Batman/Superman #18 review

Superman has his own Joker, an adversary who doesn’t want to rule the world so much as watch him suffer. And how do you make an invulnerable man hurt? By attacking the people who matter to him. Not just friends, but those he’s saved over the years, folk who have gone on to make more of their lives because he inspired them. 

Supergirl, Steel, Wonder Woman and Batman are helping Superman protect his closest friends, while Superman tries to figure out just who has the power, motive and opportunity to be toying with him. 

As the latest chapter of Greg Pak’s story opens, Superman is at his Arctic fortress, hoping its databases can give him a clue. He’d rather be at the funeral of a kind ordinary guy in Metropolis who died solely because he wore a Superman costume to entertain sick kids. He’s angrily yelling at the ‘living crystal brain’ because it’s not responding – it’s undergoing a slow reboot after the end of Doomed. 

Supergirl shows up and persuades cousin Kal to stand down – if he disturbs the Fortress’ inner workings it may not reboot properly, putting the lives of the bottled Kandorians at risk. A raging Superman zooms outside and cries into the wilderness, urging his unseen foe to make themselves known. 

Batman calls. He tells Superman that he has a plan to draw the villain out, by drawing their fire. And the target? 

What’s that you say? Surely Superman’s ladylove these days is Wonder Woman? Has Greg Pak made a mistake? Is Batman as unconvinced by the relationship with Diana as me?

Maybe … just maybe … there’s been a soft reboot when we weren’t looking, and Lois is back where she belongs, as the Man of Steel’s partner?

Well, no. It’s a feint. Batman is gambling on the villain not having seen the news of late, which has noted the JLA-mates’ courting, or perhaps he just realises that an apparent soft target will prove irresistible. Whatever the case, just to see Lois as if she were back where she belongs makes me smile. 

Ah, the tenses… I’m hoping Pak is being a bit meta here, acknowledging that whatever the case now, Lois and Superman will be a pair once more. And while she’s not his girlfriend, even the most militant of the ‘Clois’ brigade would have to be pretty closed minded not to appreciate that this is Lois at the centre of the action, smart and funny and tough as hell. As for Diana, she’s absent bar a silent, background image. 

What’s more, the Lois set-up makes for a nice moment between Kal and Kara, as the cousins, bit by bit, become better friends than they have been in the last couple of years. 

So does Batman’s gamble work? Sort of. Someone gets shot, someone who is, in their opinion, the person to whom Superman is closest (as opposed to Clois-est). And it makes for a fun climax on the way to a surprising revelation as to who may be behind the current shenanigans. 

This is a great issue. Pak concentrates on the characterisations while continuing to develop the twisty-turny plot. Kara is used well, a little spiky initially, but talking sense whereas it’s Superman who is losing his cool. Batman – it’s his comic too, after all – is smart and even a bit funny. And Superman? More of a hothead than usual, but innocents are at risk because someone hates him – I can accept the unusual mood. And his noticing Batman’s use of tenses is Clark’s experience as a writer showing through. 

Ardian Syaf pencils, Jonathan Glapion, Sandra Hope Archer and Jaime Mendoza ink, Ulises Arreola colours and the pages look sharp and bright. There’s intensity, dynamism, laughs and great storytelling. One page is nothing more than a trip to Iceland, but the artists make it compelling, while otherwise throwaway panels such as Batman against the sun or the Super-Cousins in flight as the mystery villain laughs are made memorable via thoughtful treatment and excellent execution. When splash images are used, they have real power . 

Letterer Rob Leigh has a less showy job than some but, as ever, acquits himself well. Splendid cover, too, from Syaf, Glapion and Arreola. 

This is a fine serial, more angled towards Superman than Batman but with so much good stuff going on that I can’t see many complaints coming in. Pak and Syaf are shaping up to be a great team, and this book is only getting better. 

2 thoughts on “Batman/Superman #18 review

  1. Here are my thoughts around Lois Lane and”Clois”. I personally feel that the publishers/editorial at DC wanted to decouple Clark and Lois beyond the marriage itself. I think from the interviews given in the run up to the reboot that they were trying to do to Lois what they did to Steve Trevor post crisis, and that is remove her inevitability as “Superman's Girlfriend”. I think that is why, at first, we hardly saw her at all, they moved her out of the investigative reporter role and made her a producer. She didn't have much to do with Clark or Superman.

    The last year or or so especially I've noticed a softening in that she's at least brought in to the story. Do I wish she had more to do? Yes. However as that old saying goes, beggars can't be choosers.

    This current climate reminds me very much of Smallville the TV show and the restrictions in place where Lois and Clark could not be involved in a romantic sense. So they dragged out the Clark/Lana affair well past it's expiration date but making sly references to Clark's & Lois's future together. The meta in this story reminded me of the meta offered in Smallville. It's a nod to the future if you will, but with the reminder that it hasn't happened yet, and for the same reason. Editorial restrictions are not allowing it to happen.

    Currently Clark's closest confident is Bruce, and Bruce is the one who knows him best. Just as when Clark talked about the love of his life in early Smallville episodes it was Lana because first he hadn't met Lois, then after he did, he wasn't ready to acknowledge there was something much more deeper between them. Why? Because of the real life restrictions saying that the writers couldn't write about it.

    Do I wish editorial would drop their restrictions around a Clark & Lois relationship? Yes. Do I think it will happen any time soon? No. I don't. I don't know if it will happen under this current management. So at this point I'm just happy when I see Lois involved in the story at all. I was happy to see her in an active role where she was part of the debate with Palmer, Kara, Batman and Superman over who was involved.

    I was glad Bruce chose Lois, not Lana or anybody else as the decoy. I want to see more Lois Lane in these stories. I liked this issue.


  2. Hi Maya, many thanks for the thoughtful comments. The thing about DC gutting Lois' traditional role is that they had no idea what to put in its place – the WW business seems to have been an add on they came up with after the first few months, one that's convincing few people. So hallelujah that bit by bit writers are using Lois more. With luck increased prominence on screen for the Amy Adams version will prompt a memo from the higher-ups at WB to DC Comics to keep Lois front and centre.

    And then, when a writer dares to give a good role in a story to Lana, or Lori, or Luma, or Lyla, or dear, dear Sally, there won't be outrage among the Cult of Lois.


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