Tuesday, August 6, 2013

365 Comics...216: Superman/Batman #24 (2006)

Digging through 3/$1 bins with my daughter I became hyper aware of how disproportionate the amount of comics for kids versus comics for adults have been published since the mid-1980s.  That's not to say there aren't comics for kids anymore, or that there weren't any during the speculator boom and bust of the grim'n'gritty '90's, but comic book fans and readers wanted to shake the "for kids" perception of the industry so much that they seemed to have forgotten to make any for them.  These 3/$1 bins are clogged with Image and Valiant comics and the closest to kids comics I could find, en masse, were Power Pack books from the '80's, which, even then, aren't exactly young reader material. 
Oh, I understand the 3/$1 bin is a "you find what you find" kind of place, so I'm not complaining about selection or any of that, just the fact that the industry has produced so much that can't be consumed on the cheap by a younger demographic.

Which brings me to Superman/Batman #24.  I'm an educated comics consumer, I know my stuff.  I know that just because Ed McGuinness' artwork looks exceptionally cartoony, that it doesn't make it for kids.  Which is a shame, because reading this comic, his brilliantly exaggerated, edgeless, deceptively simplistic illustrative style just screams "all-ages".  But, mercifully, at least this 3/$1 book was exceptionally tame on the violence and instead provides a heaping helping of eye popping 4-colour (yes, I know it's not 4-colour processing really anymore) insanity.  I haven't had much love for Jeph Loeb's work, ever, really, and even here, this insanity is only fun from a distance.  Diving into it as a new reader, or even casual reader, and it would be brain-hurtey nonsense.

The opening four pages find Superman freeing Darkseid from his imprisonment on the Source Wall, and Superman shrugging of any sense of debt owing.  This cuts to Batman in an alternate universe facing Batwoman and Superwoman in a dark alley before a spiky blonde Superlad punches his lights out.  They have a bit more of a rational conversation on Batwoman's all-too-familiar Batcave before Miss Miracle and Big Bard boom tube in.  Meanwhile, Supergirl tries to make sense of what Bizarro is really up to before coming face-to-face with sort-of versions of herself (including a classic-looking Supergirl, a Lois Lane Superwoman, the JLU Supergirl, and Power Girl) assembled by Bizarro.  An then Batzarro (Batzarro?) faces a group of super-toughs called the Maximums, who seem to be under the sway of Mxyzptlk, and then Joker is thrust into the mix.

It's just utter insanity, with no logical through line (but then it is the 4th out of 5 chapters), but even still, as a longtime DC buff, this starts to stretch and crack the boundaries of my suspension of disbelief.  I mean Helena Wayne and Laurel Kent are the "gender" opposites of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent (why not Brie Wayne and Clara Kent beyond just the nod to DC history?).  And just who was Superlad supposed to be?  A blond version of Kara I guess?

Anyway, despite the Joker killing Batzarro, it's pretty tame stuff and not altogether unsuitable for my daughter (who got a bit of a thrill out of sharing the same name with her Superman analog).

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