Last issue ended in grand fashion as Wonder Woman swooped in on a Pegasus to dispatch the evil Trickster (a phantom figure associated with Darkseid, who you can see on the cover of the book so I don’t count that as a spoiler) and she apparently killed Lois Lane (who was at the time possessed by Trickster) in the process. With Wonder Woman ready to wrap her lasso of truth around the Trickster it seemed as though answers would be sure to come in issue #3, but unfortunately they haven’t.

The story so far is that this Trickster grabbed the Earth Prime Batman and Superman at the beginning of their crime-fighting careers and warped them to Earth 2 where they would meet their more seasoned counterparts. We’re three issues into this story now and it’s still not clear why (and if we can believe any of the exposition she does spout since she’s, ya know, The Trickster) and I find that to be a problem. In this issue we learn that Darkseid is up to something big

Spoiler
and the NSA has plans involving large magnifier crystal that can amplify the power of kryptonite (or am I totally off-base there?)
but other than that nothing is really coming together and I feel just as confused as Earth Prime Superman. I’m sure it’ll all make sense in the upcoming issues and work fine in a graphic novel format, but I’m starting to tap my foot restlessly at this point for things to move along. On another negative note (I’m going to get the bad stuff out of the way now because there’s something really positive that I want to get to so bear with me) there is a really pointless action scene the final pages of this comic that just didn’t work at all both story-wise and artistically. I’ll address that in some spoiler tags:

Spoiler

Author Greg Pak does a phenomenal job expressing just how close the bond is between Earth 2 Batman and Superman and then he follows that scene up with Batman firing kryptonite missiles at Superman because he doesn’t want Superman to crash the NSA and get hurt by whatever crystal project they are working on. He’s looking out for Superman’s own good, but still… as I say to my niece and nephew, “Use your words.” It’s Superman and we see time and time again in this issue how ridiculously heightened his senses are so Earth 2 Batman could easily fly alongside Superman and whisper the facts from the cockpit. Superman would understand and then they could go park the batwing and formulate a plan together as pals. Instead he fires rockets housing the one thing that can kill his best friend and incites a battle that destroys his plane! That was just a really dumb scene that appears to exist only to have action for the sake of action. This could have been more forgivable if the action was visually engaging at all, but it isn’t.

Far and away my biggest problem is something I’m well aware I’m in the minority on and that’s Jae Lee’s art. I think that Jae Lee is phenomenal for some things but a Batman and Superman adventure comic is not one of them. He has a style that lends itself more to covers where things are all perfectly staged like a Norman Rockwell painting. He does static, poster-worthy imagery better than almost anyone else in the business and can come up with really creative layouts, but action? Globe-trotting adventure? Jae Lee’s art is not great for action because everyone is so stiff. There’s nothing kinetic about it. We travel to all of these fantastic locales in this story and yet Jae Lee is an artist who doesn’t draw backgrounds! We never get a sense of where we are other than a solid background color and maybe some clouds or something and that renders traveling pointless because now the story only takes place in blue place, yellow place, and pink place and I find that boring. Skipping backgrounds here or there to add emphasis to something important to the story happening in the foreground is perfectly fine and downright necessary in many cases but to do 90% of a comic like that is a drag. He’s not a good fit in my opinion. Often times the shading is so extreme that it’s difficult to tell who is who. The Batmen of Earth Prime and Earth 2 are almost always drawn in silhouette so it takes a moment to look for the finer details that separate them and understand who is speaking or fighting which Superman. I think he’s very talented but not what we need for the greatest superhero pairing in all of comic books. The covers are cool, the big panels that show off Darkseid or some other character in an iconic pose are great and look artistically different from what you’ll find in almost any other book and that’s wonderful and all, but when the action starts the imagery becomes awkward and boring for me. This became all the more apparent when fill-in artist Yildiray Cinar took over for 2 flashback sequences.

The flashback to the first time Earth 2 Bruce and Earth 2 Clark met is my favorite moment this month and one of my favorite moments from this entire year in any bat-title. It’s the part of this book that made me feel terrible about awarding the comic anything lower than an 8/10. How could I give it anything lower than that when I loved it this much? I want to give it a 10 but I just have way too many complaints about everything else that happened in this issue. But the flashback to Earth 2 Bruce’s luxury car breaking down in Smallville? That. Was. Perfection. I had a smile on my face the whole time as I saw these two lonely children find a friend to play with. For so long in the grand mythology of these characters they’ve been shown as being so alone until they put on their capes and to see them form a bond as children bringing happiness to each other’s lives was immensely touching. It’s the sort of thing that would make Kevin Smith cry, that’s for sure! I know I kind of feel like tearing up just talking about it. And the artwork! I enjoy it so much more than Lee’s pages because of the detail. Background! Movement! Expressive faces! Smallville felt so charming and full of life with this perfect blend of pencil, ink, and color and I never wanted to leave.

The flashback scenes in this book are worth the price alone. Must-reading, that.

Recommended If…

  • You like JL8
  • You’re a fan of Jae Lee’s artwork
  • The idea of seeing a young Pa Kent and Alfred Pennyworth hanging out makes you smile

Overall

I don’t think Jae Lee is the right fit for this book, the actual Earth 2/Darkseid plot could pick up the pace, and some action scenes were really pointless but the flashback to the first time Earth 2 Bruce and Clark met is must-reading. Absolute must-reading. That portion of the book is beautifully written by Greg Pak and beautifully illustrated by Yildiray Cinar, who I would rather see draw the entire comic.

SCORE: 8/10