Those of us who liked the old WORLD’s FINEST comics will enjoy this modern incarnation, the more so because it is very closely tied indeed to the old classics. Not only does it star (control your startlement here) Superman and Batman, with frequent appearances by characters from their respective deep histories, but often images, concepts, or entire story lines are borrowed, buffed up, and recycled for the new millennium.
The current arc, which began last month in #53, is a sterling example: an ancient and hoary plot, in which due to mysterious magical interference, Superman has lost his super powers and Batman has acquired them.
In the old World’s Finest this story took at most 2 issues, and was handled with a relatively lighthearted tone. In these darker days, SUPERMAN/BATMAN actually adds more depth over the traditional 6 issue arc (dictated by the size of a trade-paperback edition). The cover alone would tell you that Batman is showing distinct signs of running off the rails.
What I enjoy about S/B is the duality of it all. The writers deliberately play this up all the time — the dark Batman in gloomy Gotham versus sunny Superman in a gleaming Metropolis. Character, not sock’em-up action, is the core of this title. And given the way Batman is depicted — anal, paranoid, focused to the point of monomania — handing him super strength and super senses is a recipe for the most delicious calamity.
The other noted hallmark of S/B hasn’t yet showed too much in the two issues of this arc, but it has been a prominent feature of the title up to this point and I look forward to its appearance — a wild and over-the-top originality. This was especially notable in earlier arcs, which were full of “OMG, I can’t believe this” kinds of moments. (The compendium to look for if you want to experience this is titled Absolute Power.)
Character exploration, a continual awareness of what has gone before, and coruscating originality — who could ask for anything more in fiction?