Another forgotten classic: 1996’s BATMAN & CAPTAIN AMERICA, written and illustrated by John Byrne.
Some of the best work Byrne has done in the last couple of decades or so can be found in this one-shot, which features the quartet of Captain America and Bucky and Batman and Robin against the villainy of the Red Skull and the Joker.
Set in 1945, the story involves the Joker being used as a catspaw by the Red Skull in order to steal America’s first and only atomic bomb. Although the portrayal of Captain America feels more like Byrne’s work than any sort of deliberate tribute to the original Simon and Kirby Cap stories, Byrne does a masterful job of capturing the mid-to-late 40s style of Dick Sprang: check out this illustration of the Batcave, inspired by a Sprang lithograph:
The script and characterization is on target as well, with a commanding and confident Batman working well with the more action-minded Captain America. Byrne also has some fun with a little rivalry between Robin and Bucky, as well as indulging in some other cross-company shenanigans, such as Cap’s battlefield adventure alongside Sgt. Rock and Easy Company. My favorite moment, however, comes when the Joker discovers just exactly who it is he’s been working for:
The topper comes just after that, as the Joker and the Red Skull just do what comes naturally:
BATMAN & CAPTAIN AMERICA was the best of the mid-90s rash of inter-company crossover books, and is well worth picking up.