Public Enemies

A tale of loyalty and unlikely friendship featuring two of the most famous super-heroes on the planet, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies pairs the Man of Steel with the Dark Knight.  The iconic heroes unite when President Lex Luthor accuses Superman of terrible crimes against humanity and assembles a top-secret team of powerhouse heroes to bring Superman in.  But the “World’s Finest” duo are determined to topple the corrupt president’s reign once and for all!

-from the ad copy on the back cover of the trade paperback edition

Perspective: I picked up issue one of the new series Superman/Batman with hope that the adoption of the Kids WB Superman/Batman logo from the Saturday morning adventure hour heralded the same kind of storyteling, glanced at the clean, manga-esque interior art by Ed McGuinness, and finally noticed Jeph Loeb’s name in the writer’s credit.  I put the book down and walked quickly away.  Loeb’s excellent thriller Batman: the Long Halloween had made enough of an impression in my mind that I also purchased the overly sentimental Superman For All Seasons by the same creative team.  After that disappoinment, Jim Lee’s astounding art coupled with the promise of another detective thriller lured me into the twelve-part Hush – densely packed with guest-stars, nonsensical plot device, and held together by author’s fiat.  It wasn’t until issue seven centered on Superboy and Robin that I reluctantly acquired the back-issues; at that I point I felt morally compelled to at least purchase the book until the story-arc had been completed.  Twenty-five issues later, I want my money back.

Surprisingly, when Green Lantern: First Flight included a teaser for this project, I couldn’t wait to see the translation to animation.  I expected a clean adaptation of Ed McGuinness’ spectacular and dynamic artwork accompanied by a team of editors to turn Loeb’s poorly plotted showcase of his partner’s artistic talent into a massive brawl wherein the World’s Finest take turns whuppin’ up on a parade of guest stars.  Time for popcorn.

Background: The “World’s Finest” team of Superman and Batman have appeared in one form or another as friends and allies in adventure since 1941.  The two characters share an iconic status in the pantheon of DC heroes, and it is this status rather than equality of ability that has them joined at the hip in graphic literature.  The so-called “contrasting characterization” is a relatively recent innovation, as the heroes shared virtually identical story structures even into the 1980’s: villain appears; villain confounds hero; hero uses deus ex machina to restore the status quo.  These characters have not been used consistently in this fashion, nor in any continuing shared publication, since DC reorganized their internal continuity of story in 1984.

Following the success of adapting Darwyn Cooke’s Justice League: the New Frontier from graphic novel to animation, the adaptation of other best-selling publications seemed only natural.  Superman/Batman: Public Enemies presented an opportunity to use multiple DC character properties without attaching the words “Crisis” or “Justice League” to the project.

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