Superman/Batman #51 Review
Superman/Batman #51 review by Hugo Bravo
Written by Michael Greene and Mike Johnson
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Baby versions of popular characters have had success as spin-offs. The Muppets, Scooby-Doo, Bugs Bunny, and even George W. Bush starred in miniature versions of themselves featured in cartoons and comics. Superheroes like the X-Men, Franklin Richards, and the Teen Titans have gotten the baby treatment, usually with the aim to appeal to a much younger comic book audience. Not so with the latest arc of Superman/Batman. In a book known (and sometimes criticized for) outrageous concepts and adventures for DC's most famous duo, “The Lil' Leaguers” combines superb humor and detailed art to give us one of the most fun and accessible storylines the series has seen. This isn't the first time we've seen kiddie versions of Batman and Superman, but it's definitely the most fun. Co-writers Michael Greene and Mike Johnson let their creativity run wild with the concept, and artist Rafael Albuquerque meets them halfway with character designs that could work just as well in any medium.
Miniature versions of the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are stopping muggers in Gotham City, swooping down to save the President's plane, and experiencing pain for the first time against the Floronic Man. They're not really baby versions, and they're not simply shrunken down for cuteness' sake. They come from a world not quite as dark and cruel as the DC Universe (the origin of Lil' Batman and Superman is too innocent to be tragic.) But make no mistake, as Lil' Batman says, these tiny capes are most definitely the World's Finest. Lil' Supes is as bright-eyed and optimistic as his full-sized counterpart and Lil' Batman (with his three fuzzy bats) is just as brooding and deductive as the regular version. Though this issue is mostly void of the famous dual narration the series is known for, the story retains a focus on the dynamic between the two heroes, both big and small.
We get some sharp dialogue between the four characters and their supporting cast, and wait until you meet the Lil' Justice League of America, complete with a Lil' Supergirl who's crying shatters phone booths, a Lil' Vixen that harnesses the powers of a teddy bear, and Lil' Red Tornado, spouting off random alerts in his Lego-shaped body. When the culprit of the colliding heroes is revealed, it only gets us more anxious to see where Green and Johnson will take this story. Could the little heroes be part of one of DC's newest alternate earths?
The story is a winner in itself, but Rafael Albuquerque's art is the champion of the book. He doesn't venture into the traditional look for these kind of kiddy superhero adventures, that familiar white-eyed 'Calvin and Hobbes' look. His talent for drawing expressions of Lil' Heroes give the story an appeal that never gets cheesy or disgustingly cute. Thankfully, he doesn't ignore the look of the grown-ups either. Both Bats and Supes look great, and Alfred gets the best look and line of the book, reacting to the whole silly situation.
Like a character in the book mentions, a lot of the adventures of the Big Two in DC have lately been all "Darkseid" this and "Crisis" that. Whether it's in continuity or not, Superman/Batman #51 is a book that will keep you smiling and laughing after every page. How many comics can make that claim?