Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Superman/Batman: Absolute Power

(2005) Jeph Loeb, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino, Titan Books, 14.99, hrdbk, 128 pp, ISBN 1-845-76074-3


Slightly light collection of the five issues 14-18 in this third volume of the title, still in this weird hardback-with-no-dj format, somewhat reminiscent of the Annuals of yore. What I love about Loeb and the current crop of DC mainstream writers is how they're all going out of their way to restore the version of the DC Universe destroyed in Crisis on Infinte Earths twenty years ago (about which, more in reviews of volumes relating to the, currently, up-coming Infinite Crisis).

Loeb has already resurrected Supergirl and, in this volume, spins a tale in which the Legion of Super-Villains use time travel to alter the course of history, sending the title characters on a trip through alternate realities, along the way meeting "classic" DC creations such as Kamandi (the last boy on Earth!), Sgt. Rock, the Haunted Tank, Uncle Sam, Jonah Hex, Scalphunter, and a bevy of Legionnaires. All very thrilling, with lots of nice little continuity touches - for instance, the alternate Superman who's been turning up in previous volumes turning out to be, pretty explicitly, the Superman from the Alan Moore swansong tale, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow", from Superman 423 and Action Comics 583 (if anyone out there remembers that 'imaginary tale').

So. The villains go back in time, bring up the infant Supes and Bats themselves and get them to take over the planet, incidentally killing just about every other hero and villain.

However, Wonder Woman is still around and she enlists the aid of Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters and Ra's Al Ghul. Being the kind of tale it is (all will come right when the timeline is restored) Loeb gets to have Wonder Woman kill Batman and she, in turn, is killed by Superman, all without permanent repercussions, natch. Anyway, Metron, Darkseid, the alternate Supes and Etrigan are all trying to help put things right as our heroes bounce through Kamandi's reality, then Jonah Hex's, then Sgt. Rock's, then into another reality where Ra's Al Ghul is the dictator that Supes and Bats were when the tale started. The heroes, using Ra's Lazarus Pits, resurrect the dead JLA and a big fight ensues...

Pacheco and Merino's art is very good 'comic book art', but I feel that they often skimp on backgrounds and detail, though I have no idea what their workload is like. It's kind of a shame that this series hasn't attracted a regular artist, but perhaps that's also deliberate - an attempt to include as many as would like to be let loose on the 'flagship' characters. Hey! If you were an artist, wouldn't you like to be drawing a title like this? Loeb's writing is very good, as I've come to expect, though the counterpointed internal dialogues (Supes' and Bats') is becoming real old, real fast. Those caveats aside, this is still looking a pretty good title, though I still wish DC had stuck with the World's Finest as the series title. Superman/Batman is clumsy; the older title has impeccable pedigree and, given the 'restoration' project currently underway, it would make sense to return it to glory. In the meantime I will continue to file this under "W" and not "S".

Tony Chester

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