Deciding to read this book whilst listening to Hans Zimmer’s score for the Man of Steel was a big mistake. A score that epic could have only been met by the level of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman Unchained.
But that was two weeks ago.
So I re-read my assignment, thinking it would change pace and make the book shape up into something different. It did. And I’m still not too sure about it…
Either way, Batman/Superman is back. The comic that began in 2003 by Jeph Loeb and a plethora of all-star artists — that seemingly told terrific out-of-continuity stories about the two superstar superheroes — is back! And is it good? That’s what you’re all looking for me to say, right?
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
The cover is strange. It’s bizarre. Why is Superman flying out of some Tim Burtonian world? Or is he flying out of Batman’s back? And what pose is Batman doing, exactly? It’s like he’s saying “I’m here. I’m Batman. Get used to it!” and then snapping his fingers thrice and vanishing into thin air.
Basically, I love the cover.
Inside, the comic’s backdrops are all created in a similar way to create panel breaks, or at least they are when Jae Lee is drawing the pages (DC fails to tell us that the far more contrasting Ben Oliver picks up the second half). The first issue’s focus lies on a Supes/Clark on the prowl in Gotham; a real fish out of water, even though he’s built like a brick shithouse and could rip the idiots asking him for kind bud to pieces with his bare mitts.
And this is where things get tricky. Similar to the Jeph Loeb original, Greg Pak switches narration between Bats and Supes, Clark and Bruce. It gets a bit wonky. But, when they change the colors and a little bit of the voice from fish out of water Clark to Big Badass Bruce, it works. I guess.
Fish out of water seems to be the moral of this story, or at least the plot device used most efficiently. We’ve got Clark in Gotham and then Batman and Catwoman in Metropolis, as well as your standard new kid that gets picked on by some bullies because he’s new in town and of a different race and religion then the others.
If the moral was a sledgehammer, you’d be dead already.
The book itself plays fast and loose with continuity, but I’m not a stickler so whatever. It doesn’t matter that in one book Superman and Batman hadn’t met until Justice League #1 and in another they met years ago as ambitious heroic pups. What matters to the Cleric is quality control, and Batman/Superman #1 has flashes of brilliance. The title page where it splits both origins in half and fills the page on a splash is awesome. Some of Jae’s work is utterly gorgeous, too.
Pak does a bang-up job lending a voice that makes both of these icons seem worlds apart while trying to get the reader to understand that these are two dudes with similar goals in mind.
That said, I’m not sure if the goal at hand was accomplished. We get a villain who’s like a mix of Deathstroke’s son Jericho (not Y2J) and Deadman (not Undertaker) thrown into a blender with any other random bodysnatcher. He’s merely too weak of an enemy. Batman and Superman need something like poverty or worldwide mudslides. Or the end of Big Macs as we know it — something to really bring the reader into the horror of the story.
The biggest misstep is the alternate universe or whatever happens at the end. See, even I’m confused. The artists change mid-step from Jae Lee to Ben Oliver and we’re left with art that would be gorgeous on its own but solely appears to be used to show that we’re in a different world or a different dimension.
I don’t know if you know this, but DC has a problem with different dimensions and Earths. Even with this being the all-new, all-different, and only one dimension/one timeline DC 52, we’re still somehow left with a bunch of books set in different timelines or alternate realities.
So here we are, the second big book to feature Superman following his box office blast Man of Steel, and what’s the verdict?