After Joe Casey’s recent CBR interview, his “Superman/Batman” run has gotten a little more notice, and this issue almost delivers strongly enough to keep some of those new readers around. The strongest issue of this story yet, as the mysterious shapeshifter that came to Earth after Batman and Superman discovered an ancient Kryptonian spaceship, makes arrangements to kill Superman, the last Kryptonian. Casey makes movements in this issue to bring the World’s Finest together to take down this threat and ends with a strong place for the next issue to jump off from.
Continuing from last issue, Superman finds himself fighting an assassin named NRG-X who has been hired by someone to kill Clark Kent. The opening pages of the issue flashback to the hiring and we get a few details about the assassin in the process, but, mostly, it’s a pretty good action sequence as Superman does his best to neutralize the assassin while limiting collateral damage. The resolution to the fight is your typical ‘bad guy escapes’ trick, but done with some flair. While NRG-X isn’t as great as the Casey-created Assassin Lad from his “Adventures of Superman” run, enough is hinted at here for him to develop into an interesting character at some point.
At the same time, in Gotham, Bruce Wayne attends a party for the contributors to a rebuilding fund in the wake of the destruction from recent events and encounters Anderson Gaines, the secret backer of S.T.A.R. labs, who Clark Kent met last issue. Something about the meeting leaves an impression on Bruce and carries over to he and Superman figuring out that Gaines isn’t quite what he appears to be, surprising no one. The interplay at the party is interesting; Casey indulges in his flair for rhetoric and big ideas as Gaines explains his involvement with the project.
The party scene doesn’t show Ardian Syaf’s art in the best light. His Bruce Wayne is one of the most unimpressive and odd-looking iterations of the character that I’ve ever seen. His face is compressed and its structure and look don’t match any other versions. He looks like a generic snooty businessman rather than the more hardened, chiseled character we know. Syaf does draw the character in a familiar manner at times, but not consistently. Where Syaf’s talents clearly lie are in the action scenes since the fight between Superman and NRG-X is where his best visuals are displayed with energetic movement and interesting compositions. Most of the issue, though, is characters talking and his art doesn’t suit that at all. One panel near the end of the issue is almost laughably bad in Superman’s posing as he seemingly is about to rush off, but looks awkward and not entirely anatomically correct.
Three issues in, the plot of “The Big Noise” is finally picking up as Casey sets up an interesting story with Superman and Batman on one side and an alien shapeshifter on the other. How it plays out should be interesting.