There’s something inherently off-putting about “Superman/Batman” #68 that was summed up by a couple of guys in my local comic shop who spent a few minutes looking at the “Our Worlds at War Aftermath!” banner on the cover and wondering what DC is thinking publishing a book that ties into an eight-year old event. Even more than that, the tie-in story actually began three months ago in “Superman/Batman” #64 with no explanation or fanfare.
Not exactly a new-reader-friendly book, eh? However, with one of the architects of “Our Worlds at War,” then-“Adventures of Superman” writer Joe Casey on board, this issue is better than the cover would suggest.
All that a reader needs to know about “Our Worlds at War” going into this issue is that an alien invasion happened and there were some consequences, including the destruction of buildings in Metropolis. The event is only alluded to and doesn’t impact the story of this issue, except for setting up both Superman and Batman’s ‘on edge’ moods. What’s more important is that readers read October’s issue of “Superman/Batman” where the World’s Finest discovered a derelict Kryptonian spaceship and something escaped, headed for Earth. This issue begins with that something landing in Himalayas where Anderson Gaines, the secret backer of S.T.A.R. Labs happens to be hiking.
Despite the prologue issue from October, not much actually happens in this issue as it mostly sets up the story where Superman and Batman begin to investigate what escaped the Kryptonian craft and whatever has happened to Gaines encounters Clark Kent and senses something different about him. Casey, thankfully, peppers the issue with interesting ideas or scenes, like Batman’s fight against his latest costumed villain: Death-Man, the criminal that dies every time he’s captured and comes back to life at a later date. Okay, his skull-painted helmet and name are lame, but the character works for the three pages he appears on, particularly Superman’s amused reaction to him and Batman’s embarrassment.
Casey writes the duo very well, always giving their conversations a somewhat adversarial subtext. The two work together to protect the planet, but there’s a constant undercurrent that they don’t like one another. It’s not an interpretation shared by every writer or fan, but it’s an interesting one that Casey handles well. The scenes between the two are also some of Ardian Syaf’s best work in the issue. Syaf is hit or miss for much of the issue, but when he gets to show either Batman or Superman in costume or in action, he delivers strong, powerful visuals. Syaf’s style brings to mind a Jim Lee influence, a style that works best when characters are in dynamic situations, but much of this issue contains low key discussions between characters and the art suffers.
The comic ends on a high note with an action scene that sets up the next issue well. Hopefully, the story will pick up and continue to only relate to “Our Worlds at War” peripherally. This hasn’t been the best way to begin a new run on a title, but it has the promise to deliver a strong story in the long run.