Warning: This review includes spoilers to the material reviewed. If you hope to read this some day, be careful how you read my review.
I first came across SUPERMAN: SPEEDING BULLETS in a newsagent not long after seeing the third BATMAN movie and developing a serious Batman addiction. It looked fantastic. I didn't get it. This proved to be a mistake - I never saw it again.
Until about four days ago, in a small Adelaide collectors store - when, prompted by years of vague, half-memories and a sense that it would have been a great purchase, I snapped it up for about AUS$10.00. Am I glad I did? You bet. It's by no means perfect, but it's an excellent work, and proof that the memory doesn't always cheat. It's easily one of my best purchases.
The Elseworlds plot is intriguing; what if the baby Kal-El had landed outside Gotham, and had been raised not by the Kents, but by the Waynes? And suppose that baby, traumatized by witnessing the murder of his parents and then frying the murderer with his heat vision, grew into a bitter, obsessive Bruce Wayne, who decides to bring terror to those who bring terror to others as the Batman? And suppose, in his quest for justice, he locks horns not only Lex Luthor (who is hiding a dark, terrible secret of his own in this work), but his true-love, Lois Lane (the narrator of this story)?
For the most part, despite the cramped length, the writers have an immense amount of fun contrasting the two heroes who represent polar opposites of the D.C range within the same person. The superpowered Batman seems far darker, more obsessive and a demonstration of the kind of damage someone really obsessed with dishing out justice to evildoers can do withsuper-strength and heat-vision. Seeing this is pretty damn fantastic - I've always thought that Batman was cooler than Superman, and seeing a superpowered Batman is just awesome. In an interesting comparison, his alter-ego Bruce Wayne is strangely warmer and slightly klutzier than his proper continuity counter-part - shades of Clark Kent coming into play, perhaps? The Bruce Wayne / Lois Lane relationship is also interesting and slightly touching, with the possibility for more depth than the actual D.C comics allow, showing Lois Lane not only as the Man of Steel's heart, but also, in this universe, the comfort to his tortured soul.
It's not perfect -the attempt to meld Lex Luthor and the Joker into one character is somewhat awkward (couldn't Luthor have just hired the Joker to deal with Wayne, thus including both?). And the ending is something of a cop-out - especially for those, like me, who think Batman's cooler than Superman any day of the week. And really, it could have done with being extended into a mini-series - there's so much potential for growth here that, really, one slim comic book would never cut it. A mini-series, however, would have rivalled SUPERMAN: RED SON as being a classic work.
But if you do happen to come across a copy of this, don't make the mistake my younger self made and pass up on it. Get it. You won't regret it.