At its core, “Superman/Batman” #65 is a story that we’ve seen a thousand times in all forms of media. Characters are plunged into a dream world that shows us their worst nightmares, even as they struggle to break free. Peter Johnson and Matt Cherniss don’t even try to hide it here, with the reveal about what’s really happening to our characters happening in just a couple of pages. So then, of course, why even go in this direction?
Well, if for nothing else, “Superman/Batman” #65 justifies its existence by showcasing a whole group of artists, each who get to tackle one section of the issue. Artists like Brian Stelfreeze and Kelley Jones are ones that readers will probably find familiar. Stelfreeze’s sharp, rigid lines are always a joy to look at, and his take on Superman ripples with power. When Stelfreeze draws Superman’s worst nightmare, it’s perfectly laid out to boot for the maximum effect on the reader. Jones drawing the Joker looks like its normal twisted self; I like Jones’s cartoonish style, and having him draw the inner mind of the Joker makes sense. Everything is always slightly off-kilter when Jones draws a story involving Batman, but it’s always exaggerated and twisted consistently from one image to the next. That’s a good match for the Joker.
Fans of Joe Quinones’ work on the Green Lantern story in “Wednesday Comics” have reason to rejoice as he tackles a Lex Luthor story. Quinones’ art is so smooth and graceful that it reminds me more and more of artists like Adam Hughes. It’s almost painful to only see Quinones draw three pages; I can’t wait to see him tackle a long-form book before too long. Quinones takes care of the little details with as great skill as he does the basic shapes and forms of his characters. With different widths and patterns of ties in the elevator, or the different expressions on the people laughing in the office, the end package is gorgeous. I don’t recall seeing Federico Dallocchio’s art look this good on a book before, but with its thin lines and perfectly rendered people, it’s a meticulous-looking final product that lends itself well to Batman’s family nightmare. And while I’m used to seeing Brian Haberlin’s credits in the colorist field, I’d forgotten that he’s a pen and ink artist as well. His art is so textured that it looks like if you touched the page you’d feel ridges. It’s a dark, bleak look and it matches the real world attack of the villain quite nicely.
The story itself may go by with little more trace than a couple of sharp lines here and there, but it does serve up some great looking art. As a one-off, it’s not bad, but it will be nice when “Superman/Batman” picks up a new regular creative team in a few months. “Superman/Batman” used to be a huge book, and hopefully it can find its way towards that point again.