Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies, review: a modern classic for the Best in the World

Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies, review: a modern classic for the Best in the World

Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies, review

Panini DC Italia proposes, in its DC Library series, Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies. This is the volume that collects the first narrative arc of the homonymous Superman / Batman series launched in 2003 by Jeph Loeb (Batman - The Long Halloween, Superman - Seasons) to the texts and Ed McGuinness to the pencils. A modern classic, still fresh and absolutely suitable even for novice readers, which has its roots both in the "recent" publishing history of the two characters and in the historic first encounters between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel which, as we will discover between little, it was initially only "facade".

The Best in the World, a brief history of the encounters between Superman and Batman

The first meeting between Superman and Batman dates back to 1940 (a few months after their debut in practice) and was as unique as it was dictated by commercial reasons. In fact, in July of that year, on the occasion of the New York World’s Fair, the special New York World’s Fair Comics # 2 was published and the cover featured smiling Superman, Robin and Batman: this is their first official meeting. The two heroes, however, did not interact except on the cover of the register (a 96-page anthology that saw various heroes face various cases during the fair) and were not the protagonists of a story together.

Even when the special issue became a regular magazine (quarterly) entitled World's Best Comics, then changed to World's Finest Comics, hence the "official" name of the collaborations between the two heroes, in fact for the entire Golden Age, Superman and Batman would meet only on the covers. For the first true story in which the two would share the inside pages of a book, we have to wait for the dawn of the Silver Age, 1952 to be precise, with Superman # 76 (cover date May / June 1952) written by Edmond Hamilton and drawn Curt Swan.

In that register, not only would the two have interacted for the first time but, with the naive randomness typical of those years, they would also have discovered each other's secret identities. Superman and Batman, definitively together, will also take the reins of the aforementioned World's Finest Comics starting from World's Finest Comics # 71 (cover date July / August 1954) when DC decided to reduce the pages of the publication by joining in adventures that recalled the good feedback obtained from the Superman register mentioned above.

It will be John Byrne, after Crisis on Infinite Earths, who will bring the two heroes together for the first time in the DC Universe canceled by the great event. More precisely in the third issue of the Man of Steel miniseries with which the author reworked the origins of the Man of Steel.

Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies , wanted dead or alive

As Superman and Batman find themselves working together on a case involving Metallo and possibly the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents, US President Lex Luthor is informed that a massive meteorite composed almost exclusively of kryptonite, it is rapidly heading towards Earth. The opportunity is too tempting and, certain of the impunity granted him by the role, Luthor sensationally manipulates public opinion by making everyone believe that the meteorite is attracted by the same Man of Steel.

Well aware of the danger represented from the meteorite, which begins to make its effects felt on Superman, the two heroes begin to work hard to find a way to take him down while Luthor orders first to a group of villains and then to a handful of heroes including Green Lantern, Captain Atom , Shazam and Hawkman to arrest them. But Superman and Batman are not called the Best in the World by chance and thanks to their ingenuity they sabotage Luthor's team from the inside avoiding a catastrophe.

Luthor is furious but also drunk with power and is willing to do anything to get rid of his nemesis, however Superman and Batman reciprocate their President with the same coin and by deceiving him they force him to admit that he has concocted the elaborate plan but above all his unsuspected, or almost, accomplice.

In all this meteorite, however, is still approaching the Earth. Superman and Batman then also engage an unsuspected ally to create a weapon that can disintegrate the threat coming from outer space which will, however, demand the sacrifice of a hero in return.

Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies, a modern classic with strong accessibility

In the wake of his excellent (but perhaps underestimated) long cycle at the helm of Superman and the excellent response of the Hush cycle on Batman, Jeph Loeb baptizes the new Superman / Batman creating a cycle of stories that on the one hand moves in the wake of what has been done on Superman and on the other pushes on the immediacy of the action for a fresh and accessible narration providing all the necessary elements so that old and new readers can immediately immerse themselves in the reading.

Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies is a story that starts immediately by pressing on the accelerator, progressively increasing the scope of its plot in a carousel of heroes and spectacular villain. Loeb shows he wants to build a story based on the dichotomy between the two protagonists but as complementary heroes. What initially is a simple battle against Metal immediately turns into an extreme situation: the operation to extract the kryptonite bullet that wounded Superman with an attached explosive escape to the Batcave immediately demonstrates how all the interactions between the two protagonists will be played on their complementarity (in this specific case the coldness and preparation of Batman with the confidence and tenacity of Superman).

In this sense, the use of captions is recovered, which become the inner voice of the two protagonists, now offering us reflections on their different approach to the fight against crime now the sincere and unfiltered opinion of each other. Then breaking a little the pattern that in the post-Crisis had marked the encounters between Superman and Batman, less collaborative and more institutional, see their interactions in Grant Morrison's JLA, Loeb recovers that joyful urgency typical of the Silver Age by first introducing an antagonist which leaves no room for interpretation, Lex Luthor, and then a threat of such great proportions as to bring back the exceptional nature of the (super) heroic action in which intuition and proactivity become one.

Loeb he is an expert author and his plot, while centered entirely on action, is neither banal nor devoid of tension. Recovering the happy intuition of making Lex Luthor the President of the United States (sensing and anticipating the socio-political collapse of the United States by a few years), Loeb has in his hands an antagonist on the unassailable card who has the power to make Superman and Batman of made two outlaws (manipulating information, also this element decidedly ahead of its time) also thanks to the elaborate plan to crash the kryptonite meteorite on Earth (another long tail of another intuition, this time linked to the Our Worlds at War) foiled only by another reference / rehash to another classic or World's Finest Comics # 142 (cover date June 1964) in which Composite Superman makes his first appearance.

From hunters, Superman and Batman become then preys fighting first against their own colleagues and then moving on to a brilliant counter-offensive that results in a spectacular, as naive and once again very Silv er Age, resolution to eliminate the meteorite threat and with it disguise Luthor. Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies although usable in its own right, net of the many references to what were the events of his time but also to the great classic Kingdom Come, it is also a narrative arc not without "consequences": Captain Atom for example will end up in the Wildstorm Universe (the events will be narrated in the Captain Atom: Armageddon miniseries) while the kryptonite fragments of the meteorite will be recovered in another story arc of the series (titled "K" on Superman / Batman # 44-49 written by Michael Green and drawn by Shane Davis).

Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies thanks to its simple and direct approach, to an engaging plot and to the high rate of action it manages to respond to a of the most pressing needs of modern superhero comics: to be, above all, accessible. You can really count on the fingers of one hand the volumes that can be recommended to a neophyte to immerse themselves in the DC Universe and among these certainly figure Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies who thanks to the experience of Jeph Loeb and the dynamism of Ed McGuinness's pencils offers one of the best interpretations of the greatest superheroes in the world.

Superman / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies

Part of Superman's appeal and accessibility / Batman Vol. 1 - Public Enemies is undoubtedly given by the pencils of an Ed McGuinness who comes to complete maturity here by combining the Japanese influences filtered by a certain school of the 90s with that typical solidity of the American school by absorbing the hypertrophic and ultra realistic temptations in favor of volumes and a use of inks and blacks that instead refers to the teaching of Chester Gould and certain designers of the 50s and 60s such as Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff.

McGuinness' figures are massive, with a low center of gravity and sculpted but square muscles. Like Michelangelo, McGuinness carves his characters in marble that are dynamic and expressive with that immediacy typical of animation but also with that actoriality that only comics can give, easily passing from the intensity of the action sequences to the relief of the lighter moments. up to the atmosphere given by a clear use of chiaroscuro.

Inks and blacks are the weapon with which the designer chisels, makes expressive and gives depth and plasticism to his tables. In fact, with long and continuous lines the hatching is reduced to a minimum, leaving room for solid and confident blacks that never take over (as in the masters of superhero chiaroscuro, Frank Miller one above all) but are more preparatory to the construction of the table itself as in Howard Chaykin for example.

The distribution of the squares in the table is interesting. Everything is devoted to focusing the reader's attention on the action and, for this reason, McGuinness uses all possible precautions in a casual and heterogeneous manner. From the alternation of verticality and horizontality to overhangs and inserts, from single and double splash pages to American plans in which the massive figures become focal, up to modifying the shape of the panels themselves in rhetorical-productive terms but without being cloying or self-referential. br>
McGuinness tables are in fact always extremely clear, easy to read (even net of the many captions present here) and absolutely dynamic, managing to catapult the reader into the story and into the center of the action.

Il Volume

Panini DC Italia packs a very solid soft touch hardback volume of standard comic book dimensions, that is 17 × 26 cm. The graphic design recalls that of the American edition in volume in which the elements that distinguish the editions of the Modenese publisher are inserted, in the specific case of this series the black band with blue side lettering and logos. The printing yield is excellent, the paper is thick and coated, and the binding is also excellent, which allows easy reading. The adaptation is very good while some passages of the translation are a bit woody and would have deserved a few more passages in the revision phase.

From an editorial point of view, the volume presents a brief introduction by the Italian editor, a punctual index with all the information of the original books collected in the volume and a short biography of the authors. As for the extras, on the other hand, in addition to the inevitable gallery of variant covers, there are two presentation cards of the heroes protagonists with two beautiful full-length illustrations by McGuinness.

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