After a violent encounter with Metallo’s red kryptonite cocktail, Superman is left with a life-threatening morphing condition. Happily, Negative Man of the Doom Patrol is able to use his alien energy to dampen down the Man of Steel long enough for a specialist to step in.
Dr Niles Caulder, creator of the Patrol, doesn’t find curing Supeman as simple as he had expected, but with more physical help from Negative Man and an emotional boost from Batman, the hero comes through.
Later, with Superman up and about, Caulder starts to explain who may be behind a spate of coordinated supervillain attacks on heroes including Superman, Batman and Robin.
And the bad guy?
The heroes resolve to tackle the threat on two fronts: while Superman and Batman travel to Philadelphia, where – according to Nile’s Caulder’s superhero spycams – warped wizard Felix Faust is attacking Billy Batson, the other half of Captain Marvel…
… Supergirl, called in by cousin Kal, will take Robin on a fact-finding mission to long-ago China.
Now this is interesting – romantic tension between Dick and Kara in this story set sometime in the past of the DC Universe. Writer Mark Waid likely never intends to show us the implied date between Supergirl and Robin; he doesn’t need to, this scene stands up nicely on its own. We get it.
After the recent terrible treatment Supergirl has received across the DC line, it’s wonderful to see her presented as a normal teenager. We also see her as a fantastically competent heroine.
Time travel! Is this the first time we’ve seen the modern incarnation of Supergirl speed into the past under her own steam? I love it, this is just what members of the Super Family should be doing.
And that’s Superman only hours after life-saving surgery. Waid is woolly about when this story is set, and it doesn’t matter, I’m just enjoying the Bronze Age sensibility… big, bold heroes stopping dastardly villains from running rampant. The creative use of Superman and Supergirl’s powers is a big bonus in this age when flight, strength and heat vision are generally the only things on the Kryptonian menu.
The business with the Chinese demon gets things moving, but this comic is all about the interaction between the characters – Robin and Elasti-Girl, Supergirl and Robin, Batman and Caulder, Superman and Felix Faust… after being away for so long it’s obvious Waid is having a ball playing in the DCU.
And what a partner he has to play with in artist Dan Mora. The imaginative page layouts and internal compositions help the story whiz along. The heroes look terrific, especially Robin and Supergirl. Details such as Batman’s messy-looking utility belt, the Bat-rope peeping out from under Robin’s cape and the paintings in Doom Mansion add to the fun. The Devil Nezha looks like a horror you don’t mess with, and I love how Mora uses a different style to illustrate his Chinese legend.
And yes, Mora gives us a fabulous Doom Patrol. Despite their prominence on his splendid cover, their part in this issue ends when Superman and Batman dole out the quests, but hopefully we’ll see them out in the field before this story is over.
Then again, I suspect Waid has still more DC heroes he wants to give cameos too. Either way it’s win win for this lifelong DC fan.
While I’m giving out compliments, Tamra Bonvillain and Aditya Bidikar deserve praise for their sterling work on colours and letters. Bonvillain always lights for location, and the hues are especially lovely when we’re with Dick and Kara up, up in the sky, and then in ancient China. Bidikar shrinks the text to indicate whispering and goes square for Robotman’s dialogue, avoiding full-on cliched computer-font.
Basically, the entire creative team – and let’s not forget the contributions of editors Dave Wielgosz and Paul Kaminski – is doing a bang-up job. I hope this series is getting the sales it deserves, because I want to see many more stories of this calibre. Let’s spread the word.