Josh Williamson and Clayton Henry’s story arc that started in Batman/Superman #9 comes to an end this week and the stakes couldn’t be higher for Batman, who has lost control of his body. His fate is now in the hands of the Ultra-Humanite. Superman is on his own, but will he kill his friend to save Gotham? The preview solicitation says there are ramifications in this story that will reverberate for “months to come,” and it’s not wrong.
This is a good final issue for the story arc which pits Ultra-Humanite against Superman in a feat of strength and brains. It works well to show Batman and Superman aren’t just heroes who work together, but friends. The drama is enhanced by how it connects to what is going on in their lives in other books. So often in comics, a story will casually forget a detail to power through into a fight comic story, but here Williamson takes care to remind us Batman lost Alfred and Superman’s identity is now known by the world. These are woven into the drama by Ultra-Humanite egging them on, but also in the closing pages when the heroes are licking their wounds. Williamson crafts the script well so that it makes sense to a reader who may not be reading other books, but also matters to the narrative at hand, too.
This issue also takes care with Atomic Skull, who blew up in the first issue of the arc. The character clearly matters to the creators and there’s some good work done to show how he got into the situation he was in to start the arc. This helps build towards a good cliffhanger that’ll increase your interest in future stories.
Speaking of the final few pages, this book ends with some interesting reveals and tidbits about the characters within. The captions can be a bit heavy, but they do a lot of work to establish key details and firmly establish the bond Batman and Superman have. This isn’t just any comic book with fights and impossibly high stakes — Williamson is doing the work to make this superhero world feel real.
The art by Henry is excellent and the bright pop of color by Alejandro Sanchez makes the Atomic Skull powers look otherworldly and cool. This is how superheroes should look in comics. Batman’s cape always looks cool, especially when there’s purple light splashing over it, and there are other finer details that pop like a birds-eye view of Gotham. Other things, like a surgical gizmo or details in Ultra-Humanite’s fingertips, make the technology look cool but also functional.
This is about as solid as good old-fashioned comic books can get. There’s a showdown, a payoff to the fight, attention to detail that keeps the continuity making sense, and heroic moments for both title characters to accomplish. There’s so much here that works I almost wonder if the issues that preceded are necessary. You can easily pick up this book completely cold and enjoy it. Batman/Superman has a warmth and classical approach to superhero storytelling that’s nostalgic.