Superman/Batman #61

Story by
Art by
Francis Manapul
Colors by
Brian Buccellato
Letters by
Rob Leigh
Cover by
DC Comics

The second a comic moves into imaginary realms or dreamlike stories, you know at the end of the day that nothing will be different. On some level, that's how I felt when reading "Superman/Batman" #60 and #61, the appropriately titled "Mash-Up" where the Justice Titans are up against the Brotherhood of Injustice. But you know what? This story is so fun, and so beautifully drawn, that I'm sad it's already over.

Mike Johnson and Michael Green have far too much fun coming up with mash-up versions of DC characters. It's as if the Amalgam Universe returned, only instead of mixing Marvel and DC characters, it's two characters both from DC smashed into one. So villains like Lex Joker, Brainycat, Doomstroke, Penguello, and Lana Quinn are up against Hawkbeast, Star Canary, Aquaborg, Night Lantern, and Ravanna. Silly? Absolutely. But Johnson and Green clearly understand that and are letting the story roll with the punches. Having Jimmy Two-Face stop and take pictures of every foe he vanquished made me chuckle a lot, and the android Terranado's real name being Tara Mark V instead of Tara Markov is inspired lunacy.

The story itself is actually a little weak, with the villains showing up to attack the heroes while Superman and Batman try to figure out how to get back to their own world and the nature of this place they're in. Because it's such a short story-arc, though, it doesn't feel like it overstays its welcome. There's just enough space to introduce all the characters, have them throw a few punches, and then launch right into the conclusion. It doesn't necessarily hold up on a second reading, but I'm not entirely sure it's supposed to. This is a story centered around some clever DC Universe gags, and while the ending itself is a little too sudden, I'm not displeased.

As for that art, though... wow. Francis Manapul just gets better with every new project. I love how he's now drawing in beautiful ink washes, that almost seem to glide across the page. There's such a smooth look about his art, with sheets on beds looking so soft you want to touch them, or Terranado's vortex of air being a perfect contrast to the sharp edges of Doomstroke's claws. At the same time, though, he's not afraid to go for a more standard look when needed; the city skyline behind Batman and Superman on the second to last page, for instance, is intricately drawn with a fine ink line. Brian Buccellato does a beautiful job of meshing his colors with Manapul's art, and I absolutely cannot wait to see Manapul's work on the upcoming "Adventure Comics."

Since Jeph Loeb's departure from "Superman/Batman" several years ago, this book has fallen out of the spotlight more than a bit, a strange sort of almost-non-continuity book on the edges of the rest of the DC Universe. If Green and Johnson tell more stories like this, though, I'll be inclined to keep reading. Sure, it was a little slight in points, but I just kept grinning the entire time I read it. I'll be back next month.

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