To whom do you turn when there is a universe to weave?  In whom do you trust when the strands of story and character and strategy must be carefully plaited together?  For DC Entertainment the answer is Peter Tomasi.  As editor and writer Tomasi has occasionally made questionable choices, as when he had Batman travel to Apokalips and retrieve the body of his son by literally punching Darkseid in the face.  But Tomasi is perhaps the greatest master of continuity DC has, barring only Geoff Johns, and as the Rebirth of the DCU approaches his is the logical hand to guide the Superman books toward the crisis point.

Batman/Superman #31 is the second installment in Tomasi’s crossover leading toward the upcoming event, and in this episode Superman seeks out his old friend, Bruce Wayne, to enlist the Dark Knight’s help as his life ebbs away.  Clark has realised his cousin Kara, that is Supergirl, has gone missing, and is determined to find her so that she can step into the role of Earth’s protector.  Batman, after overcoming his distress at the news of Superman’s impending death, rapidly traces Supergirl to National City, a location that comes as no surprise at all to fans of the Supergirl series currently garnering impressive ratings on CBS every Monday night.

And there is where things get extremely interesting as creatures representing the Chinese Zodiac attack the two heroes while screaming “Chou Xie!”  Now, I am not fluent in Mandarin, not even close, but research says that the phrase shouted by the ornate attackers means “reciprocate” or “thank with a gift.”  Doubtless that is a go in translation missing any amount of nuance, but it certainly seems to imply that someone in Asia bears a grudge against the Man of Steel.

Meanwhile, the mysterious ghostly Superman is flying about doing, well, Superman things.  Is he a visitor frocoming m another dimension?  Is he a ghost from the future?  Is he a portion of Superman’s fading life force freed from the Kryptonian’s failing physical body?  Something tells me that the fate of Superman in the coming Rebirth regime depends on the identity of this glowing specter as much as the motives of the Chinese Zodiac master.

Doug Mahnke and Jaime Mendoza turn in art work that seems a natural continuation of Mikel Janin’s work from last week’s installment.  Here, as there, the clear lines, along with Wil Quintana’s sharp, bold colors and brightly lit panels, create a visible tension with the mystery and darkness suffering the storyline.  This tension provides the motive energy propelling the story at a brisk but hardly breathless pace.

Grade

B+

Conclusion

What has Superman done to deserve death? Nothing, indeed, as few people do deserve their predestined ends. But what has he done to bring the wrath of the Chinese Zodiac? How has he called forth the bright spirit seemingly carrying part of his powers? Perhaps nothing. Or maybe the answers to that mystery are keys to the world waiting to be born. There is a gift waiting for Superman somewhere, wherever the master of the zodiac watches and plots. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be the gift of life.