Overview: In Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #13, Batman, Superman, and Robin must solve the mystery of who killed Simon Stagg before it’s too late!
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #13 begins atop the Daily Planet building in Metropolis, as Superman and Robin are chided by Supergirl and Batgirl for being fooled by Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk, who pretended to be the two superheroines. The only way the heroes managed to discover this ruse was through Jimmy Olsen, who took photos that showed the reality behind the magical illusions.
After the heroes leave, Jimmy walks down the steps back into the Daily Planet offices, relishing in uncovering the plot to dupe Batgirl. Clark Kent grabs Jimmy right away, telling him that Perry White has been calling for the two of them. Apparently, there’s been a murder at the Hotel Metro, and the victim is Simon Stagg.
In the Batmobile, on the way home, Batman gets word from Alfred of Simon Stagg’s demise at the hands of poison. Bruce Wayne was set to meet the industrialist the following day. Batman turns the Batmobile around, driving himself and Robin back toward Metropolis.
As Clark and Jimmy head out to learn more about Stagg’s death, Clark catches Jimmy, and comic readers, up to speed on the origin of Metamorpho. Adventurer Rex Mason, Stagg’s associate, was in love with Sapphire, Simon Stagg’s daughter. Stagg didn’t like this, so he sent Mason on an expedition to uncover an orb from the pyramid of Pharoah Ahk-Ton. Java, Stagg’s other associate, accompanied him. When the opportunity struck, Java betrayed Mason and threw the adventurer deeper into the pyramid, near a radioactive meteorite that the orb had been fashioned from. The radiation turned Mason into a monster.
Finding his way back home, Sapphire taught Mason how to speak again and gave him a reason to live. Eventually, Mason learned that his body was composed of ten substances that he could morph and combine at will. Thus, Mason became Metamorpho, the Element Man, serving as a bodyguard to the man who betrayed him out of love for Sapphire.
At Stagg’s hotel room, Clark and Jimmy are stopped by the police. Clark spots Batman and Robin entering from above and uses the promise of a shared writing byline to get Jimmy to look for suspects elsewhere. Clark runs off, changing into Superman.
Inside the hotel room, Batman tells Superman that Stagg was locked inside and there was no delivery system for the poison. Metamorpho was presumably the last person with Stagg, which means he’s a priority suspect. Superman uses his x-ray vision to scan Metropolis, finding Metamorpho in the Egyptian wing of the history museum.
Meanwhile, Metamorpho busts criminals trying to steal Egyptian artifacts. Batman joins the fight while Superman cleans up the mess. Batman tells Metamorpho that they need to talk.
At Stagg Mansion, Jimmy Olsen gets access to Simon’s calendars and files from Sapphire. She agreed to cooperate with Jimmy because of his connection to Superman. When Java finds Sapphire opening up, he tosses Jimmy out of the mansion, despite Sapphire’s protests.
Batman asks Metamorpho to account for his whereabouts during Stagg’s murder, and he can only admit that he was taking in the sights of Metropolis. Later, Batman updates Superman, filling in information from Robin, who found out that Stagg died of VX nerve gas, which Metamorpho can easily create. Before Batman leaves, he tells Superman that Stagg is evil and manipulative, so there’s no telling where this could go. Stagg costs Wayne Enterprises millions in stifling Bruce’s efforts to help Gotham, mainly because Bruce once beat Stagg in a tennis match.
Back at the Daily Planet, Jimmy has gone through Stagg’s files. He has an airtight case about who killed Stagg, and it’s so well put together that the police are already moving in on the suspect. Clark, however, is in disbelief, but Jimmy presses that facts matter over feelings. When Clark can’t explain why the guilty party is, in fact, innocent, Perry White tells the two of them to put the story to press.
The next day, The Daily Planet runs a headline that reads, “Bruce Wayne Arrested for Stagg Murder.”
Analysis: Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #13 launches into a new murder mystery that sees Bruce Wayne framed for murder. While this isn’t necessarily new (see the series Bruce Wayne – Murderer), it does come at the story in a slightly different way. Throughout this whole investigation, writer Mark Waid and artist Dan Mora have shown the differences between Superman and Batman’s approach to crime-fighting. Whereas Batman suspects everyone, Superman, ever the boy scout, gives the benefit of the doubt, choosing to believe in one’s innocence until proven otherwise. This is very upfront and prevalent in how each approaches Metamorpho, with Batman asking the potential assassin his whereabouts and Superman citing Metamorpho’s assistance in the past.
Oddly enough, Jimmy Olsen, the character who started as a bit of comic relief at the beginning of this new storyline, proves to be the most effective investigator, finding his way all the way to Stagg’s mansion and acquiring much-needed data that fingers Bruce Wayne as the murderer. Of course, this is all part of a greater ruse, but this surprise revelation sets the stage for Jimmy to say to Clark Kent about Bruce what Batman said to Superman about Metamorpho. It’s an interesting layer that’s easy to miss.
What’s also easy to miss is that Stagg’s murder arrives on the eve before his meeting with Bruce Wayne, as well as Batman’s comment about how Stagg has wanted revenge on Wayne due to a lost tennis match. These two throwaway lines will prove crucial in the coming issues.
As always, Dan Mora’s art paired with Tamra Bonvillain’s colors is a match made in heaven. This issue is beautiful, fun, and a wonderful celebration of the Silver Age of comics. The reintroduction of Metamorpho is a welcome one, and it fits perfectly into the bright tone and sense of adventure that Mora, Waid, and the team have consistently delivered throughout this run.
One thing that’s worth pointing out is how dense the story is in this issue. There are a few action scenes, as well as a slow-burn plot, that keeps adding new layers and information to the mystery at hand. This goes without saying; Mora had his work cut out for him in paneling this issue, making sure to appropriately hit all the beats with the right mood and emphasis. This also means that some action pieces, like the battle in the Egyptian wing of the Metropolis Natural History Museum, are condensed to just a couple of pages with careful paneling to draw readers into the action without using up too much precious space. The result is a work of art, particularly on page 22, wherein Batman is leaping into action against a would-be thief, and Superman is flying around, saving priceless museum pieces.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.