It’s tough to keep the DC Trinity interesting. Being the oldest and most utilized members in the stable, stories and themes are bound to get recycled, though maybe with a bit of new swagger keep it fresh. It sometimes feels like all the good ideas really are gone, then other times it feels like maybe only the amazing ones are. Batman #39 doesn’t have that problem, continuing the “Superfriends” arc with 20-some-odd pages of trope stomping goodness.
The popular opinion on Superman is that he’s only interesting when he isn’t Superman. Sometimes that means giving him new powers, other times it means taking them away altogether. The first thing this issue does right is take him out of the game completely, with Batman and Wonder Woman fighting a threat that one of DC’s famous loopholes prevents the Man of Steel from participating him. The only reason I’m mentioning him at all is the arc is called “Superfriends”: a reference to the Superman-led team that first appeared on your child’s television screen 40 years ago.
The dialogue in this thing isn’t terribly compelling, but there’s some great banter between Batman and Wonder Woman that we don’t usually see in their usual roles with the Justice League. Before this issue there weren’t many people comparing the two heroes in their heads, but now it seems almost too obvious a pairing. Both are headstrong and in a world where superpowers don’t work, we see they’re pretty evenly matched when it comes to fighting skill.
Tom King writes these heroes as mirrors of each other, which you could argue makes the spark of romance that closes this issue only slightly out-of-place. Personally, I find it forced, but I also didn’t pick up on these similarities during my first sitting. Enjoying the superhero soap opera and knowing the relationship ultimately won’t amount to anything makes the final page of this book interesting at best, but it goes without saying that purists are likely to have a fit.
Joëlle Jones’ interiors come off as a bit muddy at points, but her sense of anatomy and motion do more than enough to save the work. Bodies, blood and other fluids all sway with their own personality and emotion, an effect that you should, but don’t always get with action heavy art. Her monster designs are a little weak, and seeing as this is a book where Batman and Wonder Woman fight a bunch of monsters, that’s sort of an issue.
Jordie Bellaire’s colors are beautiful throughout most of the book, with pastels that make it hard to escape the superhero-ness of this superhero Universe. Once the action picks up, colors are a little less diverse, though that’s fitting for the somewhat medieval vibe the villain and his native world give off. Bellaire switches between both styles seamlessly, reminding us this story is about superheroes fighting something that isn’t a superhero.
Batman #39 is available now. The issue continues a genre-bending tale that sees some DC fan favorites how you never knew you wanted to see them Anybody who likes stories that break the mold should give it a read.