Last month’s opening chapter of the current Batman/Superman arc lacked focus and detail, and I thought it was a bit of a boring comic. Unfortunately, this issue, #10, is still suffering from problems that I’ve talked about in previous reviews. However, this time the two main problems are the over-reliance on exposition as well as the lack of energy and excitement. So, let’s have a look, shall we?
There are at least three monologues that entirely consist of exposition—one from Superman, one from Batman, and one from the villain, Ultra-Humanite. It’s fine when a character needs to explain to another character what a villain is capable of, but revealing a character’s origins through exposition—which is what happens here—just isn’t effective. Yes, we need to know about Ultra-Humanite’s past in order to make sense of the actions that he is taking now, and to understand how threatening this guy can be. However, mere exposition doesn’t cut it. To understand a character, we need to experience the things that impact them along with them. The exposition provided in this comic, no matter which character is narrating, is factual and dry. As a result, by the time that we’ve read all we need to know about Ultra-Humanite, he just comes across as a generic mad scientist who wants to do mad things for mad reasons. He’s rather one-dimensional in that sense. He also just doesn’t seem like much a threat because there’s not much that really sets him apart from other similar characters. Ultra-Humanite, therefore, remains a forgettable, throwaway villain, and in turn the stakes remain low. It’s important to build up a villain so that he not only looks like a challenge to our heroes because the story frames him like that, but actually is that challenge because of how he impacts the plot as well as the heroes.
More specifically, Ultra-Humanite threatens Batman, and the issue ends with that as the cliffhanger. While Batman is drawn in a way that makes him seem afraid and shocked, and Ultra-Humanite looms in the background, cold and mean, we all know that Batman’s going to be fine. Therefore, this is all hollow; there’s nothing underneath this cliffhanger. I’ve seen this stuff hundreds of times already, in different contexts and with different characters, but it’s always the same. It’s formulaic. It’s been done.
And that brings me to my second point. There’s no life, no inspiration, no energy to these pages. Batman and Superman’s voices are very similar, which creates a monotone narration. The tone of the book is also inconsistent; sometimes it seems to lean into camp, but other times it seems to want to be serious, and with these two opposites clashing I’m just not sure what the creative team is going for.
The art is not bad, but most backgrounds are either nonexistent or are very basic (aside from a few more detailed ones, like a shot of the Batcave). The world building also isn’t very strong, because it’s like all the different locations exist in a vacuum, and even within certain locations it’s not always clear where everyone is in relation to each other. Characters look a little bit off too, for example when, in some panels, Superman’s head looks tiny compared to the size of his body. The action scenes are okay, but the sequence doesn’t really work, since it’s just a collection of different static images. There’s no flow to the fight scene, the panels are disconnected instead of each one setting up the next. We’re just jumping from scene to scene, just going through the motions until we reach the cliffhanger page.
Look, it’s not that this book is badly written or drawn, and therefore deserves a low score. This book is just really lackluster. Reading this, I feel bored, and when I reach the final page I feel kind of empty. I don’t care what happens next. I don’t care about Ultra-Humanite. I know that plot armor will keep Batman and Superman safe. There’s nothing daring here. There are no interesting new ideas. And I’m not saying that every single issue needs to be bold and groundbreaking; I’m just saying that this reads like lazy writing to me. Take the time to really flesh out characters, plot, backstories and threats/challenges, and only then will the story be compelling and interesting enough for me to recommend it, let alone want to buy it. These things cannot be accomplished through exposition and assuming that readers already know certain characters, and especially not by rushing a story like this.
- You are just looking for some quick, light reading.
Overall: This book desperately needs more energy, and a little bit more originality wouldn’t hurt either. The writing and the art get the job done, but it’s all rather lackluster and formulaic. If the problem was strictly bad art or bad writing, then that would’ve been a bummer, but at least it’s something that creators can improve on. When the problem is lazy writing, however, even when readers just perceive it as such, then that’s just frustrating.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.