Batman/Superman #5 review

If you’ve been following my reviews on this series, you will probably have noticed that the overall score has gone down from issue to issue. You may also have noticed that I’ve had similar complaints throughout the series so far. It’s no different for this issue. I don’t think this is a particularly good comic, and if I wasn’t reviewing this, I would not be reading it. Here’s why. SPOILERS!

I can’t deal with this kind of dialogue. Not only is more than half of it hollow speech that doesn’t really add to character development or plot progression, it’s also riddled with exposition that bogs down the storytelling. Now, exposition is a tool to use and I’m by no means saying that this is bad in and of itself, but not once in this issue is it properly integrated in the script. Every single time it’s obvious that it’s the writer communicating information to the reader, rather than that it’s two characters that are having an actual conversation from which the reader can draw their own conclusions. As such, the writer ends up stating the obvious—and I think these things are so obvious, in fact, that this could be perceived as insulting the audience’s intelligence.

On top of that, it is also very cringey. I’ve written about this before, but because nothing has changed in this regard I’ll have to bring it up again. None of the Infected characters are interesting. They all sound like teenage edgelords, and if we were to isolate their speech balloons from the rest of the book, it would be impossible to tell who is saying what based on the text by itself. In other words: they all sound the same. This is a huge problem for me, because the majority of the writing is comprised of that kind of cringey dialogue. Here are a few examples from the text to illustrate my point:

  • “Wouldn’t it be more fun to make them watch what happens when the Batman Who Laughs’ satellite is fully free from the Dark Multiverse?”
  • “But fighting you is way more fun, yo!”
  • “He doesn’t have the balls to follow us, Supergirl!”
  • “This is it, old friend. Do-or-die time.”
  • “This…is…awesome!” (as a reaction to seeing a lot of corpses)

Besides the dialogue, the way the story unfolds is problematic as well, and because there is so much to criticize here, I’ve selected only the things that I think are the most important. First of all, there’s an entirely unnecessary scene in this comic that’s intended to make Superman embrace his dark side for a moment and start beating his infected friends into the ground. This scene involves Superman seeing the corpses of an alternate version of the Justice League. Superman falls to his knees, starts crying at the sight, and when two of the Infected start taunting him, he snaps. So, just to be clear, it’s not a bad idea to have Superman be shocked like this and to have that motivate him in some way, especially if you consider the image with Lois and Jon, but the tone and execution of the scene is melodramatic and hard to take seriously.

Superman knows that the fate of the world hangs in the balance and there is no time to waste. Instead of getting up and doing everything he can to save the world, including the Lois and Jon that are still alive, he’s on his knees and starts crying. Yes, Superman cares about everyone and effectively he is seeing the corpses of his best friends and family (albeit versions from another universe), but he’s also the Man of Steel and he knows what’s at stake here. Honestly, it feels like the only reason that this happens is to have an excuse to make Superman angry and have him completely wreck the Infected, but this doesn’t make any sense, given that these Infected are also his friends! What makes this even worse is that none of this lasts very long. Batman snaps Superman out of it quickly and there are hardly any consequences to this, and so it all feels like a waste of panels. And again, this sequence is so edgy to a point that it becomes off-putting.

Then there is the way in which our heroes stop BWL’s convoluted satellite plan (which, essentially, boils down to BWL wanting to infect each and everyone in the main DCU…for reasons). So far, throughout this series, the stakes have largely been nonexistent because the supposed threat is so over-the-top that I just know DC Comics will never commit to actually having BWL succeed and infecting the entire universe, thereby messing up DC Comics’ marketing and publications. In an attempt to have some stakes, the creative team reveals that Blue Beetle is connected to a tower which can open up portals to the Dark Multiverse, and shutting that down would kill him. However, this falls flat because the problem is dealt with so quickly that you’ve got to wonder if this was even really a problem to begin with—and that’s saying something as we’re talking about a threat to the entire DCU here. Even when I take into account that the satellite can be considered misdirection (because with Batman and Superman concentrating on destroying the tower and the satellite, the Infected are able to run off, destroy the Hall of Justice and set free BWL), the fact remains that I wasn’t buying the whole satellite debacle to begin with, and it also means that a lot of the build-up and exposition has ultimately led nowhere.

A final point of criticism with regards to the writing is about Batman. He stops Blue Beetle by pulling the Scarab out of him. He is able to do this because he knows technology and he has some kind of technological thing on his arm that can apparently extract the Scarab somehow. I know this sounds very vague, but this is all the creative team is giving us, and I dislike everything about it. Sure, Batman is really into his tech, but if it is this easy to stop Blue Beetle, take over the Scarab, and then dismantle the tower, then what’s the point anymore? It’s way too convenient, and it makes zero sense, and it’s a cop-out. Batman should not be able to win “because he is Batman.” That’s not a good reason, nor is it good characterization. It’s just lazy writing.

The artwork is once more created by David Marquez (pencils/inks) and Alejandro Sanchez (colors). While I’ve been praising the artwork in the previous issues, I have to say that I’m not as impressed this time around. I’ll admit that seeing what this art team is capable of in previous issues has significantly raised my expectations, and so when the art doesn’t meet those expectations, I find myself being somewhat disappointed. Now, don’t get me wrong. The art is still a lot of fun. Sanchez’s colors are layered and create a sense of depth and are easy on the eye, and Marquez still draws a fantastic Superman and even manages to make some of the overdesigned Infected characters look good. The action throughout is bombastic and entertaining.

However, despite still having these fun elements, the art overall looks more rushed than in previous issues. For example, character proportions are sometimes slightly off, what with characters’ limbs being unnaturally twisted or simply too large. Even the sequential aspect doesn’t always work out. There’s a scene where Superman grabs both Shazam and Supergirl. Shazam then wants to strike at Superman with lightning while Superman still holds both of them and is flying fast. Shazam strikes, and in the next panel we see that Superman has evaded the attack and that Shazam is striking Supergirl instead. It doesn’t line up, however, because the characters are suddenly in completely different positions than they were in originally, in the previous panel. So, even though I still enjoy the art, it’s errors like these that bring down the overall quality.

Recommended if…

  • You can overlook some of the slip-ups in the artwork and enjoy the bombastic action.
  • Needlessly edgy writing doesn’t drive you up a wall.

Overall: This comic feels rushed as the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense; the Infected characters all sound and behave the same, thereby foregoing their unique personalities, and remain unconvincing; the main threat is dealt with too easily; the story is bogged down by exposition that ends up stating the obvious; and the art, even though it’s still this book’s saving grace, has a few problems as well. When all is said and done, this arc also turns out to be merely setup for the Hell Arisen miniseries. There is no resolution here and this is hardly a finale. I’ve definitely read comics that are worse than this, but high profile characters like Batman and Superman deserve better stories. Hopefully the quality goes up with the next arc, but I do not recommend that you invest time and money in this, especially not with much better books on stands this week.

Score: 3.5/10

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