Batman/Superman #4 review

Issues #1-3 of this series weren’t exactly my cup of tea, but nevertheless I got some entertainment out of them. Issue #4, on the other hand, is hard to read for me. Not only do I tend to get bored when I see superheroes fighting each other (an outdated trope that Supergirl in this very issue actually calls out, for better or worse), but I think this book suffers from all sorts of problems besides its tedious reliance on forcing friends to duke it out. Now, I’m not going to waste any more words on this introduction, so let’s just get right down to business, and I’ll explain.

There are some ideas in this issue that I like, but the execution of those ideas isn’t great, and the characters are all but annoying to a point that I really can’t put up with them anymore. Before I go into all that criticism I want to briefly talk about some of the stuff that I do like—even though I’ll end up criticizing even those elements as well.

The idea of BWL whispering into Superman’s mind from afar, because he knows that Superman has his superhearing ability and is focused on him, is a good idea! I like when these demonic entities try to confuse, distract or downright poison heroes by lying to them and taunting them. If done right, this stuff could be powerful and pose a serious threat to our hero. However, since we barely see Superman struggling with any of this stuff, all the panels where BWL talks to Superman feel like a waste because apparently there aren’t any real consequences to it. Sure, Superman is distracted every now and then, but for the most part he seems fine and BWL’s meddling seems like nothing more than an annoyance. Therefore, to me, BWL looks like less of a threat, and that’s exactly what this book doesn’t need if the creative team’s goal is to establish BWL as a scary villain.

Another idea in this book that I think has potential but doesn’t really work very well is that the Secret Six are trying to bring this massive satellite, which belongs to BWL, over to the main DC world. This satellite can apparently target an entire world and infect each and everyone on said world. While this can and should feel like a massive threat against the DCU, I just don’t see how this will work in the main continuity. I doubt that DC Comics will take a huge marketing risk and actually have that satellite infect everyone, save for, perhaps, a handful of heroes, so this plot element just falls flat (unless DC does actually decide to have everyone infected and thereby show how much of a threat of BWL is, but I highly doubt that this comics company will go that far).

Furthermore, I think the dialogue in this comic is mostly bad. Superman has good lines, including an interesting speech in which he talks about how he sometimes gets angry or frustrated and wants to unleash his powers on the world but how he’s disciplined enough to keep himself under control. Through his speech, he also delivers a message of hope because he presents himself as this incorruptible beacon, and, by extension, he can be seen as a role model. That said, I dislike nearly all the dialogue from the Infected characters because I find that they all sound very similar most of the time, like obnoxious brats that are just there to insult others and utter empty threats. Because of this, the Infected characters lose their unique personalities. While I get that the infection will corrupt them to such an extent that they will behave differently and perhaps talk differently, I do think that, as it stands, you could just swap out any of these characters for any other that has a similar powerset, and not even notice the difference. So why does it have to be these characters? Truth be told, to me, it all just seems forced and the story is suffering from this as a result.

In fact, it doesn’t even seem like these Infected characters have well-developed motivations for doing what they do. Them being infected, in and of itself, doesn’t count as a motivation. It’s a condition. To make this more concrete with some examples from the text: we see Gordon getting pissed at Batman for always disappearing on him; we see Sky Tyrant getting pissed at Batman for always planning ahead; and we see Donna attacking Superman in the name of Wally, Dick and Roy and even shouting something about this being the revenge of the Titans, only to then trash-talk Superboy. If any of these lines are meant to hint at motivations or inner struggle, then those motivations would be weak and their struggle would be silly. I’m not even sure if I’m meant to take these lines as jokes, or if I’m supposed to think they are cool, or if I should feel intimidated? The Infected don’t even say anything that advances the story (save for this big exposition dump, courtesy of Gordon, but I’ll get to that in a second). They only manage to make me shake my head in frustration. For these reasons, none of them feel like threats to me and all I want at this point is to see them fall. And that’s not a good thing, because these aren’t villains—these are supposed to be our heroes! We’re supposed to care about them! But right now I’m afraid I don’t give a hoot.

As for Gordon’s exposition dump in which he explains what the Secret Six are trying to accomplish with BWL’s satellite, I’m having mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’ve never bought villains revealing their evil plans to heroes because this, needless to say, just isn’t a very smart thing to do. I’ve only ever enjoyed this kind of stuff in over-the-top, campy stories where villains are hilariously confident and/or flamboyant—a hubris comes before the fall kind of scenario. This comic, however, doesn’t have that vibe at all. Here it just feels like the creative team needed to find a way to relay this information to the reader somehow, and so they have Gordon reveal all this information. Yet, I’m—perhaps naively—hoping that Gordon is telling Batman and Superman all of this because a part of him is fighting the corruption and he wants to help the heroes. Heck, if it turns out that Gordon has been in league with Batman all this time, that could be cool, but somehow I doubt that this will be the case. As it stands, Gordon’s exposition feels unjustified and forced into the script because readers need to know about the threat of the satellite—nothing more, nothing less.

At this point I’ll stop criticizing the script. I have more points in my notes, but there’s only so much negativity that I want to put out there, so let’s just move on to the artwork. David Marquez returns to pencil and ink duties, and, with the bulk of the comic being a massive fight, his art is as dynamic as ever. On every page there’s action. We see characters charging at each other, we see Superman using his heat vision a bunch of times, and characters don’t only fight on the ground but fly as well. So, there’s a lot of visual input to keep your eyes glued to the page.

But Marquez’s greatest work in this issue is his rendition of Superman. The character’s facial expressions, body language and the way he moves and fights are all so distinctly Superman, and imbued with so much personality, that I’m thinking Marquez would be a great fit for a Superman focused series, be it Action Comics, Superman or perhaps a miniseries. The downside to putting so much effort into rendering Superman is that the Infected characters just don’t seem as interesting on a visual level. Just like they all talk similarly, they seem to move in similar ways as well. Donna and Sky Tyrant, for example, are often flying around and bashing everything with their sword and mace. Blue Beetle and Gordon, though their designs and poses are completely different, linger in the background and don’t do much at all. Shazam and Supergirl end up just floating about, looking evil.

Speaking of Supergirl, am I the only one that thinks it’s really weird how her design completely changes the minute she gets infected? Not just her complexion, but even her entire outfit, right down to her hairstyle. I get that characters need to look distinctly evil because superhero comics still rely on characters instantly being recognizable by the audience, but a character going through a complete make-over from the one panel to the next is just weird.

Recommended if…

  • You are just here for Marquez’s cool fight scenes.
  • You don’t mind when DC heroes are turned into annoying fools because of bad dialogue.
  • All you want is to see heroes fighting each other—never mind the villains!

Overall: I don’t like this comic. I think the dialogue is bad, and heroes fighting heroes is an overdone and redundant trope and I’m frankly tired of it. That said, the way Marquez draws Superman is awesome, and his fight scenes are pretty good as well. But all things considered, I recommend skipping this book. I think there are much better comics on stands right now. Batman/Superman #4 just ain’t it.

Score: 4/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.