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Review: Superman/Batman #81

Superman/Batman #81

In the previous issues of Superman/Batman we traveled through time and space through the miracle of modern science. In the latest issue of Superman/Batman we travel through time and space through the miracle of modern magic?


Written by Cullen Bunn with pencils by ChrissCross and inks by Marc Deering we begin part one of “Sorcerer Kings.” Our story starts out with the Shadowpact investigating a magical catastrophe of “biblical proportions”. I don’t know about you but that always sends up a red flag for me. And speaking of red flags, the quietude is shattered with a scene straight out of Halo as Covenant like demons do battle with a helmeted red caped warrior that isn’t the Master Chief but looks suspiciously like Superman.


Naturally, the Shadowpact senses the mysterious warrior is on the side of good and they leap to his aid. The battle is fought furiously and a moment of recognition is shared between the red caped warrior and the Blue Devil. The Warrior should have called a timeout as this brief interlude affords a particularly nasty demon to crush him with a right cross. As quickly as the demons appeared they are gone having smashed their foe. That foe? Superman. And of course he’s dead.


We cut to Batman who looks like some sort of medieval sorcerer in his mystic lair. He is with Nina looking her Goth Rock best and you get a bad feeling about this because you just know Batman is up to something that is several steps ahead of us all. But before we learn what that is we zip back to a healthy and hardy Superman as he sails over Metropolis. So not only is our story “phantasmagorical” it is being told in nonlinear fashion. I have no problem with that especially since if we are going to be magically transported hither and yon throughout this story it rather fits. We just have to trust the writer, Cullen Bunn, knows what he is doing and doesn’t make our heads spin faster than you can say, “Mother make it stop!”


The Phantom Stranger appears and asks Superman to join him at the “Oblivion Bar” where he may find something “unsettling”. Here’s a familiar trope, Superman comes face to face with his dead self and is not unsettled by it at all. In fact he’s probably seen this device as many times as we have. I think we all deserve an explanation of what is going on and just as we are about to get it Bauhaus Batman (magically) bursts into the scene. We’ve seen this device before also, explanation denied! Sorry!


Not that this is necessarily lazy writing. You can’t move a four part story along without some dramatic suspense. And these devices have their use. Let’s just hope Mr. Bunn can propel this story where at least there will be some legitimate surprises.


Superman senses there is something unfamiliar about this Batman but at least he gives voice to what we have all suspected. He sure does act like Batman because he has thought of everything! Bats unleashes Nina to take out the Shadowpact and “Fwaaassh” they are gone with a mummified Supes in tow.


Here’s where the story goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. We skip to current day Gotham City where Batman has been summoned by Commissioner Gordon. Gordon has done so on the behest of Detective Chimp. I can deal with a lot of things but a beer swilling, cigar chomping chimpanzee dressed up like Sherlock Holmes is where I draw the line. To make matters worse the chimp has come to warn Batman of an apocalypse that is probably of Batman’s making.


As Kevin Meaney would say, “That’s just wrong.”


The issue closes as a groggy Superman is coming around. Bauhaus Batman calls Superman, “Clark” which should tip off Superman that all is not well and as Supes lifts his head Batman tells him, “This is your reality. Your future.” We get an acid trip tableau of a surreal Metropolis populated by dragons and other weird goings on. C’mon Superman you didn’t see that coming either? We did. Shortly before the music went, “Dum, dum, duuum!”


The art was good in this issue. The characters were drawn clearly and concisely. There was some confusion as to what was going on sometimes due to some blurring during the action sequences but not enough to detract from the story. I’ve had a little fun with Bunn’s story telling tropes. It’s all familiar but no less fun and the inclusion of some witty banter (The Chimp and Nina) spice up the dialog and tells us we don’t have to take everything seriously. Just enjoy the ride.


Superman/Batman #81:


3 out of 5 Batarangs


Reviewed by Dark Knight Dave

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