Review: Superman/Batman #74

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With Lex Luthor fanning the flames of hate on another planet and keeping Batman occupied in Gotham, can Superman stop Lex from turning an entire planet against him?

Superman/Batman #74
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Jerry Ordway
Letters by Steve Wands
Colors by Pete Pantazis
Cover by Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, and Ulises Arreola
Edited by Eddie Berganza
Published by DC

Previously in Superman/Batman: It’s Batman to the rescue as he literally pulls Lois out of the fire when a fanatical Superman cult wants her dead for turning away Superman’s affections. As Batman begins to “question” one of the men, Superman snatches him from Batman’s hands and decides to interrogate him at two thousand feet. Following a trail of paper work, Superman and Batman discover a secret gathering of Superman worshipers who seem to be taking their orders from a strange ball of fire. When the fireball turns on our heroes, Superman blows out its lights. Only after our heroes are victorious, do we learn that Lex was the man behind the cult and fireball.

THE FINAL ACT

Our story opens with Lex’s successful launch of his Andromeda rocket for his alien sympathizers. He then heads to the LEX-1 jet to return home. On the way, he is told that the leader of the Superman cult committed suicide in Belle Reve Mental Institute. Not caring, Lex reveals that the Fire Elemental that he traded Felix Faust for was wasted on idiots. Back in Gotham, Batman broods over Crime Alley recalling the same memory he always thinks of. After stopping a Nun from getting shot, Batman realizes that the recent surge in crime around churches and orphanages were meant to be a distraction to keep him busy. After catching a thief who robbed a priest outside of his church, Batman gets some answers and starts working his way up the food chain.

Meanwhile, deep in space, Superman decides to visit the alien world he just saved in the hopes that they can talk out their differences. As soon as Superman lands, however, the people start throwing rocks at him; then the rock throwing escalates to Kryptonite throwing. Curious as to how the people know that Kryptonite hurts him and how they got their hands on it, Superman decides to keep an eye on their planet from afar. Using his telescopic vision, Superman sees that the people of this planet have been receiving other worldly care packages. Just as he’s investigating more of the shipments, a rocket flies by him. Catching it, he rips it open to find a ship made with Luthor circuitry. After destroying the rocket, he flies straight for Lex. Back in Metropolis, Lex is enjoying the sun set from his office when Batman pays him a visit and tells him to stay out of Gotham. Batman then kicks out a window and grapples away. Superman comments on Luthor’s cheap windows and shows him a microchip pulled from the rocket. Lex presses a button on his cufflink and the chip explodes. Superman tells him to knock it off or he’ll redirect the rockets back at him. As the story closes, Lex’s inner monologue is read to say that they may have won this battle but, in the long run, Lex’s actions on that other world will win the war.

ONE WEAK LINK CAN BREAK THE CHAIN

The first issue started off on the right footing. The second issue wasn’t too bad either. Why, then, did this issue make me feel like the whole story arc was a stinker? Was it because it felt like it didn’t really have an ending to it? Was it because in the end, you get the feeling like the bad guys took home more trophies than the good guys? Or was it because so much of this issue feels like it didn’t need to exist in the first place? Probably all of the above. The only problem that was left unresolved that they had to give us closure on is how Superman was going to resolve his differences with the alien world. A problem that he tried to address, got turned away, and gave up on. Superman essentially just chalked it up to a loss and went back to slap Luthor on the hand and say “bad boy”. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen Superman quit so easily. Instead of fixing Superman’s story, they tried to work in the story with holy men getting attacked in Gotham. They didn’t need to do that. If they had just left it alone I’m sure everyone would have just chalked it up to normal Gotham crime.

WHY WAS BATMAN IN THIS STORY?

Seems to me that Mr. Levitz didn’t know what he was doing with Batman in this book. The way the story goes, Luthor arranged for holy men to be attacked in order to keep Batman busy and out of his business. Why does Lex care about Batman at all? Since when did he start worrying so much about the actions of a hero in another town impacting his schemes that he had to proactively go after him? He even arranged all of this before he even has something to protect. What was even more frustrating was that Superman and Batman seemed to be working two different cases in this story. Batman had to put his case on hold to save Lois and stop the cult, but after that he went right back to Gotham to work his case alone. This isn’t a “Superman/Batman” story; it’s a “Superman featuring Batman” story. You could have probably have written Batman right out of this tale and it wouldn’t have changed anything.

IS THERE STILL HOPE FOR THE FUTURE?

The one thing that I like about the Superman/Batman title (that’s been failing me lately) is that with each new story arc, you have the hope of a great story. Since the start of this year, I don’t think there’s been a Superman/Batman worth buying (besides the Annual). This story would have been great if they had just made it two issues and removed all the content about the other world. The next issue is the 75th issue and promises a wide variety of great talent and multiple stories. I’m really excited to read it and hope that it’s the end of this downward spiral of depression I get every time I pick up this title. The next two issues after that have some promising advertising, but one should always be on the look out for lies in that department. If you’re a praying person, I think it’s time we started praying for this title.

WHEN DOES THE HURTING STOP?

Between shoe horning Batman in to the story, Nuns walking through crime alley alone at night, and cuff links that detonate any random piece of Lexcorp technology, there is no way I’m going to be able to give this story high marks. The art got tiresome really fast after the second issue and Mr. Levitz dropped the ball on the story. I have to give this issue one and a half star.

FOR THE ISSUE:

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

FOR THE ARC:

Rating: ★★½☆☆