24 October 2009

Faster than a DC Bullet, Issue #12: Superman Batman: Absolute Power

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2005 (contents: 2005)

Borrowed from a friend
Read September 2009
Superman Batman: Absolute Power

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Carlos Pacheco
Inker: Jesús Merino
Additional pencils: Ivan Reis
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Richard Starkings

DC Universe Timeline: Two Years Ago
Real World Timeline: 2004?

Jeph Loeb can write good comics, right? I know this. I've read Superman For All Seasons and The Long Halloween; he can do absolutely brilliant work. He can, and I know it. So what the hell happened here?

What happened here, as far as I can tell, is that Jeph Loeb ingested the entire DC Universe and then vomited all over some pages and called it a script.

Absolute Power opens with someone traveling back in time and altering the origins of Batman and Superman-- Bruce Wayne's parents' killer is gunned down, and the Kents are fried electrically, and both children are taken away to be raised as the new rulers of the Earth. Of course, you might object that there are a lot of other superheroes out there who would stop that, so our mysterious time travelers also go back in time and kill off Green Lantern, the Flash, and the rest of Earth's great heroes, plus Aquaman. Quite why someone would pick Batman to rule the Earth baffles me-- he has no powers, so they'd have to train him from scratch. What makes him different from anyone else in that case? Might as well pick the Blue Beetle or even Doiby Dickles.

The perpetrators of these time-travel shenanigans are three people called Lightning Lord, Cosmic King, and Saturn Queen. I think they have something to do with the Legion of Super-Heroes, but it's not like anyone ever explains what they're doing or where they came from or why they're taking over the Earth of the 21st century. Or perhaps most importantly, why they can't just take over the Earth themselves, instead of getting Batman and Superman to do it for them. Or why they creepily insist on being called Batman and Superman's parents, while the provide their "children" with hot babes for sexxxing.

Wonder Woman and Uncle Sam round up a group of should-be superheroes to take down the Axis of Evil. A storyline about the Earth's heroes striving to take down an evil Superman and Batman-- you might think that this is where things would start to get interesting. Well, you'd be wrong. This is where things start getting stupid. They assemble a team in about two pages, then there's lots of incoherent fighting, including some of that good-old Superman-on-Wonder-Woman violence Jeph Loeb needs to work into every issue. Then Batman dies. Then everyone travels through time! Why? WHO KNOWS.

This is where the Jeph Loeb Upchucked Continuity Tour really begins, as we randomly hop through the DC Universe, visiting Kamandi, some Wild West characters (in Gotham for some reason), and Apokolips. Also, the Kingdom Come Superman shows up. Again. Plus, the demon Etrigan. Oh, and Metron. Seriously, Loeb, is there anyone else's better idea you need to work into your story? Then Superman and Batman go back in time and stop the villains from changing history. Then Batman shoots his parents' killer before he shoots his parents. This disrupts history even further! OH NO! MORE RANDOM TIME TRAVEL.

Now they have to fight R'as al Ghul, who's apparently taken over the Earth and killed everyone ever with Batman gone. Also, World War II is still going on for some reason. Bruce Wayne learns to be Batman again in twelve minutes (apparently it's not that hard after all), the Justice League is brought back to life only to be killed minutes later, overly portentous narration bubbles mention "The Age of Heroes" a lot, Superman gets stabbed, and then everything's okay. Except-- can Superman ever live with the guilt of killing Wonder Woman in a world that never happened? And can Batman mention the life he should have had one more time? And will Steve ever recover from having to read a bunch of nonsense held together with no rhyme or reason?

WHAT THE HECK. It's like Jeph Loeb has ADD and no plotline interests him for more than five pages. I'm not sure what this was supposed to be about, why most of it happened, or why I should even bother to figure it out. These aren't Batman and Superman, they're two random people with the costumes. It's amazing, but Loeb seems to have created something with even less redeeming value than Supergirl. Thank God this is all James owns of the Superman Batman series, because I'd hate to see what comes next. Actually, it's probably just Batman and Superman making out while Wonder Woman gets beat on by sixteen hundred copies of Doctor Polaris and the Anti-Monitor.
I'm actually kind of disappointed with this review, as I don't think it adequately represents the sheer depth of loathing I have for this story, though the only way to do that might be to just say "please make it stop" a dozen times, and then I'd be too much like Tat Wood for comfort. But dang, this was awful. At least the artwork was pretty.

Note that this originally appeared on my old LiveJournal and included pictures back then. Sadly, the pictures are lost in the mists of the Internet.

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