by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter
December 22, 1999
Superman - Batman Elseworld
DC Comics has published three Superman titles worth noting.
The first appeared in late 1998: Superman: Silver Banshee. I suspect it is a tryout for the Banshee to have her own series. I almost passed this two-issue set up since I didn't care for the covers, but the content makes up for the covers. That's ironic since the cover artist is the writer, Dan Brereton. Joyce Chin's illustrations are very good for this Halloween story.
Since Superman is vulnerable to magic, such stories can be effective. The original cost of $2.25 an issue is reasonable, and I still see this title on sale in shops. B+.
If you prefer a single issue story on a similar theme, try Superman: the Last God of Krypton for $4.95. The title is ambiguous since the deity in question could be Cythonna, an ice goddess who survived the destruction of Krypton, or Superman himself since he is described as resembling Rao, Krypton's major deity.
Walter Simonson's script is unusually interesting. For once, Lois Lane saves the day and rescues Superman. The art is also remarkable. Give Greg and Tim Hildebrant very high marks (even if Clark and Lois do resemble certain television actors too much). A.
The third item is Superman: the Odyssey. Written by Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon, the story takes place a decade ago, between Clark Kent's college graduation college and before his public appearance as Superman. Nolan also provides the art.
The story revolves around Clark's encounter with the future spiritual and political leader of an Asian nation similar to Tibet and Myanmar (the former Burma). The young lady has to choose between personal freedom and obligation, romance and duty. She also finds time to help Clark understand his adult responsibilities.
Bruce Wayne makes a brief appearance. (The Himalayas must be over-populated with aspiring heroes and villains). The story reminds me of Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon comic strip, particularly the princess Snowflower stories. An A for script; B for art.
Reviewed by Dr. Jon Suter
I have always respected Doug Moench as a writer. Two of his most recent efforts use the Batman characters in two very different "Elseworld" comic books.
The first is a two-issue series, Batman: Book of the Dead. In this version of the Batman mythos, Bruce Wayne's parents were archaeologists murdered because of their knowledge of dangerous secrets from the earliest days of ancient Egypt.
Those who enjoy movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Stargate, or the remake of The Mummy will relish this foray into pseudo-history.
The double plot involves not only Batman but a hitherto unknown bat-headed deity from Egyptian mythology. As a story, this is good work, but some plot lines are not developed fully.
Barry Kitson's art is appropriate for such a plot. What bothers me is the attempt to document the basic premises of the plot. Not even the inclusion of a bibliography can validate the credibility of Egyptian "gods" being space travelers in weird helmets.
(This notion has been around for some time. Even mystery writers such as P.C. Doherty in his recent Mask of Ra incorporate it into otherwise accurate stories.)
Give Moench and Kitson an A for story and art, if not for history.
Now that I have vented my spleen let me praise with far fewer reservations Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham. The title is self-explanatory: in this Elseworld, Catwoman and Batman have switched roles, but this Batman is far more murderous than the "real" Catwoman.
Jim Babent and Kim DeMulder provide excellent art for Moench's script. I do have trouble taking the female villain Twoface's costume seriously. It just does not work.
Another minor problem is the seeming failure of Catwoman to guard "stately Kyle Manor" against intruders. The ease of entry enables the felonious Batman to discover her secret identity, an essential plot element, but out of character. I have not yet seen the final issue of Catwoman, but I am eager for it. I suspect Moench has surprises in store.
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