I’m going to be lenient when grading this one because it’s only the first issue, but I was pretty underwhelmed.
For starters, Batman/Superman #1 is a $3.99 book but you don’t get the same amount of content for your money as you would with any of DC’s other $3.99 titles like Batman or Detective Comics. There’s no back-up included with this, instead the 2 available variant covers are found in the back as bonus material as well as a look at next month’s regular cover. However, the paper stock used for this book appears to be of higher quality than what’s found in other books and it has a glossy cover similar to what was found on the Before Watchmen titles.
Batman/Superman is only 25 pages long and the story is mostly told through the visuals so you’ll breeze through it rather quickly. Most surprisingly, even though this is only the first issue in this series, it actually features a fill-in artist. Headliner, Jae Lee, only completed 18 pages, all of which look fantastic and deserve all the praise they will undoubtedly receive. Lee’s character work and page layouts are gorgeous. He’s able to render lifelike people who emote naturally through body language and facial expressions. The fill-in artist, Ben Oliver (who you may recall from Batwing’s early days) was a brilliant choice to substitute for Jae because Oliver is famous for his photo-realistic characters. However, these artists also have something else in common: a knack for relegating the backgrounds to color hues alone. This style leads to us getting life-like characters who exist in some sort of blank limbo for the majority of the book. This issue in particular takes place in a grey place (Gotham City), a dark blue place (Metropolis), and a yellow place (Smallville). It all comes across rather dreary, but there are some examples in which the backgrounds are given better detail and those pages, well, it’s hard to find anything better. The title page is easily the best example of these worlds actually feeling alive for a change and it’s also a great example of how well Lee can layout a page.
The opening page also gives us a glimpse at a very Tim Burton-esque Gotham City.
The following pages actually take place at a park that looks like something out of Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands. and the abstract squiggles of park benches and dead branches are used to cut through the bleak backdrop.
So now that you have a good idea of what sort of visuals are in store for you and how much comic book you get for your money, let’s talk about what writer Greg Pak brought to the table…
I have no idea where to start when talking about the story.
This is one of those chapters that you can’t really appreciate until you read the following chapter. I really can’t stress that enough. I honestly have no idea what happened in this comic for the most part and I suspect I won’t ever know what it is I saw until the next issue comes about. It ends in a cliffhanger with a lot of unanswered questions so that the reader is just as confused as Superman. That’s the point and it’s effective, but it also doesn’t exactly leave me feeling like that was $3.99 well spent either.
It’s the early days when Batman and Superman were at the start of their careers and had never met (it’s still not clear how this story will jive with what we saw in Justice League #1, but let’s not worry about that now). Clark is in Gotham to cover a story and he must confront Bruce Wayne to get the answers he needs. The inquiry alerts Bruce to a possible conspiracy which will lead him back to Metropolis as the Batman where he will, as you can guess, run into Superman. Throughout all of this we jump back and forth between the inner thoughts of Batman and Superman, which can get confusing because the colors used to denote who is thinking (dark blue and grey) are both commonly associated with Batman. One thing that struck me as odd, and you’ll notice this by the large collage I posted a few paragraphs ago, is that when Bruce thinks back on his life he only talks about his father. He’s even shown in that collage to be holding tightly onto his father’s arm while his mother lies in her own private puddle of blood a couple feet away. This was a problem that the Nolan movies had as well– no attention given to Martha Wayne. She actually only had one line in Batman Begins, if you recall. The other Martha, Martha Kent, is also not given much mention here. Instead we only look back fondly on the fathers.
It’s after we visit Metropolis that things get confusing, but I believe all of this will make more sense when we get issue #2. I hope so, anyway.
The artwork is going to blow a lot of people away even if the artist couldn’t finish the entire book. However, the story itself is sporadic and poses a lot of unanswered questions that will leave readers confused until issue #2 comes out next month. Lastly, $3.99 for only 25 pages of content is upsetting. You’ll be done reading this comic in no time at all and if you’re like me, you won’t exactly be upset but you’ll be scratching your head and wishing the next installment was out already so you could make a better judgment of what it was you just read.