Writer: Jeph Leob
Artists: Jim Lee (p), Scott Williams (i)
The book opens with Bruce Wayne arriving in Metropolis on the trail of Poison Ivy and we're treated to another flashback from Bruce's childhood where we see Bruce & his young friend Tommy were treated to a fight between Alan Scott & Icicle. We then jump to the present where we see Tommy has "managed" to hook up with Bruce, and we see Bruce is treated to a lecture about endangering his health by running around so soon after his accident. We then join Bruce as he stops into the Daily Planet to presumably give Clark Kent a heads up that he's in town, before he moves on the Lexcorp building to follow up on a lead that Oracle has come up with. It turns out Lexcorp is the sole manufacturer of a specialize growth hormone that Poison Ivy uses on her plants, so Batman is able to locate where she has gone to ground in Metropolis by learning where the largest & most recent shipment of the hormone was sent. We also see that Catwoman is on Poison Ivy's trail looking to a little payback, and Selina is able to get to Ivy's place moments before Batman. However when Batman arrives he learns Poison Ivy has gotten herself a very powerful bodyguard, as Superman looks to have fallen under her control.
I can't say I'm overly impressed with the quality of the mysteries that Jeph Loeb has come up for Batman to solve, as it must be rather nice to have villains who pretty much telegraph where they've gone to ground. Poison Ivy has herself a small crop of plants that require a very specific type of plant hormone, and like any self respecting villain she decided not only to purchase an eyebrow raising amount of the substance, but apparently she had it delivered to her secret base in Metropolis. Now perhaps the super-villain community has a unwritten rule that one simply doesn't rob a Lexcorp facility, but Poison Ivy strikes me as exactly the type of villain who would delight in targeting a big cooperation. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that Batman's successful detective work required Poison Ivy to leave a trail of crumbs that makes it seem like she wanted to be found, and since he's such a great strategic thinker one would think Batman would've keyed into this fact before Poison Ivy delivered her big surprise. Then again having Batman enter this contest completely unprepared certainly makes it far more exciting, as his past victories over this character have come about largely due to his having time to prepare for this contest.
This issue does make good use of its various guest-stars though as Batman's panel time with Catwoman does a nice job of playing with the romantic feelings that exist between these two, and one has to smile at Selina's little innuendo about Batman's relationship with Robin. The change of location to Metropolis also allows Jeph Loeb to inject Superman's cast into the book, and aside from the nice little moment of surprise when I learned that Bruce Wayne owns the Daily Planet, I also enjoyed the flirting that went on between Bruce & Lois, and the off panel comments that Clark manages to slip in. In fact it's rather cute to see Clark have to play up his bumbling milksop identity while Bruce is interacting with him in his secret identity. This issue also explained a little question that I had regarding Lex Luthor becoming president, as I wondered how the idea that Lex was the founder of a multinational cooperation was dealt with, and the person he's chosen to hand the reigns over to is certainly an interesting choice. Now I realize most on my enjoyment comes from my lack of knowledge about this corner of the DCU, but what can I say, this issue did a nice job of filling in the information gaps.
Jim Lee on a monthly book is certainly a welcome sight, and while I know he needed a considerable amount of lead time to create this illusion, if we can make it though the rest of this year long visit without any guest-artists, or missed shipping dates then Jim Lee will have convinced me that yes he can work on a monthly title. He certainly brings a sense of excitement to these pages, not to mention a legion of ever loyal fans, and it's easy to see why he's earned himself such a sizeable fan base. From his eye-catching female figures, to his impressive cityscapes, Jim Lee's highly detailed art is the primary reason that final page has me so excited, as I can't wait to see what he can do with a battle between these two characters. He also does some very nice work making Batman into an imposing figure, and he also manages to capture the idea that Selina is one of the few people who is able to alter the stone-faced grimace that seems to be etched on Batman's face when he's in costume. I also have to make mention of the flashback scenes, as these pages take on a painted appearance, and it really adds an almost dreamlike quality to these moments. The credit page shot of Alan Scott is also a lovely piece of art, that makes great use of color to draw the reader's eye.
Not a bad issue by any stretch of the imagination, but the material is largely devoted to setting up the big event next month, and as such unlike the previous issues in this arc this is almost entirely a talking heads affair. Now there's interesting material to be found in these pages, from the amusing interplay between Bruce, Lois & Clark, to the nice back & forth banter that Batman and Catwoman share, that nicely hints at the somewhat unusual relationship these two have. This issue also marks it a bit hard to ignore the idea that Bruce's friend Tommy isn't the mystery villain of this arc, as having him just happen to run into Bruce at the airport struck me as a bit too coincidental. Still the book is doing a nice job of inserting Tommy into Bruce's past, and we see that Tommy very likely played a big role in Batman's "always be thinking two steps ahead of your opponent" mindset. Plus the cliffhanger to this issue is certain to ensure my return next month.
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