Probably I won't be following this title as closely after Superman/Batman: Night and Day. The next two trades not only switch from the much-loved hardcover-with-no-jacket format to paperback, but both are distinctly out of continuity, a far cry from when Superman/Batman set the issues of the day with Public Enemies and Supergirl. In retrospect, I might not even have been so quick to pick up Night and Day except for the loose Blackest Night crossover included here, and indeed it's so loose that I don't imagine it would attract more than the most ardent continuity wonk.
Be that as it may, Night and Day contains a handful of one- and two-issue stories that are pretty good, especially those written by the book's latest semi-regular writing team Michael Green and Mike Johnson. Whether by coincidence or by design, most of the stories take place in dreams, illusions, or false realities -- that is, there's a way in which Night and Day focuses on the mental partnership between Superman and Batman, rather than the physical villain-hitting partnership (though there's that in this book, too). "Night and day" could to an extent not so much refer to the differences between the two heroes here so much as the barrier between what's real and unreal in these collected adventures.
The first and likely the best story in this volume is Green and Johnson's two-part "Gothamopolis." Superman and Batman find themselves in a world where the Justice League and the New Teen Titans are combined not unlike the combined DC/Marvel universes in the Amalgam Age of Comics. This is creative and different, and demonstrates the writers good knowledge of the characters; the implications of Batman (Bruce Wayne, I should say) meeting an amalgam Dick Grayson and Hal Jordan -- one whom he trusts very much, and one whom he has trouble trusting -- is especially brilliant.
Not only does the story riff on the well-known Teen Titans: The Judas Contract story, but it also includes an appearance by an especially classic Justice League villain. I appreciated that Johnson and Green went back to the well rather than creating a new and potentially forgettable foe. As an added bonus, the art for "Gothamopolis" is by DC Comics's rising star Francis Manapul; given all of that, you can see why I still give Night and Day a nod -- even though the story takes place in an indeterminate time before Final Crisis and will more than likely never be referenced again.
The biggest surprises in the book, however, come in Green and Johnson's titular story "Night and Day" (issue #63) both their final issue of Superman/Batman and one that serves to wrap up a couple dangling plotlines from their run. The story opens in a dystopian world where Batman is one of the few able to fight Gorilla Grodd's all-consuming mind-control -- and, the writers reveal, it was Grodd way back in issue #49 that caused Lana Lang to make Earth uninhabitable for Superman, and has finally succeeded.
"Night and Day" doesn't cover much new ground as far as Superman/Batman team-ups go (the returning Superman, again, inspires the downtrodden as a symbol of hope), but the Grodd revelation is a welcome one. Green and Johnson's The Search for Kryptonite was a near perfect Superman/Batman story, and the only out-of-place detail was Lana's errant behavior, which was potentially to be explored in the Superman titles before plans changed; that this is finally explained is a nice gift for continuing readers.
Even more interesting, however, is that the reader finds at the end of "Night and Day" that the entire Grodd scenario is just a computer simulation designed by Batman for training purposes. Given "Night and Day"'s ties to Search for Kryptonite, and the fact that it's Green and Johnson's last issue, is this to suggest all of Green and Johnson's Superman/Batman run was just a simulation? (Only Batman, I'd say, would have a computer simulation of a "Gothamopolis" adventure that itself takes place in a dream world.) Superman/Batman has been so little reflected in the ongoing DC Universe that it hardly matters, but it's an unique touch -- first they explain the inconsistencies, then they suggest it was all imaginary anyway -- and an interesting way to go out.
Night and Day closes with a two-part Blackest Night tie-in that's also a follow-up to Scott Kolins's Solomon Grundy miniseries. I enjoy Kolins's art and I liked the madcap monster madness of Grundy, but I wouldn't venture this story, "Night of the Cure," has much more to offer. Kolins does well with Bizarro and Man-Bat standing in for Superman and Batman, but he doesn't go as far as to team them in any way like Superman and Batman, nor does he really continue the story of Grundy who, as a Black Lantern, isn't quite the same person as in the miniseries. The S.H.A.D.E.'s Frankenstein also appears, and personally I could read Frankenstein fighting monsters all day, but there's not much else to recommend this either as a Grundy or Blackest Night story; I didn't feel it added to either one.
Rounding out the book are a one-shot Robin/Supergirl team-up by Green and Johnson with art by Blue Beetle's Rafael Albuquerque, and a Halloween story by Peter Johnson (of the Supernatural TV series) and Matt Cherniss, including art by Brian Stelfreeze and Kelley Jones. The first is the more chilling of the two scary stories, as Robin and Supergirl's supposed first team-up exposes them to horror after horror in Arkham Asylum; the second is another more mundane "dream" story, but Jones's few pages with the Joker are especially affecting.
[Contains full covers. Printed on glossy paper.]
As I mentioned, with Superman/Batman switching creative teams entirely over the next two volumes, I may not purchase them so quickly. Superman/Batman is becoming something like Batman Confidential in telling one-off stories that spotlight more the writer and artist that the story itself; that's OK sometimes, but it's not the kind of book I'd pick up regularly. Michael Green and Mike Johnson did a bang-up job on Superman/Batman; I'll repeat that their Search for Kryptonite was near perfection, and maybe the real draw of Night and Day is just to support these writers' finish. With their departure, however, there's part of me that thinks it might just be time for DC to wrap Superman/Batman up, rather than keep it going into what I see as ultimately irrelevance.