In this volume Superman and Batman team up to fight Superman's arch nemesis, Lex Luthor. In the chronology of this particular storyline, Luthor was elected President of the United States. Unbeknownst to the public, he has also continued his various secret schemes and projects to rid the world of Superman and control the world. When a huge kryptonian asteroid threatens to hit Earth, Luthor blames it on Superman and orders a federal warrant for his arrest and sends a team of superheroes to bring Superman in. Meanwhile Batman and Superman try to capture Luthor while at the same time trying to stop the meteor before it hits the planet.
The art work in PUBLIC ENEMIES is beautiful. Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines, and company do an excellent job of melding the vibrant, radiant colors that are often seen in connection with Superman to the more darker, bleak palette used with Batman. I also enjoyed the parallelism throughout the graphic novel between the thoughts of Superman and the thoughts of Batman. These two characters are tent pole characters of the D.C. universe and anytime they are teamed up makes for at least a decent story. Even though it made the story a bit more heavy-handed than it should have been, I also like how various D.C. characters are brought in throughout the story including Green Lantern, Hawkman, Captain Marvel, and the buxom beauty Atom Girl.
However, there is a lot about PUBLIC ENEMIES that I don't like. The series was written by Jeph Loeb. Loeb is a writer who doesn't really care much about the history of the characters he writes about. He doesn't seem to care much about continuity either. Under the direction and leadership of Loeb and writers like him, Lex Luthor tried to take over Gotham City, Lex Luthor was killed and went to Hell but was later resurrected, Commissioner Gordon became too old and had to retire from police duties, Lex Luthor ran for office and was elected President, etc. None of this fits with continuity of the D.C. universe or seems natural for the characters. Of course, none of this should come as a surprise because Loeb also works as a consultant for the television show SMALLVILLE, a show that totally threw out everything that had been written about the origins of any D.C. character and decided to rewrite them how they so fit. It was popular with the teeny boppers and made money for the company because of television rights, but teeny boppers don't buy and read comic books and therefore hurt the industry more.
PUBLIC ENEMIES isn't a very good story to introduce people to a Superman/Batman combo story. It's also not a storyline to sits well with longtime fans of the characters. The graphic basically appeals to those who know very little about either Superman & Batman and have learned what little they know from watching SMALLVILLE and/or reading earlier editions of Superman and/or Batman comics that were written by Loeb. If you want to read a really good Superman and Batman team-up, read some of the comics from either the Golden or Silver Age of comics.
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In Public Enemies, a huge remnant of Superman's home planet, Krypton, menaces Earth. Lex Luthor, U.S. president in current Superman stories, accuses the Man of Steel of complicity in the threat and commissions a squadron of superheroes to bring him in. Writer Loeb, known for thoughtful takes on the early days of superhero icons, crafts a generally typical, if uncommonly elaborate, story, replete with the high-powered brawling characteristic of the genre.
The most distinctive touch is Loeb's use of captions conveying the thoughts of the heroes as they battle, contrasting Batman's dark vengefulness and Superman's straight-arrow decency. Ed McGuinness' artwork--vaguelymanga-inspired but much more detailed--is well-suited to the tale's kinetics but doesn't do much for quiet moments, which are few and far between, anyway.