As Superman busts-up incoming asteroids from above, Batman fights one of Clark’s baddies named Metal-Zero (I don’t know why we aren’t just calling him Metallo anymore, nor do I understand how this was possibly the best character design the New 52 had to offer– “Grid” in Forever Evil looks the way Metallo should). However, it’s soon revealed within those opening pages that Metal-Zero is actually a fake, an avatar connected to a video game produced by The Toy Master and a mysterious woman. Soon, even more players join the “game” and attempt to bring down the Bat.
It’s never really addressed why Toy Master (not to be confused with Toyman, I really loved his look on the Animated Series, those episodes are all available on Amazon streaming by the way) is challenging the Batman OR why Toy Master is now based in Gotham, but it’s a pretty fast-paced and lighthearted story that seems more concerned with action than plot– at least not until the final page when the tone shifts entirely. Until its cliffhanger ending, this comic is one of those where you just shut your brain off and watch your heroes clash with a variety of enemies that wouldn’t crop up in any other way outside of a battle with a shapeshifter or fear-toxin induced dream sequence.
I personally didn’t find the concept of Batman fighting robots controlled by video gamers without any real motivation to be very interesting, but the thing that brought down my enjoyment of the issue the most was that the character voices seemed off. This was odd since writer Greg Pak did a decent job capturing a young Bruce and Clark in the previous arc and I absolutely loved today’s Action Comics #25, which was also written by him. Seeing the modern day Batman and Superman still squabbling like angry teens was off-putting and Batman would never respond to the question “Why did you save her?” with “It’s kind of what I do.” He’s the Dark Knight, not Chandler Bing. A line like that would maybe fit when Grayson was under the cowl but not here, especially after Bruce was portrayed at his most humorless and grumpy in the first half of this issue. But back to the maturity level and lack of character progression, Superman often laments in this issue how Batman often treats him like a kid. For five years they’ve been hanging out and this is still happening? The bond they share doesn’t match up with what we’ve seen elsewhere in comics like Superman Unchained, Justice League (post-Origins), or Trinity War at all.
As for the artwork, Jai Lee is gone and Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, & Andrew Dallhouse (the team from Teen Titans and Nightwing) have taken things over and they’re doing it in very unique fashion. You’ll quickly notice the wide-screen format of this book in which the comic must be held horizontally. I understand this made things difficult for the digital crowd and personally I can’t quite decide if I liked it or not. I know Jeff Lemire did it on occasion with Sweet Tooth, but it seems like that artist took better advantage of the different format. Here we only see its full effects in the split-Batman/Superman pages that juxtaposed what Batman was up to with what Superman was up to. Otherwise, it might as well have been the usual vertical presentation because no other pages really made the wide-effect an integral part of the storytelling. This team’s art was as colorful and kinetic as usual, but a common critique is that Booth has a knack for drawing identical faces and this issue is one of the worst offenders yet. Almost everyone has the exact same face and I’m often reminded of the style from those Youtube videos “How it Should Have Ended.” The odd chibi-effects used on the video gamers really drove the whimsical side of this comic home, but ultimately I found it all kind of cheesy and annoying.
Lastly, the old release schedule for Batman/Superman was a much better idea. Releasing this title on week one really over-saturates the market with these characters. We already have Action Comics, Detective Comics, Forever Evil, Earth 2 (which now has Batman AND Superman back in it), Superman Unchained, and Batman: Black & White coming out on this same day. Saving Batman/Superman for the less-populated end of the month was the way to go.
- You’re a fan of Brett Booth’s artwork
- The wide-screen presentation is pleasing to your eye
- You want something a little more energetic and lighthearted this week
- You like seeing Batman take on Superman’s rogues gallery
- You’ve been looking for a jumping-on point, this is the 1st chapter in an all-new arc
I would describe it as only “mildly entertaining.” It was a very middle-of-the-road issue for me and I didn’t find anything to be terribly engaging but I also didn’t find anything all that bad either. The cliffhanger only left me slightly curious about what’s to come in the next installment.