Monday, July 26, 2010

Batman/Superman #74 - Barely Awesome and Excessively Anti-Climactic

For the past few months, it seems like I've been giving DC a free pass. While I'm quick to point out the mistakes Marvel makes in their books, whenever I review a DC comic I sound like a cheerleader on a perfect balance of crystal meth and ecstasy. Between Brightest Day, Blackest Night, Superman, and Batman Beyond I've sung all sorts of praises. They've been pretty extreme depending on how much tequila is in my system at the time. But just because DC is clawing it's way back into my heart, that doesn't mean they're incapable of throwing a few shit bombs my way.

A month ago I reviewed the previous issue aptly titled of all things, Batman/Superman #73, and I really enjoyed it. There was plenty of awesome to celebrate between the action, the drama, and the blasphemous undertones of religious cults. In the middle of it all there was still Lex Luthor being his usual egotistical self. His plot to become a real god in the eyes of an alien race just has so much room for awesome. It's hard to imagine a bigger dick-measuring douche-bag in the annuls of comics, but that's why we love Lex. Between him and the way Batman and Superman take him on, it had everything a fan could want in a comic. Now enter Batman/Superman #74. Does it follow up? Well I would say that's a tricky question, but after reading the comic it's about as complicated as a Michael Bay film minus hot women, giant robots, and explosions.

It starts off with plenty of promise. It picks right up with Lex, who has been shuttling technology and civilization to an alien planet he intents to call Lexor (yet another giant stroking of his ego), is looking over his latest launch. The project for him is almost over. He's almost ready to take his rightful place on the planet as their god. There he won't have to play second largest dick to anyone. Nobody will question him or his ego. He'll get all the adoration he wants. It's essentially what every politician/tyrant has wet dreams about.

Of course, there is a potential hiccup in this otherwise flawless plan of his. Luthor's ego may be perfectly excessive, but his shit still stinks like everybody else's and that means he's prone to leave loose ends. In the previous issue he had been secretly running a cult of demented Superman worshipers. Like all cults it had some serious fucked up elements like this little tidbit about human sacrifice and getting messages from this pretty orange globe. It makes about as much sense as any cult, but the fact that Luthor was behind it sets it apart from any would be Scientology knock-off. As such, Superman took down the cult and that glowing ball called Visionary and now he's onto him. Knowing his giant ego isn't as strong as a tiny rock of kryptonite, Lex knows he's treading shit in his ship of monomaniacal madness.

His solution is to keep Batman and Superman busy until he finishes his plan. It's not a terribly elaborate plan worthy of his genius, but it's perfectly reasonable. If they're too busy they can't stop him. And he's smart enough to know that the best way in his mind to stop Batman is to piss in his own pool in Gotham, setting up a few miniature crime waves in the areas that most concern him. Granted this is like pointing at the devil's dick and laughing, but Lex doesn't care. He has the stones to risk something like this and in hindsight it does sound pretty stupid.

Batman does not take the crime wave lying down. While Lex is masterbating his ego, he's taking down the thugs that have suddenly swarmed over the infamous Crime Alley in Gotham. Yeah, it's the same Crime Alley where Bruce's parents were killed. If you thought Lex's scrotum couldn't swell any further, prepare to stand corrected. It may be a dick move, but on the surface it still works.

But this is fucking Batman we're talking about. He's the world's greatest freakin' detective. Even a half-brained retard could figure out something is seriously wrong for all this random crime to pop up out of nowhere. For a guy who routinely exposes the madness of the Joker and Ras Al-Goul, it's the equivalent to seeing a giant purple elephant walk in front of him and take a gigantic shit. It doesn't take long before Batman starts interrogating these punks and anyone who knows anything about Batman's interrogation tactics understands that if the Dark Knight has you by the balls, you're fucking talking. There's no way around it.

While Batman is doing the detective work, Superman is doing the heavy traveling. After his encounter with the Visionary in the last issue, he learns about the planet from which this fucked up cult is coming from and investigates. To his surprise he isn't greeted with the usual praise and flashing boobs that he's used to. The second he sets foot on this planet, they fucking hate him as if he's Scott Norwood walking through the city of Buffalo. They don't just throw shit at him. They throw fucking kryptonite at him. As strong as Superman is, he gets the message. These people hate his guts and like all religious wackos, there's no reasoning with them.

While Superman is getting taken down a peg by an insane cult, Batman is working his way up the food chain as he looks for answers. He soon finds his way to a stereotypical thug in a suit because if there's one ultimate truth in this world, it's that the masterminds behind the crime always dress nicely. They essentially look the same as the executives for BP. It's not very elaborate or very exciting. It becomes painfully predictable in the sense you know this guy is going to tell Batman what he knows and when he does he'll be able to connect the dots to Lex. In that sense it's not much of a mystery. A grade level word search is more complicated than this shit.

Batman isn't the only one getting answers either. Remember that space probe Lex launched on the very first page? Well it made it to the planet, but waiting for it was Superman. He was off the planet just investigating it from afar with his super vision, picking up on all the blatant clues that someone like Lex was behind this. Then out of the infinite extent of the cosmos that probe just happens to pass right by him and with the same effort he would give to opening a sardine can, he pries open the probe. And wouldn't you know it? There's a big old Lexcorp logo on it. So Lex is genius enough to put together this Andromeda project and advance a civilization centuries in such a brief period of time, but he's not smart enough to take his fucking name off the equipment? If your bullshit sense doesn't go into overdrive and you need to dunk your head in hot water to calm it down, then get an MRI because your bullshit sense must have a malignant tumor to miss the problems with that.

So Batman now knows the truth and so does Superman. Lex's piss poor plan to keep them occupied fell apart like a house made out of peanut butter. And this guy's supposed to be a genius? Right, and I invented spray cheese in a can. The first thing that happens is Batman breaks into his office and tells him to lay off Gotham. He doesn't interrogate him or fuck him up as he would any other criminal. He just tells him to stay out of Gotham. I don't get it either. Maybe he's afraid that giant ego of Luthor's will crush him, but he flat out leaves before probing any deeper. Since when does Batman only go halfway? Has he suddenly become the Bush Administration? It's fucked up in a way that shouldn't be fucked up.

Then it's Superman's turn. He shows up outside the window that Batman just broke and reveals to Lex that he knows what he's been up to. He even shows him the Lexcorp chip that he found. It's the kind of evidence that may finally dent that massive ego of his. But Lex always has a failsafe it seems. He pushes a little button on his coat and boom, the chip explodes. The evidence is gone and Superman is back at square one. This should set the stage for a much bigger confrontation, right? You know, the kind of Superman/Lex battle that has made these comics awesome for nearly a century?

Actually, that doesn't happen. In fact, it isn't even set up to happen. As soon as the chip explodes, Superman just tells Lex he set up a camera to watch over the world he's trying to corrupt and if he sends any more rockets to it he'll just direct them right back towards his ass. That's it. That's all he does to end this conflict. He just threatens Lex, tells him his plan is over, and that's it. If the words "What the fuck?" didn't cross your mind, get yourself another MRI. This is supposed to be a Batman/Superman comic! It became successful with shit like that! And now it's ending with Lex pitching a hissy fit and Superman just brushing it off? Compared to how good the last issue was, it's like having a one-night-stand with the hottest chick on the planet and waking up to find that she stole all your shit and lit your house on fire. It's a piss poor way to end a story and it ruins what could have been a great battle.

To say this issue disappointed me would be an understatement. I was so intrigued by the story about a madman trying to make himself a god in the eyes of an ignorant alien world and a cult that worshiped Superman. Now the story ends and it's like getting explosive diarrhea after eating what you thought was a great meal. The lack of an epic struggle and practically no action when all the ingredients were in place just completely kill the story. I understand that not every issue can have a Doomsday style battle. Some issues actually work better without it, but given how this one was set up it has no excuses. It didn't just trip over itself, it threw itself off a cliff and landed head first on a slab of granite.

Besides Luthor's usual ego trip, there isn't much redeeming value for this book. It's a disappointing turn in an otherwise promising story. Batman/Superman has often been a hit-or-miss comic since Jeph Loeb left the title and it's safe to say that this issue was a total miss. That's why I give it a 1.5 out of 5. It really did fall short of damn near every expectation and failed to follow through on all the great ideas that were set up. It's a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. A great idea is killed by a single issue. Excuse me while I go wipe he tears from my eyes and renew my Prozac prescription.

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