I want to start with JLA Classified #1. Boy, did this feel good. There was very little of substance — just a big fight between the Ultra-Marines and Super-Gorilla Grodd — but a lot of it set my old geezer heart a-flutter. To me it took the elements of a ’60s Justice League of America story and didn’t quite update them as much as extrapolate from them. Grant Morrison takes probably his biggest liberty with Batman, giving him the sci-fi gadgetry you figure he would have had if (as in the ’50s and ’60s) he were traveling into outer space and through time on a regular basis. Morrison also reintroduces the Knight and the Squire, a pair of heroes from the ’50s Batman’s “Club Of Heroes.” (The CoH was a kind of United Colors Of Batman, with every country having its own version of the Caped Crusader. The last time any of these folks showed up in a DC book was as Kingdom Come in-jokes.) What I love about this issue is that Morrison doesn’t try to deny Batman’s goofier adventures, he embraces them. Ed McGuinness’ art also seems more disciplined here than it did in the Superman or Superman/Batman books. It still has a lot of energy, but it’s more focused.
The Batman-centered week continued with Detective Comics #800, the last for a while by the team of Andersen Gabrych and Pete Woods. (There’s also a moody backup by new writer/artist David Lapham, coming on board next month for a year’s tour.) The story is a routine tale of Batman tracking drug dealers, but it highlights how Gotham City has changed in the wake of “War Games.” I’ve talked before about the dopey “urban legend” conceit, so I’m glad it’s officially gone. This issue plays on the new “public outlaw” Batman, with onlookers gaping at the Batmobile and the authorities openly skeptical of Batman’s motives. It also catches us up with the various Batman family members, allowing Batman a few actual human moments with Barbara Gordon, Jim Gordon (who calls him “son”), and Catwoman. Again, I hope the Bat-office allows its hero more of these types of character bits. To me they’re more “realistic” than the standard “Batman is a jerk” paradigm.
And finally, there’s Superman/Batman #13, finishing up the Supergirl saga. I’ll skip the running complaint about Loeb’s dueling narrative captions and just say that this part felt very forced and anticlimactic. The arc’s basic plot was sound — Kara Zor-El comes to Earth and everybody wants to decide her future for her — but the execution left a lot to be desired. Also, who could have guessed that Amazon formal dress involved bare midriffs? S/B is very frustrating because its heart is in the right place, but it is so eager to explain itself that all the joy is sucked out. Both this Supergirl story and the JLA Classified arc include elements familiar to longtime fans, but where Loeb takes pains to delineate them, Morrison throws them in without stopping.
I don’t know why, but I still feel compelled to pick up Superman/Batman every month (or, more accurately, whenever it comes out). It’s a guilty pleasure, I suppose, and the ideas behind it are good. Loeb has a year left on the book, so on balance it’s worth it to me to see where he’s going with his 25 issues. I wonder if the next writer will bring in the Super-Sons.