The first issue of Batman/Superman ended with our heroes stepping in the Batman Who Laughs’ cave and encountering an infected Shazam. This second issue, after a brief intro page, drops us into the middle of the battle between our heroes and Shazam. It’s a fast and entertaining read, but can it also be considered a must-read? Let’s not waste any more time and have a look.
First of all, if you are hoping to find out more about the Secret Six and what role they are going to play in this series, well, there’s still no mention of them. It seems like the opening page is supposed to be a setup for the Secret Six stuff, but it’s very brief and mysterious. The rest of the comic is all about Batman and Superman trying to defeat Shazam and then coming up with a plan to stop the Batman Who Laughs. In other words, so far this comic appears to have nothing to do with the Secret Six, so I hope that the creative team will start building that story in the next issue. I can imagine some readers feeling somewhat cheated if the Six don’t show up soon.
Other than that, this issue does offer a lot of entertainment. Particularly the fight scene is a lot of fun. The page layouts during the fight scene are very dynamic: we see our heroes flying across larger panels and smaller panels, and the different panel sizes are strategically chosen. For example, there is a large vertical panel that is used to show how a character flies into the air at super-speed, and smaller panels are used to zoom in on facial expressions. Combined, these elements create a fast pace while still leaving room for personal and emotional touches, which enriches the overall experience. David Marquez’s character work is also on point: like in the first issue, he just about nails the character proportions, and rather than drawing his characters in cool poses just for the sake of cool poses, it’s clear that he thinks about the positioning of the characters and why they strike certain poses. For example, Superman lifts up his arm to ward off some of Shazam’s lightning, but he looks cool while doing it. And later on Superman flies at Shazam and grabs him by the throat, and he still looks cool while doing it. In short, there is a functionality to the way that Marquez draws his characters and it’s not all style over substance.
However, as great as the art is, I think the writing could still use a bit of work. The first thing I notice is how juvenile Batman and Superman sound sometimes, especially when they are arguing with each other. These two are grown men and they have been working together as the World’s Finest as well as on the Justice League. You’d think they would be a little bit more in tune with each other, but before they focus on their mission and figure things out together, they need to get past a lot of unnecessary friction. I understand that the theme of trust issues is important for this arc, but I don’t think that it should make Batman and Superman look like a pair of headbutting teenagers.
I’m also not too impressed with the dialogue. There are various clunky lines throughout the book. For example this line on the first page: “every single lunatic at Arkham’s toys are safe.” What makes it especially jarring is that, on first reading, you might think the line is about “every single lunatic at Arkham,” whereas it turns out to be about those lunatics’ “toys.” Editorial should have caught this jarring line, but somehow it made its way into the final draft. And there are more lines like that. For example this one, uttered by Shazam: “You come at me with toys, son? You’re just some dude in a halloween costume, Batman.” If the word [son] had been cut, at least these lines would have flowed a little bit better. Besides, I doubt anybody actually talks like this. One more thing I noticed about the dialogue is that it’s completely unrealistic that characters are able to say as much as they do during the fight scene. There’s a moment where Batman flies at Shazam with the batplane, and he leaps from the plane through the air and then stabs a batarang into Shazam’s shoulder. This probably doesn’t take longer than a few seconds, and yet Batman and Shazam find the time to have a little back-and-forth that, realistically speaking, should last longer than a few seconds.
The characterization, aside from the aforementioned bickering between Batman and Superman, is also slightly off at times. For example, Superman grabs Shazam’s throat while they are flying in the air. Shazam then transforms back into Billy and tricks Superman into thinking that the real, uncorrupted Billy is still there, and Superman immediately buys into it. On the one hand, I understand that this says something about Superman’s goodwill and how he’s willing to give Billy the benefit of the doubt—this is what separates Superman from a lot of his fellow superheroes. However, he’s in the middle of an epic battle, so it just seems naive and way too convenient that Superman instantly falls for Shazam’s trick, especially because this scene is so brief.
Then there’s the moment where Bruce wakes up in the Fortress of Solitude. He appears to be confused at first, and he pretty much destroys Kelex—Superman’s robot. I don’t see why this needs to happen. It doesn’t add much to the story and it’s not very believable either. Batman should be able to recognize Kelex on time and decide not to attack. It’s not like this is Batman’s first time visiting the Fortress of Solitude, and Batman should also be smart and quick enough to be able to control his own actions.
There’s one last thing that I also find questionable, which I explain below in the spoiler tags:
While there’s quite a bit to criticize in this issue, the cliffhanger does make me excited about what’s coming next. I just hope that what’s about to happen won’t end up being too similar to Scott Snyder and Jock’s The Batman Who Laughs miniseries, but I do like Williams’ angle. If executed right, this could make for a compelling arc, especially if you factor in the Secret Six—whenever they show up, that is.
- You want to see that epic fight scene between Batman/Superman and Shazam!
- David Marquez’s pencils and Alejandro Sanchez’s colors—nuff said.
Overall: This issue truly is entertaining and it has beautiful art, but the writing isn’t entirely up to par. At times, the dialogue is clunky, the characterization iffy and some of the plot beats underdeveloped. There is also still no mention of the Secret Six and so far this arc doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Secret Six. All in all, this series has a rocky start, but I’m optimistic: the cliffhanger has a lot of potential and with this only being the second issue, the creative team still has time to course correct. I recommend that you wait and see how the reviews are for the next issue, though.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.