Friday, November 28, 2008

Torment Part 6: Release (DC)
Superman/Batman #42 When: Early January 2008 Why: Alan Burnett How: Dustin Nguyen

The Story So Far...
After negotiating his way out of his imprisonment within the mythic Source Wall, the New God, Darkseid, finds himself with only a fraction of his titanic power.

In an effort to reclaim the Omega Power; Darkseid has his loyal minion, Desaad, recruit the fear obssessed villain, Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka; Scarecrow. The Gotham madman aids in the manipulation of Superman - the man originally responsible for trapping Darkseid in the Source Wall.
With Superman under his control; Darkseid damns him to an act of irony, sending the Man of Steel to recruit the staff of the Highfather - a conduit for the power Darkseid seeks, housed at the Source Wall.

In an effort to find his ally, Batman travels into space to face the overwhelming odds of a New God on the planet Tartaros. There he finds a valued ally in Bekka, the fighting wife of the New God, Orion. Together they track Darkseid to the threshold of the Omega Force where they share one final passionate exchange, before an act of treachery by Desaad affords them the ultimate time to strike...

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Darkseid 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: Darkseid 5 (Professor)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach-Speeds)
Stamina: Darkseid 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Darkseid 7 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Darkseid 5 (Lasers)

- 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.

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!

Known affectionately as the "World's Finest," Superman and Batman are among the most senior superheroes in the DC Universe. As founding members of the Justice League of America, the duo maintain a tense relationship built of mutual respect and recognition for each others unique skills. Batman's brilliance is matched only by Superman's empathy and natural superhuman abilities, which off-set the Batman's reliance upon man-made technologies.

- Born to Yuga Khan and Heggra; the New God named Uxas would ultimately change his name to Darkseid as part of a reinvention that would include the assassination of his mother, and ascension to ruler of the planet, Apokolips.

In his desire for universal domination Darkseid seeks the Anti-Life Equation; an ability that will grant him omnipotence over all thought and being. This quest has brought him into regular conflict with the denizens of a distant planet called Earth. It is Darkseid's belief that the recesses of the human mind retain lost fragments of the Anti-Life Equation.

Darkseid's power rivals and maybe even dwarfs any of his New God peers, or even those from other pantheons of godly order. Ungauged levels of strength and invulnerability provide a baseline for the enduring despot, with other abilities, such as his Omega Effect, providing a lethal projectile offensive said to be inescapable and nigh impossible to survive.
Also at Darkseid's disposal are the endless hordes of his parademon soldiers, fiercely dedicated, and willing to die in his name.

Math: Superman/Batman (Ttl) Darkseid (Avg) Ranking: Batman (#1)

What Went Down...
Having reenergized the powers of the Omega Force through his traitorous minion, Darkseid claims the Highfather's staff for himself, squashing the brief moment of rebellion by Desaad. Just as Darkseid punishes his underling with an Omega Beam, a ship explodes through the wall, pilotted by Bekka and Batman!

The dark lord's daughter-in-law leaps from the ship alone, armed with a futuristic gun that has little effect on the New God. Darkseid easily disarms his son's wife with an Omega Beam, playing unwittingly into a diversionary tactic that has Batman charging the New God under the invisible veil of Bekka's phasing tech.

The Dark Knight launches into a flying kick that connects with the titan's jaw and successfully stuns him enough to knock the Highfather's Staff from his grip! The moment Batman takes hold of the powerful object, he gains vision to see Superman moving faster than a speeding bullet, but not at all.

When Batman snaps back to reality he finds the staff has disappeared, but in it's stead is Superman, who, by means unknown, was able to escape the confines of the Source Wall! Darkseid gloats over Bekka as she tends to the human with which she experienced love - a distraction that proves the despot's undoing!

The Man of Steel collides with Darkseid with devestating voice, exacting revenge for his manipulation. Reeling, the New God suffers a combination of strikes, two more that spray more blood from his mouth as his face contorts in line with the super-fast swing of Superman's fists!

On his knees, Darkseid chooses to flee from battle, rather than run the risk of being trapped by Superman within the Source Wall once more.
His exit coincides with a disruption in the planet Tartaros as the break in the Source Wall caused by Superman's escape begins to suck away at the universe. The planet itself, a vile construct of war, is sucked in to fill the gap, becoming one with the cosmic barrier.

The destruction allows Bekka to open a boom tube, providing the heroes a method of escape.
On Earth, Orion claims his wife. The New God has only a stern gaze for the Dark Knight that came to know her love, unaware that he is about to carry his wife to her doom as Darkseid's true plans carry on in secret, and death is brought to all the New Gods.

The Hammer...
Like a boss battle in MKvsDC, the winners are Superman and Batman, but not without the assist from site debutante, Bekka!

If you've been following the site in our seemingly endless November, you'll know we've been banging the drum for the crossover video game release, Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe. Following the cues of the merged final boss, we thought it would be fitting to wrap up with a shot of Shao Kahn, and today, Darkseid!

Traditionally I can't say I've really been much of a New Gods/Darkseid fan, but 2008 proved that I'm pretty easily won over. It's been a big year for ol' stone-face as he marched through both the MK and DC universes! One of the highlights of the year was undoubtedly his supposed death at the hands of Orion [Countdown #2], to say nothing of his total domination of the Earth, in Final Crisis.

As has been a tradition for DC over the last few years, it's interesting the way this seemingly innocuous cosmic arc of Superman/Batman plays a much more significant role in the landscape of the DCU in 2008 (connecting to Death of the New Gods, and by relation, Final Crisis). It reminds me a little of Brian Azzarello's Superman story, For Tomorrow, which forecast elements of Project OMAC/Infinite Crisis, albeit, a bit more obvious to anyone paying attention.

If one were to buy in to the popular theory that Final Crisis is preparing the landscape for an ascension of heroes to New Godhood, then this story might take on even greater significance. I still find myself a little less than convinced, even with the recent "death" of Batman in RIP, but as an adventure to connected events, it's certainly a story that leaves you believing in Batman's ability to become a creature of far greater cosmic significance.

Burnett (and presumably, editorial) deserve credit for tackling some of the big ideas that have rumbled implicitly beneath the Bat-mantle -- namely Bruce Wayne's sexual and romantic desires. Here he finds a moment of both with Bekka, referring in his own pensive internal dialogues to the way he has channelled those impulses into "the Almighty Will."
Bekka emerges naked from warm vats that stave off the threat of hypothermia to console the notably disturbed (and unmasked) Batman, which creates the slightly hilarious scene of Bruce recoiling into the shadow with a dramatic, "No, Bekka. Stay back...!"

By focusing on the human cost paid by Bruce Wayne in order to function as The Batman the story implies an interesting dual point. While it highlights the underlying humanity that is within Wayne, it quickly replaces that comment with the suggestion that he can exist on the same level as (New) Gods, completely removed from humanity! It is a very interesting perspective to observe.

Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are all departing once again, but is it simply a vacation this time, or something more? We saw the trio take time out during 52 to recharge, but what if this time around it is to leave behind the DCU to ascend to a new purpose? As disappointing as it would be to lose these legends, do they not deserve the implied next stage? It would surely be a very bold move from the corporate DC Comics! More palatable that the veiled threat of another line-wide Crisis reboot, also!

I've got to make at least one mention of Dustin Nguyen's artwork!
I really enjoy his heavily stylized take on the character! His figures balance an energetic cartoon style with the emotive darkness one expects of a good Batman. Some of those shadows sometimes feel almost Mignola-esque, but are unmistakably Nguyen's! The digital colours on this issue's cover don't do the artwork justice, but interior colours, by Randy Mayor, do the trick!
This is polar opposite to Nguyen's recent pseudo-painted treatment on Detective Comics, but that's a review that will have to wait for another day...

We'll leave you with these vague ponderings as we press ever onward toward today! The next big checkpoint is the December Punch-Up where we'll be bathing in the statistical ramifications of all our Mortal Kombat/DC Universe posturing!

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 5.5

You can check out the collected edition of this hidden DC gem, as well as collections of the many other issues reviewed in the Secret Archives, by checking out our Amazon Gift Shoppe! With the holidays barrelling down on us it's the perfect way to shop for that comics fanboy in your life, or maybe even yourself! By using links provided on the Infinite Wars, or deviating from the same, you help sponsor future entries with every purchase you make! So take full advantage of Amazon's prices and convenience! Yays!

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