Group Review: Batman/Superman #1

Welcome to our second big DC group review. Batman/Superman might just be one of DC’s biggest titles since the reboot of the entire company. Obviously there have been other big titles this year like Justice League of America, but this is definitely the biggest since. Each of the writers/reviews of Comic Bastards is going to give their opinion on the issue, but then also a score of one of the following: Buy, Borrow or Pass. Before that, here’s a blurb from DC about the issue: A new epic begins with the debut of this new, ongoing series! Don’t miss the first fateful meeting of Batman and Superman in The New 52.

Oh wait… yeah, no, the description tells us nothing so you may as well read the preview here.

BMSM_Cv1_dsJustin: Borrow

'Batman/Superman' serves as an origin story to the relationship between the 52's version of the duo, which immediately begs the question of what new is done with it? While admirably performed by talented writer Greg Pak, the book doesn't exactly make a convincing case for being a fresh take on one of comic's oldest and most well tread partnerships. Batman is cynical, Superman is naïve and they both start hating each other; did you expect anything else? Introductions of an arc featuring a mind controller and crossed eras tease the future, but besides some nice touches by Pak depicting the internal dialogues of Clark and Bruce nothing here compels my interest to see what comes next. Without the participation of superstar cover artist Jae Lee and colorist June Chung, whose art-nouveau inspired pages twist and yawn with gothic alien beauty, I wouldn't be inspired to pick up a second issue. Like “Superman Unchained” DC seems to be starting a 52 tradition of highly hyped books the pair great writers and great artists to tell stories that at first glance seem to be casually forgettable.

Ed: Buy

I've been pretty down on DC for a while; they've cancelled my favorite of their comics well before its time and I've been less than convinced by some of the most hyped of their recent comics. Fortunately this first issue of Batman/Superman has bucked the trend and left me hungry for more. Greg Pak has delivered an intriguing opening to the story, with the tight pacing and firm grasp of character I've come to expect from his highly enjoyable run on The Incredible Hulk and enough action and dramatic to satisfy most readers' desire for cathartic conflict. On the relative strength of each first issue I'm much more exited for Pak's Batman/Superman than I am for Superman Unchained or the "Zero Year" arc in Batman.

In spite of my high praise, this comic is not flawless. Jae Lee's art is as phenomenal as ever, his dramatic layouts and uniquely poised, flowing style of drawing lends a sense of mythic grandeur to the page that few artists could match but disappointingly the final seven story pages are drawn by Ben Oliver, an extremely talented artist whose only failing is that he unfortunately suffers from 'not being Jae Lee' syndrome. It's also worth mentioning that the issue ends on a cliffhanger with the potential to confuse some readers. Regardless of those complaints there's plenty here for DC fans to get excited about.

BMSM_Cv1B_SM_varKevin: Buy

I’m not going to lie, I have no idea what’s going on in this book--some demon thing possessing heroes with high power levels? Sure, I’ll take it. The dialog and inner thoughts from the two heroes was refreshing. Sure it’s an old trick but somehow it feels new here with Bats and Sups sizing each other and their situations up. So hats off to Greg Pak for that.  But we all know why this book is awesome; it’s Jae Lee’s art, because it is beyond incredible.  He has an amazing style and it’s the crown jewel on this book!

Carl: Pass

The New 52 get their revamp of the World's Greatest Duo coming together for the first time.  Again.

Clark Kent goes to Gotham to investigate the deaths of Wayne Enterprises employees.  He runs into Bruce Wayne, and gossips all about the problems to the in-disguise billionaire.  Bruce dons the cowl to find Catwoman attacking a different employee.  Something's different about Catwoman.  Before Batman can find out Superman bursts in and wrecks the place.  The Man of Steel gets teleported by the cosmic force possessing Catwoman.  Now in an alternate version of Smallville, Superman fights a different version of Batman.

I wish Jim Lee did the pencils on this book.  Jae Lee's art seems too splashy and erratic.  I did, however, like the panel breaks that looked like 1920's bordering.  This insinuated the wealth-in-disguise motif surrounding Batman.  The story feels like the same format when these two heroes cross paths.  They fight, they realize each other is a good guy, and then they team up to beat the villain.  Nothing so far has deviated from this formula.  So this is all stuff we've seen before.

I do think DC happens to be the superior publisher, but this book is far from impressive.

Steve: Buy

I dunno about you guys, but it’s taken me a hot minute to absorb and internally distill this book. I’ve been looking forward to Batman/Superman since I first heard the name of the artist attached. I’d been familiar with Jae Lee for a while, but it was only after a friend convinced me to read The Dark Tower series that I truly fell for his stuff. In that story, the gorgeous, grotesque gnarl of his style fit perfectly, but I wasn’t sure it would fit a book called Batman/Superman. And the fact is, I’m still not sure, even after having read it.

Don’t get me wrong, the title page layout (which is also admirably succinct) is nothing short of spectacular, while others, like Batman’s explosive entrance and battle with subterranean robot doll ... things ... deserve to be framed and admired with free wine and cheese squares somewhere. But I guess for me, while it’s not unusual to see Batman swallowed by atmosphere, it’s just strange seeing a more sinewy sort of Superman erupting through the omnipresent haze Lee conjures across his pages. I think I’ll get used to the tandem, as its amazing stuff, but it’s also pretty damn jarring.

The story by Pak is just as discombobulating as the art, jumping not only throughout time, but dimensions as well, eventually mixing up the young heroes with their counterparts on Earth 2. There’s a lot of Superman vs. Batman in this book (as you’d imagine), and whether it’s a fight or characterization, Pak handles both extremely well. I particularly like the moment Clark and Bruce meet - the way they handle that situation is so indicative of their characters. It’s sharp, tight storytelling, although some does go in direct contrast to some pretty major New 52 continuity, and that’s before the story unravels into a fractured, almost abstract thing. However, if you can ignore any gaps and wait for the dust to settle, you’ll reach an end point that suitably arouses the curiosity for another issue. That’s not to mention the “villain” of this book: a chaotic, dimension-hopping, impish little fellow who ... waitaminute!!

Look, I’m not sure where this is going, and so far this story feels frenetic and very oddly-knit, but you know what? I’m giving it a buy. It’s like a dream - you can’t explain it; good or bad, it's just one of those things you have to experience for yourself...

BMSM_Cv1A_BM_varConnor: Pass

I go on about issue ones a lot and their importance, so instead of dragging on I'll just say it now, issue ones are important in grabbing the attention of people and to convince us what they have is good. Honestly I wasn't grabbed by this at all the storytelling just felt so messy that I wasn't intrigued, instead of being curious about how things would unfold I was deterred. I honestly can't recommend this I mean the art looked pretty decent most of the time but the execution of the story, no.

Dustin: Borrow

I would have loved to give this a buy, but it was so generic and uninteresting that I just can’t. I felt like I’ve read this story a million times before and while it’s probably great for a casual reader that’s never read a team up book or a Batman/Superman title prior to the New 52, for a veteran comic reader it didn’t make the cut. The biggest mistake that this issue makes is not lining up with the rest of the universe. We know how Batman and Superman met, it was in the first issue of Justice League, you know the first issue of the New 52.

What really upset me was the thing I knew would happen; didn’t take six issue, it didn’t take three issues; it took only one issue for Jae Lee to bail out on the art. No offense to Ben Oliver, but he’s not Jae Lee and while his art is good when you put it side by side with Lee’s; Lee wins every time. Granted Jae Lee’s art is incredibly detailed, which is why you start the project well in advance so he doesn’t fall behind. He was able to finish books at Marvel, funny that he can’t at DC. Lee is the only reason I’m giving this book a “borrow” so that you can see his gorgeous pages otherwise I would skip it altogether and doubt that I will return.

Jordan: Buy

There is something extra cool about Batman/Superman #1. I wrote last week about an issue of a comic that I loved because an obscure character that I’d seen first in a movie was headlining it. And that made me feel that there was continuity in this universe that it was multi-dimensional, and that stories were happening in it that I hadn’t heard yet and some that perhaps I never will. Well since seeing Christopher Nolan (and Zack Snyder) tackle Superman a couple weeks back I was excited by the possibilities, the possibilities for the first time one day seeing the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel together on screen for the same time in the same universe.

For now I’ll have to settle for this comic book. Well, settle really isn’t the right term considering this comic book is amazing. It was the first time in a long time I’d seen these characters together. And since Man of Steel just came out it felt like watching them adventure around in a world now touching in the realm of cinema. I geeked, I whooped. Everything, down from the classic 'inside both their heads' bit that’s become customary in a Batman/Superman comic to looks of the heroes, their fighting styles, their cities. This creative team does a hell of a job. I was a bit confused on the whole time travel bit but so was Batman which makes it okay. The New 52 is such a dodgy subject for comic consumers, and often it has let us down. The throw was long and deep on this one but Greg Pak, Jae Lee and Ben Oliver manage a hell of a catch for the touchdown.

Score: 4 Buys, 2 Borrows and 2 Passes

Writer: Greg Pak

Artist: Jae Lee

Publisher: DC Comics

Price: $3.99

Release Date: 6/26/13