Here’s the good news: there are a few moments in “Batman/Superman” #26 where Greg Pak, Ardian Syaf, Cliff Richards and Vicente Cifuentes give us some great character moments for Superman, Batgirl, Red Hood and Grayson. The bad news: there’s not much else here this month.
Continuing on from last month’s trip to Siberia where Vandal Savage is threatening locals, Superman and the Bat Family try to help those in need while also puzzling out Vandal Savage’s interest in the area. While the group is able to discover what’s so important under the ice, they’re no closer to stopping Vandal Savage.
The best parts of “Batman/Superman” #26 aren’t the big plot strokes. The little kid stabbing Superman in the shoulder with a fork to see if it hurts and Superman stoically taking it even with his greatly reduced invulnerability is perfect and a fun little moment that plays with a trope (invulnerable Superman) and flips it on its head. Similarly, the central question of the lengths our heroes are willing to go to stop Vandal Savage is a good one; the morality of actions (especially when Superman simply manhandling Vandal Savage is off the table) fuels a few pages in a pleasing manner.
The problem is that the rest of the issue is rather forgettable. The plotting is a little slow, and the surprise appearance of another hero feels forced. The dialogue also isn’t up to Pak’s standards; the introductions of the different Bat Family characters (especially Grayson and Red Hood) are awkward and don’t sound even remotely natural. Even the big reveal at the end of the issue doesn’t seem terribly exciting or worthy of the term cliffhanger; instead, the comic is just plodding along, almost killing time.
Syaf and Richards share the pencil duties this month and the comic looks perfectly fine, if — similar to the story — unremarkable. There’s the occasional moment that sparks a bit, like Batgirl’s smile when she thinks Superman is joking about how to take down Vandal Savage, or the hunched strain of Superman catching the massive steel cylinder. While there’s nothing bad about the art at all (and it’s very consistent when you consider the split in artists), there’s also nothing here in the story that jumps off the page.
Ultimately, “Batman/Superman” #26 is the very model of an average comic. In a crowded marketplace, though, that’s dangerous. Average can quickly become forgettable, and — if things don’t pick up — readers might wander off in search of something with a bit more sparkle. Just two chapters in, this storyline is unfortunately flat. There’s still time for things to turn around, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.