Batman 20 CoverAmong the items in my personal hold this past week was Batman #20. This blog will not be about the book’s main story—as written by the great Scott Snyder and drawn by the also wonderful Greg Capullo—because it was just the conclusion to a two part filler-story before the Zero Year storyline starts, and I don’t have much to say about it. No, I’d like to address the crappy extra story “Ghost Lights” by James Tynion IV, which featured the conclusion to a Batman/Superman team-up involving a supernatural occurrence called a will o’ the wisp. This poorly conceived story really bothered me for a couple of reasons, the main one being that it asserted quite clearly that Superman is allergic to magic, much in the same way he’s weakened by green Kryptonite.
This whole concept that the Man of Steel is somehow extra vulnerable to magic not only bothers the hell out of me, but I believe to be patently wrong. I see no plausible explanation for Kal El to have such a weakness. His powers are not mystical in origin. They are based on how his Kryptonian physiology is affected by and comes to adapt to several factors: exposure to a yellow sun, the lesser gravity on Earth (than there would have been on his home world), and the radioactive and light spectrums around him. None of those factors would directly cause Superman to be especially vulnerable to spells or sorcery. I assert that Superman is, in most cases, just as vulnerable to magic as anyone else would be, although there have been times when he’s actually been less affected by magic than humans around him—likely because certain spells are geared more toward Earthlings and not aliens, if not because of Superman’s normally invulnerable constitution.
Batman and Superman in Ghost LightsIn the annoying story in question, Superman became weak and nauseous as soon as he got near the will o’ the wisp, while Batman was not bothered by the supernatural magic at all. This is hogwash, folks. As I said, the idea of Superman having a magic allergy is ridiculous. I suppose this setup could make some sense if the magic in question came from Krypton and was therefore designed to affect him and not humans, but there were other humans—civilians—who were also being affected by the ghost lights. Perhaps Batman has counters to supernatural powers built into his Bat-suit, but I doubt it.
Another goofy moment in “Ghost Lights” happened last month in part 1 (Batman #19) when Superman described feeling strange and Batman telling him that what he was feeling was nausea. Okay, I’d understand this exchange if this story was set early in Superman’s career, but we know it is set in the present because Clark’s whole reason for being in Gotham was to check in on Bruce and try to give him support in the wake of Damian’s death; a very recent event in the New 52. I have seen Superman experience many levels and types of pain and discomfort, including nausea, in multiple New 52 titles such as Action Comics, Superman and Justice League. This just goes to show that there is poor editorial oversight at DC currently and even the writers are confused about continuity with so many titles and not enough clear differences between the New 52 universe and the previous DC continuity before the big shakeup two years ago.
Also, it was a lame attempt at humor when Batman ditches Superman at the end of the story, much as he does to other characters (most often Jim Gordon) on the regular, with Clark grumbling to himself, “Oh, now you’re doing it to me. Great.” This obvious joke at Superman’s expense doesn’t work, because no matter how awesome Batman’s ninja stealth skills are, it’s damn near impossible for him to bail on the Last Son of Krypton due to little things like… oh, I don’t know… super-hearing, x-ray vision, telescopic vision and infrared vision—all of which Superman happens to possess, and James Tynion IV should know that, even if he does think the Man of Steel has a magic allergy. I’ve read online that DC is going to re-launch their Superman/Batman title for the New 52. I hope when that title hits the shelves we get better stories, with better writing, than what I regrettably had to read in “Ghost Lights.”
Well that’s enough from me for now. Until my next bloviation, be sure to listen to Hold 322, follow me on twitter @Robert_A_Easton, and read lots of comics. Alons-y!