Has nostalgia for "Batman R.I.P." and "Final Crisis" already shown up? After Grant Morrison recently wrote a two-part flashback in "Batman" to those stories, I figured it was one final journey back to Batman's "death" at the hands of Darkseid. But now, "Superman/Batman" is serving up another trip to that time period, this one moments after the Batman/Darkseid fight, rather than moments before.
Judd Winick's story isn't bad, although it automatically suffers from predictability. We already know that in the end Dick Grayson becomes the new Batman, so having an argument between Dick and Superman on if that's the right thing feels slightly pointless. Fortunately, Winick doesn't lay the entire hook of the issue on this single idea, the other half dealing with the more interesting thread of Superman's grief over the death of his friend.
Some of the scenes work better than others. Clark and Lois' conversations are some of the stronger moments, letting the two feel real and connected. On the other hand, Wonder Woman's scenes with Superman are a reminder that more often than not, Wonder Woman's role in the DC Universe seems to be a surrogate Deanna Troi, stating the obvious while she's supposed to sound insightful.
The big hook for "Superman/Batman" #76, though, is Marco Rudy. Having seen the sales charts, it's a safe bet that few people saw the strong work he'd done on "The Shield" over the past year. Rudy's an artist who isn't afraid to take chances with his page layouts, and while they don't always succeed, it's strong more often than not. Some pages look especially sharp, from the art deco circles and lightning bolts that radiate out from the final panel's handshake, to the half-Superman-shields used as panel borders for Superman's face as Dr. Mid-Nite examines Batman's body. The Bat-logos as panels sometimes get slightly lost in the shuffle, though, although I can't help but think that in another few months he'll be at the point where he can make them stand out without being obtrusive, a fine line to try and walk. Rudy's been improving by leaps and bounds with each new comic he draws, and his work here is already a big step forward from "The Shield."
His characters are strong too, of course. His first page reminds me a bit of Tim Sale in the way he draws Clark and Lois, with soft but elegant ink lines that flow across the page. And unlike many superhero artists, Rudy's figures never look overly bulked up or ridiculous. If some people use exaggerated football players as their character models, Rudy looks more to the swimmer's build. Lean and elegant, but still full of power. Best of all, Rudy's good with the smaller moments; the best figure work in the entire issue is probably the flashback to Jonathan Kent's funeral, with Lois comforting Martha.
"Superman/Batman" #76 may have just a so-so and predictable story, but Rudy's art knocks it out of the park. I'm glad to see Rudy getting a higher-profile comic assignment, and hopefully he's got much more to come. He's too much of a talent to languish in books no one's reading. A mixture of Ed McGuinness and J.H. Williams III when it comes to his approach to pages, Marco Rudy is someone to watch.