Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Phil Jimenez, George Perez (p), Andy Lanning, Norm Rapmund and Wayne Faucher (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: The Earth-2 Superman visits Batman and shows him what life was like for the Batman of his Earth. Power Girl discusses Kal-L's offer with Superboy-Prime, who gives her Lois Lane's diary to help in the decision. Superman gives the Shadowpact a helping hand in Gotham as a young boy finds the Blue Beetle's scarab. Batman refuses Kal-L's offer and discovers who attacked J'onn and destroyed the Watchtower. Power Girl finds J'onn near Alexander Luthor's arctic base and is attacked by the same people responsible for the Watchtower's destruction.
Commentary: I've been sitting here for a good hour or so trying to figure out how to start this review. I wanted to write a solid introduction that would give a quick overview of my thoughts on this issue before getting into the specifics, which are frankly a lot more interesting. I can't seem to do this. The muse is gone. I've listened to the motion picture soundtrack to Rent, watched the first twenty minutes of Best of the Best and scanned the Internet for useless information and nothing seems to be working. So here's what we're going to do; I'm going to pretend that I wrote a thought-provoking intro that had humor mixed with insight, and you are going to pretend that you read and enjoyed it.
We cool? Good. Now I can get on with it.
Geoff Johns has once again turned in a solid issue. From the opening scene where Aquaman puts the Society on notice that he wasn't going to take any more of their guff (by shoving a spear through King Shark's chest, which I've always thought was a great way to let your enemies know you mean business) to the rather heart wrenching scene of Wonder Woman telling her sisters to go into hiding, Geoff gives us a roller coaster ride of a comic. This series continues to be a great mix of action, character, story and little fan moments that blend into a near-perfect harmony.
The scene with the Shadowpact was great, but that could be the unadulterated Superman fan in me loving that one page shot of Superman catching that building. This served to further the sense that Geoff began last issue regarding Superman getting off his ass and doing something productive. Geoff played him just right too. Superman came off as an example and pretty nice guy too, which is the best way to present the character because if he says or does too much, he comes off as kind of an overbearing, preachy stick in the mud. Also there was that kid finding Blue Beetle's Scarab, which should make this comic a first appearance if nothing else.
There were two aspects of this issue that stood out, though. The first were the scenes between Kal-L and Batman. I have to admit that this was the selling point of the issue for me. Of course, I was going to buy it anyway, but at the same time the Jim Lee cover promised a neat encounter between the two characters. Johns delivered on this and more. He gave us a vulnerable Batman, which is kind of odd considering how hard the Batman writers of the nineties and the early part of this decade shoved the concept of an all-knowing, all-seeing Trash Heap of a Batman down our throats. This guy who can do no wrong and always had the upper hand. It is refreshing to see him at such a low point, wanting everything to start over so he can make it right. Kal-L offers him that possibility. He shows him a world where they could be the world's finest team and he could have a family beyond the one he has adopted. It was tempting. It had to be, but in the end he turned it down and all because of one concept: that the Dick Grayson of Earth-2 was not a better man than the one he raised.
That says a lot about Batman as a character. To me that means no matter how bad he has messed up, Batman would not want to live in a world where the boy he raised wouldn't exist. It served as a wake-up call that, like the Superman, Batman needed to stop feeling sorry for himself and get his head back in the game. I kind of felt bad for Kal-L in this scene because I know he feels he is doing the right thing. Coming to Batman would be the natural thing for him to do because of his relationship with the Bruce Wayne of his world. You could see the anticipation that such a team-up would mean and then the disappointment that this Batman turned out to be just like every other hero of this reality. Batman bringing out the Kryptonite ring was just a reaffirmation of Kal-L's current mission.
The second aspect that Geoff got me with were the revelations of just who the other Luthor was, why the Society was formed in the first place and what happened to J'onn and the Watchtower. Okay, that should technically be second, third and fourth aspects, but they all roll into one for me. The disclosure that the Luthor who formed the Society was Alexander Luthor made a lot of sense. It was one of those great reading moments where everything becomes clear and the full implications of those events start whirling in the reader's (or at least my) head. I don't know if Alexander is the ultimate villain of the piece but assuming for the moment he is then there are several possibilities for why and how he is doing what he is doing.
The how is pretty simple; the man is a genius. Between his lineage and powers and abilities, he knows more about the nature of both positive and anti-matter than just about anyone else. I don't believe for a second that his intentions are to bring back the world of Earth-2 like Kal-L and possibly Superboy Prime believe. Maybe he went a little nutty or maybe his birthplace of Earth-3 is finally rubbing off on him, but what I am sure of is that he's up to something more sinister. The thing is, he knows that the heroes and villains have a tendency to team-up during universal calamities. He uses the events of Identity Crisis not only to divide the heroic community (mainly by letting events take their natural course) but to organize the villains for his own use. Alexander knows he needs to build the machine (which may or may not have anything to do with what is going on out in space) and that he will need certain super-powered individuals to run it so the Society serves his purposes nicely.
Then he uses Kal-L and Superboy Prime as his main enforcers, whether through deception or willingness. Kal-L will do anything to save his wife, so that's an easy mark to exploit. Superboy Prime seems very angry that he never got a shot at a normal life and Alexander could be using that anger to twist Superboy to his own ends. Superboy Prime doesn't have the experience or the upbringing that any of the other Supermen have had, which means he won't make the same decisions they would. Kal-L will be in denial about the situation as long as Lois is in danger, which is something he shared with his younger counterpart in "our" world. I believe that Alexander wanted Power Girl's help as well, but that seems to be out of the question at this point. In any case, Alexander wants something, probably the destruction of the universe for his own ends, and he is willing to do anything to accomplish that goal.
There are several problems, though. Superman ("our" Superman at any rate) is getting back into the game. Batman is too. Wonder Woman has very little to lose at this point, so the trinity has the potential to come back together and get the heroes organized. "Our" Luthor is another obstacle and despite his set back in this issue, he can't be counted as a casualty just yet. Alexander has also made a serious mistake in double crossing Black Adam because that man will stop at nothing to gain vengeance on, not just Alexander, but the Society as a whole. Of course, that will probably have to wait until the Crisis is over because I have a feeling that the Society will turn on Alexander once they find out what is going on. As I mentioned, heroes and villains tend to work together when imminent universal destruction is on the horizon.
This is all a hypothesis, of course, and it depends on certain events playing out in a specific manner. It is going to be interesting to see what Geoff Johns has in store for the remaining four issues, especially since issue five promises to have a confrontation between the Supermen, which will be interesting as "our" Superman is getting back on track, and Kal-L has an agenda. As much as I like to continue guessing at what will happen next, I think it will be better to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
In The End: The series keeps getting better and better. Geoff Johns has given us a fantastic story that keeps upping the ante as far as what will happen next. Phil Jimenez and crew keep delivering solid art that can keep the reader busy for hours staring at all of the little bits of business they throw into the background. This series is the best thing to happen to DC in well over a decade, and I have a good feeling that the ending will be a real kick in the teeth.
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