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Superman/Batman #7

Posted: Friday, March 5, 2004
By: Iain Burnside



"Protege"

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Pat Lee

Publisher: DC

I, along with everyone else, was utterly bewildered by the first arc of this series. What exactly was it all about? Luthor going bonkers yet again thanks to needlessly injecting himself with a bizarre drug he knew to be harmful? The death of Captain Atom? Pete Ross becoming President of the United States of America? Nobody really knew, least of all Loeb, and there were many other points that irked the fanbase, such as Batman seemingly forgetting who Captain Marvel really is. Unlike everybody else though, I persevered with the arc as I like to reserve final judgement until the story is complete. I did. And with the exception of the single line "There's going to be a crisis..." then yeah, it still sucks as much as ever. But then I found out that this issue was going to feature Robin and Superboy along with artwork by Pat Lee. As a fan of the Teen Titans and all of Dreamwave's Transformers comics, I thought I may as well check it out. So, is it any better? Hell, can it get any worse??

The answer is a definite "Meh." Lee is often chastised for doing a great job on Transformers when it comes to drawing anything but the actual robots themselves. Here, the opposite is true. The giant mechs that the Toyman gives the kids look cool as hell, yet Superman looks more like Generic Pro-Wrestler B than the most inspirational man on the planet. The panels are terribly jumbled and almost completely obscured by the colouring, which is way too dark for what is essentially meant to be a light-hearted romp. Yet for all their romping, could I tell the difference between Robin and Superboy? Could I hell. Considering that one of them wears a mask, this is not the hallmark of high artistic quality. So, yah-boo to Pat Lee. Keep drawing them fantastic Transformers calendars instead, Pat. My March picture of the Dinobots is looking particularly choice compared to this effort...

As far as the storyline goes, well, why the hell can't Superman or Batman just talk to this kid themselves? Why do they need to send their proteges out to Tokyo on a Saturday when they ought to be with the Titans in San Francisco? I'd like to think it was because they had to do a lot of damage control over the fallout from Luthor's "death." Think about it, the leader of the most powerful nation in the world has been exposed as a liar (well, duh), a madman and a dead one at that. The Vice-President is left in charge of a nation that ought to be suffering some major economical backlashes right about now, not to mention any terrorists or political rivals who would inevitably seek to hurt the country should such a situation ever arise. That's more than enough stories for Clark Kent to be getting on with, while Bruce Wayne would be tangled up in legal red-tape from acquiring Luthor's assets. Yet none of this is even hinted at in the book. We have no reason to believe that the two are sending the kids to do this rather inane little errand because they want to sit around the Fortress of Solitude eating ice cream, watching Bridget Jones' Diary, nattering about the latest development in spandex. Either that or they just want to check on the kids progress, but then they tried that one in a recent issue of the Teen Titans and it nearly got everybody killed.

Oh, almost forgot, this issue features Metallo running rampant. He escapes from the Toyman's little jail and proceeds to trash downtown Tokyo before the adults turn up to put an end to things. No shocks there then. But what of the plot thread dangling right before Batman's weary eyes from the first issue of the series, where it was strongly hinted that Metallo was indeed the one responsible for his parent's death? Are they ever going to follow that up or is he finally over it? Dammit man, you've been bitching about this your entire life and just when it seems you might have a strong lead on the case (as tenuous an explanation as it would be) you stop it in order to recruit a 13 year-old boy? That's not going to help those Michael Jackson comparisons any...

It's not all bad. As with Chuck Austen's Uncanny X-Men it is not a truly repulsive comic as there are decent ideas there and the occasional really memorable insights, it's just that they are horribly played out. It is more frustrating for the reader than anything else. Some of the dialogue between the superheroes and their proteges is cracking, yet again falls flat. It isn't quite natural for them and comes across as a cheap Bendis impression. Still, the "No sign" scene had me chuckling. All in all, I guess I really should drop this title. But then the next arc features the new Supergirl, which shall probably be one of the main parts of the upcoming DCU make-over, and artwork by Michael Turner. Maybe it'll get better! Man, am I living in denial or what...



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