Two of the heaviest hitters in all of comics taking on two of the heaviest hitters in the DCU– Brian Michael Bendis‘s first long form story with Batman and Tom King‘s first full length Superman story. Both of these stories are similar in their tone, but worlds apart in the executions. Both stories put their main heroes on a tour, with Batman’s tour that of the DCU Earth, while Superman in the DCU Cosmos. Both stories involve a bit of time travel, which is always fun. Batman’s story is about a mystery, where Superman’s is a rescue mission.
On Up In The Sky, King reminds us all why Superman is Superman. He’s hope. He’s determination. He doesn’t quit. He can’t quit. He’s Superman. He’s inspiring. He’s the ray of sunshine that pieces the darkness. No matter what, he doesn’t stop until he’s done what needs to be done. When a young girl is abducted and whisked away to literally the other side of the Universe, Superman drops everything and heads across the Cosmos to find her. Along the way we see Superman in a knock down drag-out boxing match that would make The Great One Himself (Ali, not The Rock) throw in the towel. But does Superman?
We get a bit of time travel and we have a little time with Sgt. Rock during WW2. Superman fighting alongside Easy Co. shows us that Supes is timeless and once again, he never gives up. Super computers, impossible puzzles, a foot race against the fastest man alive, and even a long distance intergalactic telephone call– nothing sours our hero. Even when he’s face to face with the most insidious being in all of the DCU (Darkseid Is…!), Superman never gives in.
The action and the drama is handled by the always impressive Andy Kubert. Superman looks and feels majestic. There are few who can out draw Andy, and fewer still who’re better storytellers. If you just looked at all the art, you’d still know what was happening and why from cover to cover. That’s how great Andy is here. Seeing Andy get to draw a Sgt. Rock story was a wonderful tribute to his late, great, father Joe. This is an evergreen story, and one that you can easily hand to anyone when they ask you “why Superman? Isn’t he too old? Too old fashioned? Hokey?” No. He’s Superman.
Batman is the character everyone (and I do mean everyone) thought Bendis would tackle first. It’s what DC was thinking too. But Bendis wanted Superman. But when this opportunity came about, BMB delivered a fun Batman. Starting with a riddle via The Riddler (who else?) Batman is quickly hot on the trail of a MacGuffin, which, spoiler alert — it’s not a MacGuffin. An object of incredible power has taken, but by who, and why? We quickly find out that the immortal one Vandal Savage, who after thousands of years has finally tracked down this object.
Batman is aided in this quest by a who’s who of the DCU. Appearances by Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Deathstroke, Nightwing, and even a time travel stop to the old west for a yarn with Jonah Hex! Dinosaurs! Space Fights! The entire Green Lantern Corps even shows up! Bendis even used this story as a springboard to introduce a new heroine to the DCU, Jinny Hex. Why you could say this whole story happens because of her actions! How’s that for a debut? Nick Derington seems like he’s having a blast drawing every single panel of this story. You want a fight scene filled with guys getting beat down by Batman? Nick’s your guy. You want Alfred giving Batman grief while he’s tuning up the Bat-Mobile in the Bat-Cave? Nick’s your guy. Be it the Old West, or the Cold Darkness of Space — Nick is your guy. I swear you almost see Batman smile.
This too is an evergreen story, being one that you can easily hand to someone when they say “I want a Batman story, but not one that I need to know whats happening in six hundred other books”. This is a clean story. Sure there are a lot of moving parts, and a lot of background noise. But that is one of Bendis’ greatest strengths, he gives you just enough info at just the right times to keep you informed and entertained.