Review: Superman/Batman: Absolute Power collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Jeph Loeb returns Superman/Batman to its summer-blockbuster roots in Superman/Batman: Absolute Power, and the result is a recapturing of the magic found in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Superman/Batman: Supergirl was enjoyable, but followed a somewhat predictable route of superheroes fight, then team up; Absolute Power, on the other hand, is the least predictable, most pulse-pounding Superman/Batman story so far.

At first, I was concerned that Absolute Power would break from the linear Superman/Batman narrative; after all, Public Enemies brought the kryptonite asteroid to Earth, and Supergirl showed what was inside of it--where would Absolute Power fit in? Rest assured, Absolute Power takes its cue firmly from Public Enemies--though the twist is far too cool to spoil here.

What follows is a study of why Superman and Batman are important in the DC Universe--a kind of "This is Your Life" writ large. And what I found most interesting was that, all the while the reader learns how Superman and Batman are good and important in the DCU, what Superman and Batman themselves learn is their own capacity for evil if there go the grace. It leads to a bittersweet ending for the story with echoes of current Infinite Crisis storylines, making Absolute Power all the more poignant. And even if what Loeb demonstrates about the heroes' importance to the other DC heroes isn't exactly new territory, it's still territory that's nice to look at.

Not all the questions raised by this story are wrapped up at the end in a neat bow, but then, I think there's a great danger in overthinking a story like this. Absolute Power was not meant to be brain surgery, but instead, quality super-hero comics--super-hero comics that do the reader the favor of not pandering, but not overreaching, either. Every question has an answer, if not a good one, and the ones that are left ... well, sometimes the wondering is part of the fun, and maybe an answer will come one day, and maybe not. That's OK. There's enough other good stuff going on in the DC Universe right now to suffice.

But keep your eyes peeled, because Collected Editions is about to depart the DC Universe. Yes, that's right; as we await the arrival of the Identity Crisis hardcover, look for not one, but two Vertigo reviews at Collected Editions--Fables: The Mean Seasons, and Y-The Last Man: Ring of Truth. Be there or be square!
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