Except for #1, I haven’t liked a single issue of Batman/Superman so far. In large part, that’s because of the quality of the writing. I find myself having a lot of the same complaints, and rather than seeing improvement, in my opinion things have just been going downhill. This issue, #7, which thankfully moves away from the Batman Who Laughs stuff and kicks off a new arc, still suffers from many of those same problems. The art is pretty good, though, but can it save this issue? Let’s have a look.
The issue starts off fairly strong as Zod’s motivation—as the villain of the story—is explained clearly and concisely: the bottled city of Kandor has been destroyed and Zod wants to save its people. By presenting Zod’s motivation front and center, the creative team brings a degree of focus to their storytelling. However, at the same time this focus immediately begins to fade as a number of problems arise, most of which we have seen at least once before over the course of this series.
First of all, this issue references events that took place in other comics. While it’s okay to have the occasional reference and/or expand on events from another book every now and then, a total of 5 references to other books is really excessive. I get that DC Comics wants to sell as many comics as possible, but if a single issue can’t stand on its own and requires other comics to establish the full context, then that single issue is a failure, no matter how good the art or individual aspects of the writing may be. The previous issue of Batman/Superman was nothing but a 20-page advertisement for other series, lacking character- and plot development. While this issue does have some character- and plot development (albeit rather bare-bones), I am not feeling the impact that those two elements are supposed to have, because I haven’t read any of the comics that are being referenced here. I’m able to understand the events within this issue, but if the writer almost entirely relies on exposition and references to explain these events, the result is that the end product becomes a shallow, boring comic that I’m not enjoying. I want a creative team to pull me into their world and to make me root for their characters because I witness their tragedies up close. But Batman/Superman #7 doesn’t manage to do that.
Furthermore, there are moments where the art and the writing don’t seem to connect entirely. For example, on page 5 Derington draws six panels, and in each panel we see Batman and Superman on a different adventure. While the art is fun and creative for sure, I don’t see what giant gorillas in cages have to do with Bruce still being able to smell his mother’s perfume in the manor. Granted, Clark telling us that he and Bruce deal with their traumas by keeping busy is reflected by the many different panels, and Clark saying that they do it so the “ghosts may never catch [them]” kind of lines up with the image of them fighting a guy in a cloak and a skull mask. However, these are only surface-level connections. The panels themselves don’t say anything about the larger plot of the comic, and while Clark’s monologue potentially provides a bit of insight into what makes him and Bruce tick, it doesn’t quite connect to the plot either and neither is it real character development. Our heroes’ arcs aren’t fleshed out by these lines, nor is this information exactly relevant to where they are currently in their personal character journeys. On the surface the monologue and the illustrations seem fine, but it ends up being mere fluff to fill a page or two.
Moving on, the dialogue itself is unnatural and unrealistic. There are entire scenes that are comprised of Batman and Clark dumping exposition on each other in a way that doesn’t make any sense. A good example is when Batman is holding a hologram projector that shows an image of Superman fighting Kryptonite Man, but it’s Superman who explains to Batman who Kryptonite Man is and what his powers are. Seeing as Batman is the one holding that projector, I think it’s safe to assume that Batman already knows this information. But if that isn’t convincing enough, then consider the next couple of panels where Batman actually continues the exposition where Superman leaves off, revealing additional information about Kryptonite Man. When you stop to think about what’s going on here, we’re not actually seeing these characters telling each other information that they both already know, but we’re witnessing the writer of the book relaying this information to his readers, and that makes for bad dialogue. Nobody in real life ever talks like this, there is no good flow to the conversation, and Batman and Superman’s voices are too similar in tone. All of this combined creates a jarring reading experience.
Nick Derington delivers great artwork, though. Any sense of adventure and wonder in this issue is entirely on him. I like the energy that Derington brings to his comics: his fight scenes flow well, the character proportions are consistent and excellent, the faces express the right emotions and thereby enhance the storytelling, and his overall style makes it easy to recognize his art among the countless of other artists that are working in comics today. Derington is easily one of the most creative and original artists in the business, and that’s something worth praising. However, I do feel like I’ve seen better work from him. In this issue, some of the backgrounds look rather uninspired, whereas I’ve seen gorgeous backgrounds from him in other books. Moreover, the inking in this issue is muddy and seems somewhat rushed in places, which obscures some details and drags down the overall aesthetic quality of his work. That said, the art is still by far this book’s saving grace, and it’s still wholly unique and fun to look at.
- You are a fan of Nick Derington.
- You have been enjoying and keeping up with Bendis’ Superman.
- You thrive in exposition hell.
Overall: This book just feels so unfocused. The dialogue is unnatural and almost entirely consists of exposition; the story is bogged down by references to other books; the character development is shallow and mostly uninteresting; and because of these aforementioned problems the issue becomes boring and uninspired. Derington’s art is good, of course, but even with an amazing artist like him working on this book, I really wouldn’t be reading this if I wasn’t reviewing it. The ideas in this book are okay, but the execution of those ideas has been weak since #1. For these reasons, I don’t recommend that you buy this comic.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.