Superman/Batman: Vengeance (Jeph Loeb/Ed McGuiness, DC, 2006, originally Superman/Batman #20-25)
Dearest Blog, I don’t know if we’ve ever discussed this before, but I am a comics collector from way back. Probably this is not news to you, given my other proclivities, but just for the record, there it is.
In my earliest form, in the halcyon age of those spinny metal wracks in supermarkets, I was a fan of horror comics. I would load up every time my parents went shopping. As I got a little older, I became an acolyte of Marvel. This was in the early-mid 80s, when they were really the shit- The X-Men, Fantastic Four, Thor, Spiderman et al were in the midst of some of their best runs. Except for following writer/artist John Byrne’s run on Superman when he went to DC from Marvel, and Frank Miller’s work on Batman, I wasn’t very interested in DC. Compared to Marvel’s attempts at psychological and physical realism, DC was just a little too cartoony, too hokey, with the fake cities (Metropolis, Central City, etc.), unlimited god-like powers, silly weaknesses like kryptonite and the color yellow.
As with many things that had been a key part of my life (writing being front and center on that list), I put down comics when I went to graduate school in the mid-90s. My soul went into hibernation and life got more and more off track. After recovery and separation and other major life changes, I began to pick up things again (writing being front and center!) in 2002. And so comics have returned to my life, fueled by the collections of storylines into big softcover trade paperbacks that has become one of the major distribution modes of the 2000s.
I’ve caught up with some great stuff this decade. And to my surprise, I’ve found that in my old age I’ve become a big fan of DC. In part, it’s certainly because younger writers and artists have shaken up the formerly staid world of DC. But I think it also reflects my own ability to connect now, after a lot more of life’s twists and turns, with the basic, archetypal legends that DC has to offer. They deliver comics myth-making in its most elemental form.
None are more archetypal than Superman and Batman, two golden oldies still running strong after 70 years. Each has several monthly series devoted to them, but they also co-starred during the 2000s in Superman/Batman. I have dearly loved it for how it takes the two biggest toys in the DC Universe, presents them at the peak of their careers, and spins an ongoing storyline involving the two of them but liberally drawing on heroes and villains from all over DC.
This is the fourth collection from that series, and it’s a doozy! I’m allergically opposed to spoilers, so I won’t give away much that you don’t learn in the first few pages: Superman and Batman find themselves crossing paths in a parallel universe with the Maximums, a wonderful parody/homage of the “Ultimate” version of Marvel’s Avengers. This could be a throwaway concept in the wrong hands, but the Maximums are very well done, the kind of loving forgery that shows as much affection as cattiness toward Marvel. Along the way, alternate Supermans and Batmans galore enter in, as do Bizarro and Batzaro. The series also draws in threads from almost everything that’s happened in issues 1-19. You should probably read the other three collections first (“Public Enemies”, “Supergirl” and “Absolute Power”), but once you’re done, this volume delivers international, intergalactic and interdimensional fun in a way that only DC can get away with.