday Night Fights, but before you do, make sure you get your fill of two years of the other side of Friday Fight Night, and every other entry since, in the Infinite Earths Secret Archives! Fullfilling all your violent needs this Easter!

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 3.5

Lanning and Abnett turn in a relatively unremarkable script, even with assumed edicts from DC editorial management. Perhaps the only specific negative reaching out is a scene unremarkably reminiscent of a similar moment in Batman Begins, where common dialogue "where are you?!" is silenced by the sudden emergence of Batman from the dark. Otherwise, just an unremarkable installment, filler between the gaps of more cohesive stories. McKone is competent, but equally unremarkable, with an occasionally bendy, but fairly non-descript approach to the characters, which occasionally look very static.
This issue is yet to be collected, but if you're looking for similar purchases, don't forget to head over to the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe. Not only can you find yourself a bargain, but by using purchase links, you sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars. Men are also free to buy as they please.


The Fortress Keeper said...

You know, you actually made an issue of Batman/Superman sound cool - an accomplishment in and of itself.

I'll have to look around for Dwayne McDuffie's comments. I've wondered why his JLA was so weak when his FF rocked so hard.

Oh well ... back to my collection of Weird Western Tales! (Although I may have an Iron Man post in my near future as well.)

Mike Haseloff said...

Hah! Apparently I did a much better job than I thought then! Cheers!

In doing my best to reflect [and elaborate on] the story, the panels I've picked are invariably among the best. Missing are some really disappointing wastes of space, and graphical disasters.
As someone who enjoyed portions of Loeb's work on the title, this one is teetering on the edge of unacceptable mediocrity for me.

Don't quite remember where I saw McDuffie's JLA talk, but I have a vague notion he posted about it on Newsarama. Which is not only a surprising breaking of ranks, but also something that, as far as I know, hasn't really blown up. Certainly not to the scale as say, Morrison's joking about Secret Invasion and Bendis' retorts.

I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more Iron Man across the blogosphere over the coming months.
Look forward to seeing what you're up to!

Anonymous said...

I must have missed the issue where Dr Light got lobotomized again.

Cause he had to be lobotomized to lose to Batman like that.

Mike Haseloff said...

Y'know, I really think there are a lot of factors in the issue explaining it reasonably well.

Having tied Superman up with his soligrams, Dr. Light isn't expecting any opposition at the Fortress -- so when Batman jumps out of the shadows, I think it's fair to assume that's going to be a bit of a shock.
Couple that with Light's depiction of cowardice (post-Identity Crisis), it's not unreasonable to expect Batman to inspire terror in the heart of the criminal.

That is, at least long enough to engulf him with all encompassing dark matter -- which nullifies any and all of Light's powers.

At that moment, he's a regular human with a stupid goatee and no fashion sense. Not much of an assault against Batman!

Anonymous said...

Mike, just 4 things here:

1) Batman hiding in the shadows and DL being unable to detect him? No way, DL can see in the dark. It's part of his powerset.

2) What "Light's depiction of cowardice (post-Identity Crisis)"? I thought the guy was supposed to be a maniac.

3) DL needing ambient light to use his powers? Nope, that's Dr. Light II (Hoshi).

4) How come Bats can dodge DL's blasts when even Supes has proven unable to do so (as seen in the Legion of Doom JLA arc)? Bat's somehow faster than light now?

So to make a long story short, the guys who wrote that fight screwed it up. Badly.

Mike Haseloff said...

Greetings, anonymous!

I'm not necessarily going to disagree with you, because boiled down I really don't think this is a great issue at all. I don't know if you've read it, but if you're drawing your conclusions from my review, there may be a few specifics that have led you astray.

To Abnett and Lanning's credit:

1) The Fortress of Solitude is presented as a very bright arena.
Batman's position of lurking prior to the fight is less dependent on poor lighting and more simply about being obscured by large machinery. Likewise, though McKone's visuals aren't always vivid, Dr. Light is never shown to be somewhere where Batman would be obviously seen.

As mentioned previously, he is not expecting anyone in the Fortress, so Batman has the decided advantage of ambush.

2) Post-Identity Crisis, Light's been shown to hide behind other villains (Deathstroke), target opponents much weaker than him (Teen Titans, Mia Dearden), and delight in a little villain team-up murder (Infinite Crisis).
Even with artistic license, I think it's fair to call that cowardice.

3) Dark matter, as it's presented here, completely englufs light. Which means regardless of whether Dr. Light manipulates or generates light, his powers are neutralized.

4) A few things are working in Batman's favour:
- Dr. Light is shocked by the ambush, making his attack less than calucated (or well aimed).
- Dr. Light is notably afraid of a one-on-one confrontation with Batman.

I would concur. It's definitely not a great fight - I gave it a 3 after all - but on the specifics, I think Lanning and Abnett deserve at least a little bit of credit.


Anonymous said...

Not to beat a dead horse here, Mike, but that issue of S/B really pissed me off. Not only cause DL has to be like the most underrated bad guy in all of comicdom but specially cause I'm sick and tired of seeing everyone and his bro(ie. Lobo, Darkseid, etc) jobbing to Batman just because :(

1) That's right, only that back in the day when DL was a 'lobotomized moron' he would have pulled some trick like this:

And detect Batman inmediately.

2) When hiding behind Deathstroke DL was still in cowardly, lobotomized mode. As for him battling everybody who's ever been a Titan (including heavy-hitters such as Bart Allen and Superboy) I'd say that was a pretty good showing (could have been better, though).

Oh, and laughing in the face of the JLA after what he did to Sue Dibny at the Satellite? That was SUICIDAL.

3) Ok, you got me on that one I guess.

4) True, but don't forget that if DL had fought with half a brain he'd have transmuted all the ambient light inside the Fortress into gamma rays and killed Bats inmediately as soon as the fight started.

After all we're talking a guy who can control the entire E-M spectrum:

Ok that's all for now. Take care :)

Mike Haseloff said...

Y'know, something I didn't get around to touching on, and hoped to in a review that's since been bumped to a later date, was the benevolence of Dr. Light's context.
In a lot of those post-Identity Crisis appearances the character really had a sadistic menace about him. He was the same character who had sexually assaulted Sue Dibny, and threatened the loved ones of the Justice League. There was a very adult sense of threat about him.

It feels more than a little awkward to see the character played down so much in appearances like this, only a year or so after more malicious scenes.

That broader approach to the character definitely bothers me a great deal more than semantics.

1) Again; Dr. Light had absolutely no reason to suspect anyone else was in the Fortress. To that end, he was right, until Batman teleported in.
He had no reason to scan for anyone, and even if he had done so immediately, Batman wouldn't yet have been there.

2) Mia Dearden isn't a heavy hitter. I think the reference is flexible enough to not be undermined by a fight with Superboy.

4) Again; Light was ambushed by a character whose repetoir is built on intimidation. He was ambushed and disarmed quickly.

Appreciate the discourse, and agree the issue could've used some work in general, if not in the specifics.

With strong opinions like those you should sign-up to the fantasy league, hombre!