This is the first chapter of the 5-part crossover, Super Sons of Tomorrow. The issue is fast paced, full of action, and sets the stage for the rest of the arc (which runs through Super Sons #11, Teen Titans #15, Superman #38 and Super Sons #12). Now, I’ll go ahead and say this up front: although there are some problems with the script in terms of dialogue, this issue features strong artwork and offers an entertaining blend of both Batman and Superman.
For those interested, I wrote about the covers as well, because I believe they’re as much part of the product as the interiors. It’s in the spoiler tag.
Cover B (by Jonboy Meyers) depicts Tim Drake of Tomorrow, holding a gun straight to the reader’s face. The colors are mostly muted, but here, too, the color red returns in the blood-painted Superman symbol on the wall. On the whole, the coloring looks rather flat here as well, and I would’ve liked to see some more sense of depth. It’s also a bit of a standard-looking cover, with (a version of) Batman in the center looking mean. Other than that it’s well drawn, just not a stand-out cover.
First of all, what we have here is a full-on fight comic. It’s brutal, bloody, disorienting and maintains a fast pace throughout. Because of this, the issue is fairly simplistic in structure, giving us essentially two rounds: during the first we see Bruce Wayne battling Tim Drake of Tomorrow, and the second round shows Tim versus Superman. Yes, that’s right, Tim Drake of Tomorrow—who was the main antagonist of A Lonely Place of Living, a 4-parter told in Detective Comics #965-968—makes a violent return in this issue. This immediately raises questions of how he came back to the present day DC Universe, and for what reason exactly.
Since the comic’s really only about a lengthy brawl, it’s safe to say that the story is first and foremost told through visuals, and not so much by the writing itself. In fact, I’d argue that the dialogue is the weakest part of the issue (and that’s coming from a big Tomasi fan). The main problem that I have with the dialogue is that the characters are talking way too much during combat, which is something that always bugs me whenever I see it (and something I will tirelessly keep on pointing out). Especially during the Bruce/Tim section, we see them running, jumping, rolling, and throwing each other straight through walls. Simply put, it’s not at all realistic for them to have a dialogue during such heavy physical exercise. When you are in the midst of a visceral, messy fight, you need to concentrate on your breathing to stay on your feet, and keep focusing on your enemy so as not to get your ass kicked. Not only does talking distract both combatants, it is downright impossible.
Now, of course this is a superhero comic and not everything needs to be realistic. But even though I might agree with that, the dialogue still doesn’t work for me on an aesthetic level. Firstly, the lines that Bruce and Tim are saying to each other add nothing to further the plot—all they do is verbally roast each other as they go along and therefore it’s all rather pointless (text can still be aesthetically pleasing if it’s well-written; however, this just reads like two angry kids yelling at each other). Secondly, the speech bubbles distract from the visuals. This fight would have had way more impact if our eyes weren’t constantly halted by the bubbles while trying to follow the sequential art.
The dialogue works somewhat better during the Superman section, if only because the combatants sometimes pause during the fight, and therefore actually have some room for talking. Yet, despite there being these moments, the exact same problem from the Bruce/Tim sequence continues as we still find Superman and Tim talking at the wrong moments. But the problems don’t end there.
Before the actual battle between Tim and Superman breaks loose, we see Superman rebuilding the statues of his parents in the Fortress of Solitude. Superman is talking to Kelex during the process, and explaining why the statues had been destroyed in the first place (see: The Oz Effect in Action Comics #987-991). But to be honest I don’t see the added value of this exposition dump either, story-wise. If you ask me, this could have been left out entirely, as Superman really doesn’t need a specific reason to be in the Fortress—it’s his home, after all. At the beginning of the issue we saw Bruce simply reading a book; Clark could easily have been doing something similar. I mean, it’s nice to reference continuity every now and then, but let’s face it: the only reason these panels are included is so DC Comics can advertise an arc from another series; it adds next to nothing to this arc, however.
As for the artwork, well, I got nothing but praise! It’s incredible and completely steals the show—not only because the dialogue is so weak, but it’s clear that the guys in the art department were giving this everything they had, and then some. If you are a big fan of sequential art that’s expertly rendered, then look no further. This comic’s got it.
Jiminez is a master when it comes to sequential art. During the fight scenes, every panel lines up perfectly before the next. They’re placed in such a way that if you follow along, the visuals almost come alive, creating a sense of motion. For example, if we look at page 3, we first see Tim coming in with a flying kick, hitting Bruce square in the chest. The next panel shows Bruce crashing down on the floor, with Tim immediately charging at him, keeping the energy levels high. The third panel depicts a close-up, with Tim’s boot pounding down on Bruce’s face, and blood flying from Bruce’s mouth, before the man even has had time to get on his feet. In panel four, Tim has lifted Bruce off the floor, ready to throw him. (I suppose it would have been nice, at this point, if a small panel was squeezed in to show Tim actually grabbing Bruce to make the sequence complete. But the dust rising from the floor still manages to give us a sense of motion, and I’m sure most people in the audience can fill in the gap.) Panel five, though, really hammers home what makes this sequence so great. Tim has thrown Bruce, and Bruce is crashing into a wall in the lower left corner of the panel. Back in panel four, Tim has lifted Bruce in the upper right corner of the panel. This way, if you slide your eyes from Bruce in panel four to Bruce in panel five, it’s like you can really follow the trajectory of his unfortunate flight. Take a look at the image below to see what I mean:
What’s more, if you’re one of the readers that’s been wanting to see Bruce Wayne showcasing his martial arts mastery, you have nothing to worry about. While the above description possibly makes it look like Bruce just gets manhandled for the umpteenth time (I’m looking at you, ‘Tec), I assure you this occurs only at the beginning of the fight when Tim still has the element of surprise. Seriously, though the blows that the characters deal each other are powerful, they keep getting up and fighting on. It’s brutal and exciting and the two of them really are a match for one another. They have each other sweating and bleeding and groaning, and give this fight all that they have. The coolest part is that Bruce isn’t even wearing his Bat-suit, but a shirt and jeans instead—it goes to show that Batman is far more than just the costume.
But I still want to raise two points of critique about the art. Firstly, it isn’t entirely clear to me where Tim, before crashing into Wayne Manor, came from. We can see him soaring in the sky, but does this mean he leaped from a plane? This doesn’t take away from the fun, but it does make the fight’s prelude somewhat questionable. Secondly, while the fight scene in Wayne Manor starts off great, there comes a point where it seems to transition from flowing fisticuffs to a montage. For instance, we see a panel where Bruce raises a TV set, followed by another showing Tim picking up a clock, in turn followed by them duking it out on the staircase. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the one hand you could say that it’s somewhat annoying, and that the art is perhaps losing some of its momentum. On the other hand you could argue that this adds to the chaotic, disorienting nature of the fight. This is about two opponents completely focused on each other, with their surroundings completely fading into the background. They are trashing the house, but they’re too caught up in the fight to care. So, this montage effect can be seen as a good or bad thing, depending on the lens through which you look at it.
Sanchez’s colors mash well with Jiminez’s pencils and inks. It really looks like the visuals are one whole. For instance, if we look at page 2 we see Tim crashing through a window in typical Batman fashion. Thanks to the colors, there’s a believable sense of depth, and it’s really as if the glass shards, as well as Tim, are leaping not just through the window, but right off the page. Sanchez also manages to create a nicely unique tone for both the Batman and Superman sequences. The Batman sequence is dark and moody with more muted colors, whereas the Superman sequence is bright and shimmering. Just by looking at the colors alone you can instantly tell which character is taking center stage, and not just because of the white snowy mountains versus the shadowy Wayne Manor. It’s the way that the characters’ color schemes are rendered that adds significantly to this.
Lastly, I’d like to address the depiction of Tim Drake, as some readers out there might have questions about this. In my opinion, where he came off as a rather generic bad guy (and total jerk) in Detective Comics, he does read like a believable future and desperate version of Tim Drake here. The way he defeats Batman is also much easier to buy than the way it went down in Detective, because at the very least this actually was a fight.
[Spoiler]That said, I don’t much care for the way he defeats Superman. I never liked it when a character can trap an opponent in a force field, as it relies on the opponent (Superman in this case) to step precisely on the right spot at the right moment to get captured in the force field. Had Superman been flying or walking around the force field’s emitter, for instance, this plan would have failed. As it stands it seems too convenient to me.[/spoiler]
You love sequential art done well
You enjoy extended fight scenes
You want to see Bruce Wayne being absolutely bad-ass
While there are a few moments where I’m questioning some of the writing, the pacing and action is on point and doesn’t slow down. The fight is in your face, and Jiminez manages to characterize Bruce, Clark and Tim through their body language alone. Honestly, I haven’t been this excited about artwork in a long time. And that’s saying something, because I had not expected the art to totally steal the show if one of my favorite writers in comics is actually on script duties.