Anghus Houvouras reviews the latest issue of Batman/Superman…
“It’s a showdown that could shatter two worlds when Batman and Superman battle the Superman and Batman of Earth 2!”
Some of my earliest comic book memories revolve around reading Worlds Finest. The pairing of the two most iconic characters in the medium, Batman & Superman, teaming up in monthly adventures. For me, as a kid there was nothing more exhilarating than seeing two super heroes paired together making this dynamic world feel wonderfully connected.
Batman and Superman always felt like the most unlikely duo. Superman was an all powerful boy scout with an unyielding faith in his fellow man. Batman exemplified determination; a man forced to endlessly push himself in an never ending battle against the depths of humanity. Their differences is what made World’s Finest Comics so enjoyable and helped fuel some great silver age stories.
The concept was abandoned for a decade after DC decided Batman needed to be isolated. His team ups with Superman in the 1980s and 1990s were entertaining but took on a more antagonistic slant. The concept was brought back to life with the Superman/Batman team up book that tried to find a balance between the chummy stories of the silver age and the more acerbic stories of the modern era.
Now, with the New 52 DC has launched another book attempting to break down the dynamic between the two characters. I’m surprised it took so long. To me, a Batman/Superman book should always exist. Though as I read the first three issues of the newest take on the iconic pairing, it felt like this new start is something of a misfire.
Writer Greg Pak has woven an interesting tale bringing a young Batman and Superman to Earth 2 thanks to a trickster from Apokalips who seems to enjoy chaos. Batman and Superman meet their older, more experienced counterparts while trying to figure out the nature of their enemy.
Earth 2 is a far less chaotic place. Where Superman’s parents are alive and Gotham is more habitable and less of a hellhole. This universe hopping doppelganger scenario is the kind of story a team up book was created for. But Jae Lee’s art, while kind of beautiful, feels minimalistic to a fault.
First, he seems almost incapable of rendering a background. And so many panels are nothing more than monotone silhouettes and a word bubble. In addition to the painfully underdeveloped panels, two of the first three issues have different artists for significant chunks. Stylistically, its distracting. There’s no coherency to the story. Lee’s panels have a surreal, dreamy quality that feels ideal for Sandman or Swamp Thing. Even his best images feel slight for the story being told.
I’ve been praising Marvel Now for finding the right writers and artists and sometimes making unconventional choices. DC seems to be trying that same logic but with less successful results. Pak and Lee are an interesting choice for Batman/Superman, but three issues in, the title has no cohesion. There are glimmers of potential that have yet to be realized. A handful of gorgeous panels that seem better suited for computer monitor wallpaper than epic storytelling.
I’m invested in these characters enough to continue with the title. I hope they find the kind of balance and discover the dynamic that makes the pairing of these two heroes so entertaining.
Batman/Superman gets good marks for effort, but the execution is sloppy. Would it be too much to ask for Jae Lee to complete an entire issue without using a fill in artist? Seriously. Its maddening.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon.