It’s the return of the “DC One Million” versions of Superman and Batman (and Robin), versions of the heroes that I’m always surprised aren’t used more, neither appearing since the “Hourman” series that spun out of “DC One Million” and Grant Morrison’s run on “JLA” (unless you count Kal Kent showing up in “All-Star Superman”). You wouldn’t want to overuse the characters, but they haven’t been used at all, so Chris Roberson dusting them off for the first of a two-part story in “Superman/Batman” is a bit of a treat. And by pitting them against Epoch, the Lord of Time, they’re given a challenge that may be a little too much.
Beginning with Epoch being imprisoned on the Asylum Planet of Pluto by Batman and his mechanical sidekick Robin, the issue has the villain systematically and methodically execute a plan where getting captured seems to have been step one. The focus is more on Epoch than the heroes with them playing catch-up and showing up to threaten him before he reveals that, because of his advanced knowledge of time, he’s already a few steps ahead of them. Each one-upping by Epoch is clever and logically flows out of what came before and into what comes next. At the same time, every time Batman or Superman shows up, there’s those few seconds where you think they’ve finally gotten Epoch nailed. The fake-out happens a few times and remains fresh throughout the issue somehow.
In the background of this, Roberson throws out a few cool ideas, expanding upon the 853rd century DCU, like having the Justice Legion Alpha’s headquarters be inside their conference table, which floats in orbit of Jupiter. We’re also shown the trophy rooms of Batman, the JLA, and Superman, as Epoch progresses from one to another. It’s a little mechanical, but Roberson deflates that by having Epoch mock the heroes for having so many trophy rooms.
Joining Roberson on art is Jesus Merino, an artist whose style doesn’t work entirely in this context. His overly rendered line work doesn’t give off a sense of the future well. That said, he’s very good at creating dynamic, energetic pages. His layouts work to move the story forward, matching the brisk pace of the writing, while his characters are often in motion or the act of doing something. There’s such a drive to this issue that Merino’s art does work in tandem with the writing in accomplishing that. But, his actual line work is inconsistent at times, switching between detailed pencils and sketchier, rougher lines. Having seen his work in previous issues of this series, he’s definitely grown.
“Superman/Batman” #79 returns to the 853rd century and puts that version of the World’s Finest up against a villain that runs circles around them. Epoch is treated again like a major threat, using his time travel knowledge and time-based powers in clever and logical ways. The issue is smart and energetic, and definitely worth checking out.