Saturday, March 8, 2014

Batman/Superman Annual #1

After two delays this book is out. Superman and Batman bring along Supergirl, Red Hood, Steel and Batgirl. Will it follow past and current canon? Will anyone get along?


I don't think the Phantom Zone has ever been shown like it is here. I could be wrong about that since I don't follow Superman books. It does remind me of the end of For the Man Who has everything where Jason tosses the Black Mercy at Mongul and the big guy dreams of ruling a wasteland where he murders who he pleases. Batman questions whether the Phantom Zone is the best place to hold Mongul, Superman asks if there's anywhere else to put him that Bruce would trust. Nope, Batman just thought Clark would be able to trust someone else with the task. This ruffles Superman who wishes Bruce would understand what he's about after all this time. It seems Batman doesn't have a problem with how things were handled, he's just messing with him to keep him thinking of different possibilities. One of the things I've heard about this series is how wonderfully the Man of Steel is written compared to the less than stellar version of the Dark Knight. I can see a little of that here.There's a sense that despite being allies for 5 years Batman still treats Superman like his inferior.

Some giant alien sphere arrives starting a bunch of disasters. A newcomer named Jochi gets in Supermans' way stating he's the son of Mongul. He must be a new character since I don't think that's the name of his son that appeared in GLC and had a twin sister. He's not here to free his old man though, it's not what Mogul would want anyway, he just wants to get revenge. Instead of endangering the humans of Earth Jochi want to meet Superman and Batmans' families. That's kind of awesome, I don't think I ever saw a bad guy make that demand before. There's actually a reason for the limited guest appearance though since Jochi himself says each family can only bring two members each.

Batman meets up with Clark soon after, he already knows everything since Superman wore his comm link. It didn't matter that it was turned off because he's Batman. He wonders why Clark didn't deal with the alien himself which Clark points out wouldn't be a easy feat since doing so would kill all the aliens onboard. Batman says there are more on Earth but is he really suggesting it would be okay to kill aliens to save humans? That's not addressed by Superman, just that the debris might kill the people on Earth. You guys know that you're both supposed to be anti-killing, right? They go with the offer to invite their families along for the ride and how to decide who comes. Not so hard for Superman who knows Supergirl is his first pick. I love the revealing shot of her holding the bridge up while Superman does the easier task of fixing it. Another pleasant surprise is that Wonder Woman is there too, fighting off a monster.

Diana asks why she's not being given the chance to go since she's a warrior. Clark says that's why she's needed on Earth to protect it while their gone. Dianas' "damn" moment is funny but come on she should be more mature than that. I don't know whether she's upset not to stand next to them in battle or the fact she can't kill something. Wonder Woman isn't a teenager--Kara might react like that--not Diana. Getting over it she wants to give Kara her sword to protect Clark. I do like that despite it showing how little faith she has in her boyfriend, It's just hilarious. Okay I get it shows her trusting Kara by giving her the weapon but it would have been more impressive if she didn't flub the name. More Wonder/Super shipping that I don't care for one way or the other.

Next up Red Hood who's apparently using the All Blades to fight in alleyways now. I don't know if I can blame Pak since Tynion didn't seem to know how to write the All Blades. Their not Jasons' weapon of choice for every situation. Their what he used just to fight the Untitled and their NOT ENGERY BLADES!

Batman: You don't change, do you?

Wonderful way to ask for help especially with the adopted son you treat the worst. No, "I'm sorry for being a complete asshole that tried to make you remember how you died"? Just more passive-aggressive crap. Gotta love that he says this in the same panel with the text boxes saying Jason never had the swords as Robin. Yep, Jason didn't change at all.

Jason Todd: What are you complaining about? I'm not killing 'em.

No snarky reply? Why isn't Bruce more concerned about the All Blades? This is the first time Jason has used them in front of any of his family. No one outside the All Caste/Untitled/his friends should know what they are. For all Bruce knows they could be alien weapons. Isn't it overkill to use them for street based thugs? Oh and more "Jason was always brutal" crap. Bullshit and don't act like Damian wasn't worse. The double standards never cease to tick me off.

Batman: I may have a job for you.

Jason Todd: Involving the giant alien death machine in the sky?

Batman: You've gained a lot of off-planet experience. And you're...capable of making hard decisions.

While it's in character I love that Bruce doesn't just ask for help like a normal person. He acts like he's a employer that found work for Jason. Although it's true Jason gained some experience in space (which Batman would have heard of thanks to Superman) is he the only bat kid that meets that standard? Did Dick go into space before? Jason went off-world once so far (no idea if he did as Robin), it was for one earth week but that's hardly "a lot." Bruce is also suggesting he will approve of Jason killing on this mission? I'm not even sure if Jason killed during the fight for Koris' planet. The last time I'm know of him taking a life was the Talon he fought. That's an awkward position to be in if Jasons' trying to stop killing and Bruce is telling him that killing is one of the reasons he's choosing him. It's the second time he screwed him over recently. Jason sees how against character that is and Bruce suggests he might not stop him this time. Instead of getting mad at Bruce for flip flopping and using him this apparently interests Jason.

I love that Batman didn't even pick Batgirl, she just showed up because she listened to comm links (which Jason thinks is funny.) If that's the case I'm surprised no one else turned up. Was Batman just going to go with no second choice?

Steel: You're a techie?

Batgirl: Yeah. Plus eidetic memory.

Steel: All right, this is good. Supermans' tasked me to disable the warworlds' gun, so--

Urgh, again with the "I'm special" Batgirl dialogue. I want to keep liking Barbara but things like this get to me. It also has nothing to do with the solution at the end of the issue. Batman has something of a panic attack at the thought of both Barbara and Jason going with him. He thinks how they suffered and the death of Damian then points out that they might not come back. Look, I'm happy to finally be acknowledging that these three tragedies are regarded equally without placing blame on anyone. But this makes no damn sense. Batman exclaims "NO!" when Batgirl shows up, likely because he didn't want to risk her again, right? Then he freaks out over losing them both--except Jason was his first pick! He didn't show the same reluctance to get him as he does when Barbara shows up. It should be worse with Jason since he's actually his adopted son! The one that died! It would make more sense if Bruce gets upset after calling everyone and then figures out Jason and Barbara were the best people for the job.

Red Hood: Are you kidding me?

Batman: I'm serious. This is the most dangerous--

Red Hood: That was the case every single time we walked out of the damn cave. And you're just figuring that out now? No wonder you've lost so many of us.

I know right? This is coming from the guy everyone assumes saw life as a game, which has never been true. Nice to have the concern but a little late for Bruce to start realizing the danger. I don't think Jason is being too hard here, although it changes depending on what is canon. If Tomasis' death site visit happened then he certainly has every right to point this out. If their still close without Tomasis' story happening then it makes no sense except telling Bruce to get over himself because he already put them in danger. Of course Jasons' relationship with Bruce feels a little off either way because of the earlier scene. Notice no one corrects him about Batman. Krypto shows up leading to them talking about Kon dying. This spurs Superman to suddenly realize that yeah, this is a dangerous mission that can kill them. Since no one can control Krypto he comes along which goes against the rules. Whatever, I love that dog.

Let's talk a little about the art starting with Jae Lee. I'm never sure how I feel about his work as a whole. It's visually striking yet it sometimes lack the punch I'm used to with comic book art. Take the Jae Lee version of the cover. I mentioned in another entry why I prefer the Benes cover so I'll just talk about the poses. With the possible exception of the still struggling Red Hood there's no movement, no real emotion. Supergirl, Superman and Steel all hold onto their bat member looking stiff and uninterested in what their doing. The only hint of movement around Batman/Superman is the tiny bits of debris. Steel isn't even paying attention to Batgirl despite holding up a fist. There's also the look to the batwing inside the book which seems to be standard for a lot of Lee jets which have strange wires/tentacles. It looks cool for more alien ships but impractical for more Earth based ones especially something Batman would use.

Rocafort takes over for awhile and it's a pleasure to see him work on Red Hood again. I liked his work on RHATO better but I'm not sure what's different here. Was he rushed, is it the inking, the coloring? It's still incredible work just not what I'm used to from him. At least he shows that the All Blades aren't "energy swords" all the time.

The families are given translators to understand the alien lingo. Looks like it'll be a combat based brawl for who will win the right to rule the planet. Jason jumps in to help Jochi win a fight. Their going to kill them both before Batman jumps in with this:

Batman: Beware the Bat clan!

--What the hell am I reading? I think that by jumping in Jason was trying to say Juchi was part of their clan which Batman somehow understood and claimed him? He had to agree with the claim or they would all be killed. Steel and Batgirl are looking for a way to shut down the guns while the others are at the fight. Kara wants to join in only her cousin doesn't want to.

Superman: Red Hood just narrowly avoided becoming an accessory to murder.

What? Aren't death battles okay with this crowd? Besides no one is going to put them on trail for this, the only reason they were mad was because they thought it was cheating. I'm not really sure why it wasn't. She says that Red Hood and Batman are humans and leaving all the fighting to them isn't right. This way if they win they have the right to decide who controls the guns in case things go wrong with their tech people. Steel and Batgirl still need time so everyone else gets in on the fight. Their in teams now, Superman, Supergirl and Krypto on Clan Super. The Bat Clan is Red Hood, Batman and Juchi. Noticing how well the former dynamic duo fight and asks if their brothers. Jason says not biologically....uh wouldn't they still be closer to father and son? They've been compared as such in other books, Bruce should be around the same age as Jasons' parents (who had him young.) For some reason this distracts Jason almost getting him killed before Batman saves him. This further confuses Juchi especially since Batman spares his enemies too. If you don't kill your enemies their just come back for more.

Red Hood: He's actually got a point.

Batman: You don't think people can change?

Red Hood: I dunno. You and I always seem to revert to form.

Bruce can't even think of a reply to that one. (I certainly don't think the Joker can be changed.) Juchi says his father thinks change is for the weak yet he still lost. The last round will require three of the fighters to die. The last ones in the fight are the Super Clan and the Bat Clan. To celebrate before half of them die they have dinner together. (Seeing Rocaforts' Kara next to an unmasked Jason makes me miss Isabel more.) Jason mentions how good Kara was in her last match, something she says is made easier with a magical sword. Since he has a couple he agrees. Okay that's cute although Supergirl really doesn't need one if she has superpowers. Jason asks if she's prepared to kill them and she says she won't have to if they give up. No one can give up though and cheating equals death to their planet. (Let team Super lose then and say Krypton is their planet.) The tech team still can't figure it out prompting Babs to once again suggest blowing it up. Superman thinks they should fake the fight, Batman doesn't think that's possible.

Batman brings Kryptonite (the shard version not the ring) which evens out the fight some. Krypto defends Superman from Jochi, Jason and Kara fight with swords (how much experience does she have?) and naturally Batman fights Superman. I don't buy for a second that Kara could get the upper hand on Jason. Just no, he has more training than her. Artist choice? Plus we never see how that happens, they might as well kept fighting since it's only a panel. Jochi tells Batman to kill Superman. He doesn't so Jochi kills the judge saying that they will decide things differently now. No one agrees and the day is saved by the tech team finally blowing up everything. They escape with Bruce trying to save Jochi who wants to live/die the same way he always lived his life. He cuts the line falling towards the anger aliens below. Superman saves the Warworld from crashing by sending it to the Phantom Zone. He saved lives which is good but is this his default way of solving things now? Clark even admits that he has it on standby for big threats.

Superman mentions Superboy changing like Jochi did. Batman stops Superman from wondering if things could have been different since it's easier if you don't think that way. In the Phantom Zone Jochi lies to say he won by destroying them all making him the leader. Mongul disagrees and kills his son. I didn't know you could kill someone in the Phantom Zone since I thought you were, you know. ghost like. Why would Superman send all this enemies there if their just kill each other anyway?

Overall: Canon-wise I don't think For the Man Who has Everything happened. It's not mentioned and would be if Jason really stopped Mongul. There's only a few current stories that are mentioned like where this takes place for Wonder Woman, then brief nods to Kon and Damian dying. Nothing of Kara not being a Red Lantern, nothing of the Batman/Red Hood issue and thankfully nothing of Tynions' run. It's hard to tell what Bruce and Jasons' relationship is since it's too tense to be on friendly terms and too causal to be on bad terms.

Jochi was a good character that was more morally grey than evil making his fate all the more regrettable. He sort of does things because he's supposed to like the revenge thing and his own morals conflict with Batmans'. The bond he has with Batman is pretty interesting as he disagrees with how the Dark Knight acts but still finds himself respecting him. The exchange between Jason and him over Batman being like a brother to Jason would have been stronger if it was father instead. Not only because that's what the relationship is but it's also vastly different than Jochis' relationship with his father, Mongul. He's amazed how well they fight together and protect each other. As we see Mongul isn't like that.

Steel and Batgirl barely did anything in this. If I had to choose between the two I'd pick Steel to stay since Barbara didn't do anything no other bat member could do. Neither are able to hack in to stop the gun which means they have to blow it up. Hardly on par with Barbaras' Oracle past and a solution Dick or Tim would have come up with. Barbara only briefly talks to Bruce then Steel is who she stays with for the rest of the issue. At least Jason and Kara interacted with others more. The only thing that her appearance provides is a link to Bruces' losses when he sees her next to Jason. She never says anything in reply to his "this is too dangerous" speech. Just there literally uninvited and talking about her skills. The same skills that do nothing to provide a solution to the problem. Steel might have had less panel time but at least he was the only option for the tech guy on Supermans' side.

For me the real stars in this were Jason and Kara who drive some of the plot. Their interaction with each other is actually fun too. I'm not sure if it's just Rocaforts' art combined with the writing but it sort of seems like they have some romantic chemistry. I'm not sure how that would work, I certainly wasn't expecting to see that yet this book made me think it. Their not even flirting unless you believe complimenting each others' fighting is hitting on each other. I'm not sure what the sword Wonder Woman gives Kara is supposed to do, I think it's implied that it's what helped her win some battles? Just as confusing is when Jason jumps in to Juchis' aid which I took as him understanding alien cultures/rules better because of his trip into space. Was it what happened? That one act led to the plot moving and helped them stall. Still Jasons' a little off as are all the bat characters.

The big debate throughout this was whether it's right to kill. There were times when this was fascinating yet it doesn't always work for the characters. Wonder Woman believes a warrior is needed then telling Kara to do what Clark won't in her stead. We never see Kara kill anyone and she doesn't deny she might when Jason asks her. Batman thinks of taking out Warworld to save Earth and doesn't seem to care about the alien lives onboard. A good deal of the debate isn't actually between Superman/Batman it's between Batman and Red Hood/Juchi. Bruce invites Jason because of his experience with aliens and his willingness to kill. The last part doesn't gel for me since no matter what the odds Batman has never folded on the no kill rule. Why is it okay for Jason to kill with aliens but not the Joker? Just because the stakes are raised? Shouldn't he call Bruce out on that one? Jason himself hasn't taken a life in a long time in his book. Bruce shows up acting superior then only asks him to come because he wants to use him like a tool instead of his son/partner? What an ass.

It gets more annoying since they debate this when their in the ring with Bruce asking if Jason believes people can change. Bruce asked him to come along to kill people--which I'm not sure he does--yet has the nerve to question ethics? So basically "don't kill unless I need you to but my way is right so you should do what I do." Jasons' retort kind of brings this up since they keep going back to the way they were, fighting over the same things. More ironically is that Bruce brings up the argument that people can change yet what's his first line to Jason before he asks for help?

"You don't change, do you?"

His argument rings hollow if he doesn't even bother to see the changes in Jason. In fact Jason has changed since his return and more so in his own book. Jason even points out he's not killing the guy he's fighting when they meet. Yet Bruce either hasn't noticed it or won't acknowledge it. Jochi brings up the point of leaving enemies alive only makes them more determined to get you. Something which is proven correct leading to the aliens deaths by his hands then his own death by Mongul. Someone who will return to attack the leads. You can't be okay with someone else doing the dirty work then act superior because you don't do it. If Damian was alive would he have chosen both of them for this mission? What a great lesson that would have been after trying to break Damian of his assassin background. If he would or wouldn't of it still a double standard with Jason who's also trying to redeem himself. Yet that never occurs to him and I'm annoyed that Jason doesn't point this out.

Strange as this will sound, despite the flaws I still found this really enjoyable. Mainly because of Jason and Kara but the interactions with the family were nice. I haven't had much luck with annuals in the new 52 so it's likely the best I read. It's just fun and entertaining.

Say What?: You really want to assume to tell Superman to stand down because he's not part of the government? Plus he's helping so what's the problem? Bonus point to the second person who points out that Superman travels too fast for them to stop him.

Human? You mean Jochi doesn't know Superman isn't human? But he calls other earthlings "soft humans" so he has to know the difference.

Kara thinks she's as strong as Clark, he doesn't agree with that assessment. I think that's because she's still growing. I remember that was how it usually was with Superman in the origins where he grows up with powers.

Why would Jason relate Superman losing someone to Bruce? Because it was recent or is he amazed that anyone else loses people like Batman does? This didn't feel like something Jason would say, if anything he'd say he was sorry for their loss. Although he reacts more than Barbara or Bruce do so at least he expressed concern.

Superboy was bred to be an assassin? I stopped reading the series after awhile but I don't remember that. Fairchild was trying to get him to move past destructive impulses. Harvest made him to find a cure for Jon Kent.

Did You Notice?: Once again Jasons' Red Hood helmet has reappearing/disappearing features. Only Lee didn't draw the face on the helmet.

Questions Raised?: Why couldn't Superman use the Phantom Zone projector on Warworld from the start? He does that at the end.

Is Bruce just a jackass to Jason? This is the same guy that led his sub group of "dead heroes" in Batman INC. and came to his aid several times in the relaunch. Yet Bruce is never there when Jason need him, brings him to his death site to trigger memories then uses him in this.

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