By Michael Green and Mike Johnson (writers), Rafael Albuquerque (artist), David Baker (inker)
The Story: Supergirl and Robin (Tim Drake) meet for lunch and reminisce about their first adventure together. The book then flashbacks to them being left alone in Gotham by Batman and Superman and having to respond to a prison break in Arkham. The inhabitants of Arkham are never people that settle the stomach, so these young heroes have a hard time, each in their own way.
What’s Good: The art is great. I don’t tend to like cartoony styles, but Albuquerque’s details of the inhabitants of Arkham was brilliant and reminded me a bit of Quitely’s style. Two-Face was creepy, the windows and capes shone, the fires glowed, and the faces expressed clear emotions. Albuquerque’s Joker was horrifying, wide-eyed, confused, and deranged. Croc and Ivy were sinister and threatening. A-class art all the way through.
The parallels in the stories were good too. Green and Johnson used reversals to bookend the Arkham adventure. In the beginning, Supergirl needs Robin’s advice, at the end, he needs hers. It worked for form’s sake, but lead into some problems.
What’s Not So Good: Supergirl and Robin face virtually identical personal pressures, so it’s not clear to me why Robin was hardened at the beginning. It didn’t make sense that he needed Supergirl to balance him at the end. As I said above, it made for a nice plot structure, but it is a false development and was difficult to swallow.
I also get that this issue of Superman/Batman is aimed at a younger audience and if it had used only juvenile material, I would be ok with that. However, showing lots of corpses, dismemberment (and dismemberings!), I’m going to make the assumption that the editors had also envisioned an older readership. In that case, I have higher standards of sophistication, which this book failed to meet.
For example, it is cliché pulp scifi power fantasy to have the police stand around waiting for a pre-pubescent boy to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. It is shallow superheroing. Moreover, I always have a problem with heroes that are extremely mismatched in power. In plain language, Tim Drake’s career as a hero could be ended with a sharpened stick. Only one of Supergirl’s powers (not including flight, super strength, heat vision, invulnerability, etc…) is super-speed and she tours the entire Batcave before Tim can finish a sentence. Tim would have had a hard slog cleaning up a prison break at Arkham on his own, but honestly, I have trouble seeing why Supergirl just didn’t go through at super speed and tie everyone up before they even knew she was there. Superheroes are diminished when the villain is not a challenge. In this case, the Batman villains filling Arkham should be no challenge for Supergirl.
Conclusion: This was an offering of filler and trivial character development that will have no effect on these characters in the DCU, but the art in the Arkham flashback was awesome.