The last thing I expected when I picked up Superman/Batman #76–a Final Crisis fallout issue covering Batman’s “death” –was that I would enjoy a Judd Winick comic. Consider me shocked by the mastery of Winick’s approach to covering the fragile mortality of human existence through a tights and cape book.
Like previously mentioned, Superman/Batman #76 acts as a bridge issue between the conclusion of Final Crisis–and Batman’s death–and the start of Dick Grayson’s tenure as the Caped Crusader. The issue’s focus lies primarily on the shoulders of Superman and Dick Grayson, and addresses the duos denial and acceptance of their best friend’s premature death.
There’s a rare side of Superman that we see in the pages of Superman/Batman #76. We’ve seen Superman cry before–maybe too much, actually–but we rarely see him pissed off at his own friends. When Superman first gets wind of Dick Grayson picking up the legacy of the cape and cowl, he is furious. “You’re parading around in his skin,” Superman yells to Grayson during their first rooftop meet-up. Superman’s outburst and addressing of the “real” Bruce Wayne comes at a strange time, but not unfitting for a person who, in his eyes, sees this facade to keep criminals scared as a mockery of not only this deceased best friend, but Dick Grayson as well, whom Superman has watched mature into a strong-willed individual throughout the years. This scene is a poignant one, whose unexpected conclusion provides an interesting twist leading towards a fantastic payoff at issue’s end.
Also, remember that scene in the pages of JLA #0 by Brad Meltzer where Superman and Wonder Woman sit atop a building mourning Batman’s passing? Well that scene gets a much needed revisit here in Superman/Batman #76 in the wake of Bruce’s actual death.
Where death comes to claim us all eventually, Superman can’t help but question what will happen to him, a near-invulnerable, super-powered alien, as he continues to watch everyone he loves in life pass him by. The looming threat of death knocking at your door is like a parasite boring into your brain. It’s ever-present. Even for someone as strong and resilient as Superman. It’s also ironic that Wonder Woman, another being of near limit-less power, is the one to console and remind Kal-El of his indestructible sense of humanity.
The final pages of Superman/Batman #76 are delegated to a second confrontation between Superman and new Batman, Dick Grayson. This time around there is far less grabbing and yelling, concluding with a handshake, a mutual understanding to the meaning behind Batman’s legacy, one that both Superman and Dick Grayson plan to honor in respect for their passed best friend. This a pitch-perfect curtain call that down-plays the “avenging angel” aspect of Batman’s origin that we’ve come to expect, instead highlighting the more human, personal layer to why Bruce Wayne chose the career path he set out on.
There is really only one thing that holds back Superman/Batman #76 from pure perfection; the art. While Marco Rudy’s pencil work hit the right notes for the personal, grief scenes of the issue, there are still instances where faces are disproportioned, and some page layouts can be hard to follow.
All and all though, this single issue makes me want to gather my friends and family and tell them how much I love them before it’s too late. I think that’s a comic that succeeds at its intended purpose. Don’t you?