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Superman/Batman #1
writer: Jeph Loeb
artists: Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines

Mention this title to old-time comics fans and they have to ask, "why isn't it just called World's Finest?" To be honest, I don't know the answer, though Loeb gives that title (sort of) to this first story. Perhaps it's because under the auspices of World's Finest Superman and Batman were superpals, until in the midst of Crisis On Infinite Earths somebody said, "there's no way these guys would work together well."

A few years later, the powers that be realized that fans still thought that the two icons should have some sort of life together. As a result, two prestige mini-series were published that established an uneasy status quo between the two. They have respect for each other, and as Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent they may even genuinely like each other. But it was hard to say that Superman and Batman were actually friends.

Jeph Loeb and company have begun making their case for how it should be. But before they can, Loeb feels it necessary to rehash what we already know: their origins. Maybe there are readers who don't know the story, but it's doubtful. However, as it is a new book, and Loeb gives McGuinness an excuse to do his take on some classic images, we can let it slide a little. A little. Five pages on a rehash of the two most-recognizable superheroes still seems a bit much.

Once we get to the meat of the story, however, things are just fine. The kryptonite-powered cyborg Metallo has gone on a rampage, trying to stop the breakdown of his artificial body. In his quest, he crosses paths with both Superman and Batman, and the story hints at a dark link among all three characters that could prove important for continuity. (It's hard to trust, though Loeb seems to have pushed a couple of major changes through Batman.)

The book has plenty of action, which, after all, is something McGuinness excels at drawing. Though Vines' inking seems a little thick and heavy, that does bring the art more in line with the current JLA look.

Balancing the action, Loeb is clearly interested in tearing apart the two heroes' different methods. Cleverly, what one calls detective work is simply investigative journalism to the other. Which side of the fence is Loeb on? Let's hazard the guess that yes, they're friends.

He's been building the case for a few months, and pretty effectively, too. They're not the superchums of the seventies. They argue with each other. Sometimes they can't stand each other. But somehow, that makes their friendship far more believable. Hopefully, it will also make it compelling for a long run.


Supreme Power #1
writer: J. Michael Straczynski
artists: Gary Frank and Jon Sibal

Another classic series gets a revisit, a revamp, and a renaming this week. Okay, the original Squadron Supreme was actually a mini-series, combining a post-Watchmen take with the Marvel version (literally) of the Justice League. Even though its high concept smacked of rip-off, the late Mark Gruenwald spun a tale that proved surprisingly moving and thought-provoking, and became more than the sum of its parts.

To be fair, the team's origins were always somewhat taken for granted. They appeared full-blown as The Squadron Sinister, fighting The Avengers after a suspiciously Avengers-like team had taken on the Justice League over at DC. Shortly thereafter, The Avengers assembled on an alternate world where their foes had become heroes instead (reprinted in the Special Edition of Supreme Power #1).

So J. Michael Straczynski is the first to explain just went into the formation of the team, or at least, that's how he's starting Supreme Power out. But is that enough to justify this retelling under the MAX label?


It's too soon to see if JMS will be charting new territory, going somewhere that neither he himself on Rising Stars or Gruenwald had gone. But he has already taken a realistic (but not necessarily grimly so) view at, for lack of a better phrase, the Superman archetype.

A rural couple driving through the countryside are startled to find a spaceship with a baby inside. The woman thinks this will save their crumbling marriage, but the government clearly has other plans. (Of course they do.)

Unsure of what to do with the child, steps are taken to make sure that he grows up a true American, in a "typical" suburban upbringing. (If by typical you mean everything but contact with humans.) There are deadly consequences to this choice by the time this issue ends, and the kid has only reached puberty.

Along the way JMS makes some surprising choices. The President that insists on this strange upbringing is the historically soft Carter. And Bush (the first) figures out that something potentially dangerous may come looking for little Hyperion. That President also activates the weapon that will become Dr. Spectrum; it ends up being a little bit of a cheap shot more fitting for SNL than the rest of this book.

The tremendous Gary Frank does his usual beautiful work here. For a book that has yet to really require much in the way of super-action, he's a particularly apt choice. Though Frank does action well, he excels at quiet moments, and this book has plenty that are made gripping by his sure pencils. Only Billy Mumy could look more innocently dangerous than Hyperion here.

Do we need another grim and gritty look at superheroes? Let's give this one a chance. It's very likely to be more than we expect.


Derek McCaw


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