superman batmanBatman/Superman Vol. 4 is written b y Greg Pak and collects issues 16-20 of Batman/Superman, Batman/Superman Annual #2, and Batman/Superman: Futures End #1.

The Story (aka from the Publisher)

Someone is targeting the people closest to Superman—those who wear his sigil, those he cares most about, even innocents whose lives he’s saved. The attacks seem random, but Batman recognizes the pattern. A madman who hates you so much he strikes at the people around you…this is Superman’s Joker.
Worse, the method of the attacks is even more bizarre: the bullets leave no residue, no clues, then seem to disappear into nothingness. Even the World’s Greatest Detective is at a loss.

But when Batman hatches a plan to draw the killer out of hiding, a crucial clue is uncovered—one that reveals that the killer is more closely tied to Superman than they could have imagined! Can Superman, Batman and Supergirl defeat this threat from Superman’s past…or will Superman’s Joker prove to be his final undoing?

Writer Greg Pak (ACTION COMICS) and artist Ardian Syaf (BATGIRL) add a deadly new name to Superman’s rogues gallery…one that will test Superman’s strength and Batman’s mind equally!

He was a Hero

The story begins with a man, whom we later learn is unemployed, stopping by Metropolis City Center Hospital. He dresses like Superman along with other guys dressed up as super heroes for the children who are there. It brings joy to those children who find joy difficult to uncover. Then, the unthinkable happens. The man is struck by an unknown, unseen bullet. He tells a child it is just a little ketchup and he steps out of the room.

The man dies in the hallway.

This is the beginning of the mystery that will baffle Superman and Batman. The killer is coined as Superman’s Joker. It is not a super-powered clown or a new number one big bad. Instead Superman’s Joker has the same qualities as the Joker – unpredictable, ruthless, without morals. His attacks target those who are closest to Superman, which leaves the super hero confused. All the more reason to call the Dark Knight.

Lois Lane calls the costumed, unnamed victim a hero. He gave of his life unselfishly to serve the least of these. A fantastic reminder to the reader that we do not have to be powered by the sun to be a hero. We simply have to put others first.

Friendship Matters

What is striking about Greg Pak’s story is how well he as a writer knows Batman and Superman. Batman is very Batman, and Superman is very Superman. He knows what makes each one tick and he knows how to play them off each other. They know what makes the other’s tick.

Their friendship is strong. Superman is unsure who is behind these killings, so he calls the world’s greatest detective, his friend Batman, to assist him. The two may not . . . . usually don’t . . . . agree, but at the end of the day, they are still best friends. They need each other.  They balance each other. When one is vulnerable, in this case Superman, the other is able to find a way to keep his friend grounded.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the graphic novel is good and worth your time. The story involves Kandor in a creative way. There are a few new details regarding Superman’s family. The villain, however, you may miss if  you aren’t reading closely. He is not as big and bad as you would think.

crocThe final two “chapters,” or stories, feel a little out of place to me. Taken from Batman/Superman Annual #2, the villain psychically influences the likes of other big bads – Bane, Killer Croc, Cheshire, and a legion of ninja Man-Bats – to hunt Clark Kent. Superman has used the Solar Flare (despite Batman’s warnings) which has left the Man of Steel powerless. This episode didn’t seem to flow with the rest of the story for me.

Worse though was the next episode, which was originally published in Futures End. It takes place five years in the future and sits as a paradox to the story of friendship that was just told. Batman is laid up in a hospital bed, broken. Superman is supposedly dead, but Batman doesn’t buy it. Batman is filled with resentment towards Superman for ditching the people. It will confuse a casual reader who may pick up this graphic novel while waiting for a latte or mocha at the local book store.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a digital review copy.