It’s the team-up you never asked for, featuring the status quo changes that nobody wanted! In a stroke of uncannily bad fortune, Bruce Wayne has died and Superman has lost most of his power and had his secret identity exposed at what is effectively the exact same time. But what happens when the new Batman and Superboythe depowered Superman come face to face? Can they learn to trust each other as the World’s Finest once did? Can they take on the sorts of threats that previously tested the limits of the Man of Steel and the World’s Greatest Detective? Will anyone care?

What’s included?

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Batman/Superman vol. 5 collects Greg Pak’s final seven issues on this title, comprising the entirety of this book’s contribution to the “Truth” and “Savage Dawn” story arcs. Here’s what’s inside:

  • “Truth Hurts Part One”, from Batman/Superman #21, originally published in June of 2015; written by Greg Pak, with pencils by Ardian Syaf, inks by Vicente Cifuentes, colors by Ulises Arreola, letters by Rob Leigh, and cover art by Syaf, Danny Miki, and Arreola
  • “Truth Hurts Part Two”, from Batman/Superman #22, originally published in July of 2015; written by Greg Pak, with pencils by Ardian Syaf, inks by Vicente Cifuentes, colors by Dean White, Beth Sotelo, and Blond, letters by Rob Leigh, and cover art by Syaf, Danny Miki, and Ulises Arreola
  • “Truth Hurts Part Three”, from Batman/Superman #23, originally published in August of 2015; written by Greg Pak, with pencils by Ardian Syaf, inks by Vicente Cifuentes, colors by Beth Sotelo, letters by Rob Leigh, and cover art by Syaf, Danny Miki, and Ulises Arreola
  • “Truth Hurts Part Four”, from Batman/Supeman #24, originally published in September of 2015; written by Greg Pak, with pencils by Ardian Syaf, Yildiray Cinar, and Howard Porter, inks by Vicente Cifuentes, Cinar, and Porter, colors by Dean White and Beth Sotelo, letters by Rob Leigh, and cover art by Aaron Kuder, Klaus Janson, and White
  • “Savage Hunt”, from Batman/Superman #25, originally published in October of 2015; written by Greg Pak, with art by Cliff Richards, colors by Beth Sotelo, letters by Rob Leigh, and cover art by Francis Manapul
  • “Teamwork”, from Batman/Superman #26, originally published in November 2015; written by Greg Pak, with pencils by Ardian Syaf and Cliff Richards, inks by Vicente Cifuentes and Richards, colors by Beth Sotelo, letters by Rob Leigh, and cover art by Cary Nord
  • “Trust”, from Batman/Superman #27, originally published in December 2015; written by Greg Pak, with art by Cliff Richards and Jack Herbert, colors by Beth Sotelo and Wil Quintana, letters by Rob Leigh, and cover art by Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn

The truth does hurt

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When Bruce Wayne died—sort of—at the end of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Endgame, he left a hole. That hole was filled with a GCPD program that ultimately saw former Commissioner Jim Gordon get ripped and patrol the streets of Gotham in a large, robot bunnybat suit. At the same time, Superman mysteriously lost most of his power and had his secret identity exposed by Lois Lane. This book is the collected adventures of the new “Batman” and the de-powered Superman. They begin by tracking some suspicious activity from the Dawn Command, only to discover that someone far more dangerous lurks in the shadows, and may well be responsible for all of Superman’s recent woes.

I’ll be honest: the so-called DC You initiative that spawned the stories in this collection was a huge disappointment for me. While Snyder and Capullo did a good job at telling a story I didn’t want to read, the Superman family of books did a shoddy job at telling a story that had no organic origin. Coming off of what might have been the best Superman run in The New 52—Geoff Johns’ too-short stint—the “Truth”/”Savage Dawn” crossover arbitrarily robbed Clark of his power and then left creative teams on four books to struggle through writing stories that justified this change in status quo. Some attempts were better than others, but ultimately, it was an idea that interrupted and then dictated story, rather than an idea that sprung naturally from the work that had preceded it. Batman/Superman vol. 5 isn’t quite the worst of it—for me, that prize goes to Superman/Wonder Woman from the same time period—but it is nonetheless a difficult book to read, filled with artistic inconsistencies, awkward dialogue, and excessive introspection in the caption boxes.

The early chapters document Clark and Jim’s first experiences with each other, and while their circumstances are interesting, their interactions run on an infinite loop of Clark thinking he can still hack it as Superman and Jim telling him (and himself) that while Clark means well, he’s only making things worse. The second arc of the book leaves Batman out until its final installment, but Pak ropes in some other members of the Bat-family for no reason that makes sense to me (Babs was tracking him, but we don’t get any great justification for why she was tracking him). This just makes the dialogue worse, as Pak attempts to sprinkle in lines for each character that quickly identify them as their typical selves (they also have color-coordinated snow clothes).

The best artwork in the collection comes from Ardian Syaf, whose figures and action sequences are generally pretty solid. Unfortunately, his layouts are almost entirely close up and without background detail, and he very rarely attempts an establishing shot to place us in any particular location. To make matters worse, several of Syaf’s contributions have multiple inkers and colorists, such that the work of this one artist ends up looking dramatically different on consecutive pages.

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Where the heck are they?

Things are perhaps worse when Cliff Richards is on pencils. His background detail is certainly better, but his figures are odd-looking and his use of shadow is most-often bizarre, and I had a devil of a time focusing on the story when he was telling it.

Bonus Material

After the story’s over, you’ll find a variant cover gallery. There are a few gems in there, like Jock’s Joker and the Sylvester and Tweetie tribute to The Dark Knight Returns.

Value: Dirt Cheap

At time of writing, this is only available in hardcover, and Amazon is asking almost eighteen bucks. You shouldn’t buy this book, but if you must, wait until you can get it for a whole lot cheaper.

Overall

When you start with a forced idea, and then impose that forced idea on a four-book line of titles, the chances of a satisfactory outcome are slim to none. As indifferent as I’ve been to most of Greg Pak’s work on Batman/Superman, this is the first time where I’ve felt like he was phoning it in. And while I wouldn’t say the same of the artists, there are simply too many of them, even within single installments, to make any sort of consistency possible. This book is as apt a testament as any to the failure of DC You’s Superman experiments, and I’m glad that it stretches no further than this single volume.

SCORE: 3.5/10

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