It would be easy for "The Final Days of Superman" to wallow in self-pity, but the next installment -- "Batman/Superman" #31 -- does anything but that. Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza and Wil Quintana's second chapter looks ahead and introduces new characters and concepts, even as loose ends start to get tied off.
There's something almost gratifying about how quickly Tomasi pushes the idea of trying to find a cure for Superman to the side. We saw that in the first chapter, but it's such a logical response from Batman that it needs to be addressed, even if it's just to remind the readers that it's not going to be part of this story. Instead, we get a Superman who's more concerned about characters he accidentally neglected; in this case, the MIA Supergirl. Not only does this make sense from a storytelling perspective -- since the cancellation of her series a year ago, the character has been in comics limbo -- but also from a publishing standpoint, with the CBS television show existing without much more than a digital-first title to support it. In doing so, Tomasi and Mahnke balance old and new; Supergirl is in the 2011 redesigned outfit when we see her, but National City is added to the DC Universe to better connect with the show. It's a nice nod, which understands and acknowledges what's happened in recent continuity, even as it prepares to change the status quo moving forward.
Tomasi also continues to introduce new elements to this story; we see more of the new character with Superman's powers, as well as Chinese super-powered characters based on the zodiac. Tomasi has introduced one or two new elements in each chapter, and I like this even pace as DC Comics moves towards "Rebirth"; it's not so fast that it's overwhelming, but not slow enough to feel dull.
Overall, the art looks good here, with Mahnke and Mendoza doing an especially nice job with the new zodiac-inspired characters. They look like a perfect mix of super-powered beings and traditional animal figures, and their brief attack gives them formidable strength. That said, the characters do look a little odd on occasion; for example, there's a moment where Superman sees the Bat-Cow and actually looks like the Joker, as well as an almost-dopey expression on the new Superman's face when he briefly depowers. They're little glitches in an otherwise nice looking comic, though. I especially found myself enchanted with Quintana's colors this issue; the opening page with Superman against the Bat-Signal's mark on the clouds wouldn't have been half as impressive without Quintana's use of brown and black to bring it to life.
"Batman/Superman" #31 moves this last big "New 52" Superman story forward in a positive way, even as it reassures readers that the first chapter wasn't a fluke. The "Superman" titles are going out swinging for the fences, and Tomasi, Mahnke, Mendoza and Quintana continue to succeed in "Batman/Superman" #31.