This is the conclusion of the “Atomic” arc and, to be honest, I’m glad that it’s over. I haven’t been enjoying this title in general, but this arc in particular has been such a chore for me. So I’ll keep this review brief and to the point. Let’s have a look.
First of all, there is too much heavy-handed exposition. Granted, sometimes something just needs to be explained and that’s fine. But when a comic starts to explain a number of things that aren’t hard to figure out by yourself, it starts to get annoying; it’s almost as if the creative team doesn’t trust their readers to be able to figure out what’s going on. On top of that, the exposition is often dry and factual, a summing up of facts that just isn’t fun to read. For example, the opening pages present Batman, under the control of Ultra-Humanite, walking through Gotham. There are many interesting ways to show what’s going on with Batman, but instead we get a wall of text. The artwork could have enhanced this scene by showing the effects of Ultra-Humanite’s control, but even the artwork misses the mark as it’s mostly comprised of superheroes in fancy poses rather than a strong visual presentation of Ultra-Humanite’s powers. Yes, Batman does have this weird purple glow around his head, but with a little bit of creativity this could have been so much more interesting and fun. As it stands, this stuff seems rushed, and it’s devoid of passion and energy, which gives me the impression that the creative team wasn’t enjoying this either.
Furthermore, the concept of Batman versus Superman has been done. While there are exceptions to the rule, generally speaking I think it’s overused. This comic attempts to subvert it by revealing that Batman and Superman had been working together all along, but the subversion fails because even this has been done before, not to mention that the way it plays out here is kind of clunky because there is too much melodrama around it. Furthermore, the idea of threatening to blow up Batman isn’t working, either. There is zero tension because of course DC won’t allow Batman to get blown up in this throwaway Ultra-Humanite story. Apply common sense, and the stakes diminish entirely.
Then there is Ultra-Humanite himself. The character is not threatening, intimidating, intriguing or even sympathetic. In fact, his entire character struggle is only briefly mentioned in the dialogue, like an afterthought rather than the foundation that Ultra-Humanite’s arc and actions should be built on. Then there is the fact that Batman and Superman defeat him so easily that everything that has come before feels like a waste of time and energy. There is no payoff here. Things just happen, and the reader just has to deal with that.
What’s more, the pacing is off. The best example is a flashback sequence, entirely told via exposition, in the middle of the final battle between Superman and Ultra-Humanite. Of all the moments where the creative team could have put this flashback, they have picked the worst moment of all. To make matters worse, the flashback even references Teen Titans, but it doesn’t properly integrate the events from that series into this issue’s narrative; it just comes off as a quick advertisement for another series. If the final battle and culmination of your story isn’t self-contained and focused, it will comes off as less important than it should be. By extension, the rest of the arc will seem less important too, and that’s problematic, to say the least.
But the artwork isn’t that great, either. There are hardly any good backgrounds that help to establish and shape the world that the story takes place in. The character designs are okay for the most part, but Batman wears ridiculous shoulder-pads and the purple flame around his head makes him look pretty silly. The characters’ expressions and body language often works well and creates a nice sequence of panels, but for the most part we just get fancy poses and the comic quickly turns into a superhero slugfest. That can be fun at times, but the stiffness of the images makes the scenes look very static, and so the fighting doesn’t pack as much of a punch as it could have. I’m also not a fan of the palette; I enjoy the contrast between Superman and Batman’s costumes, but outside of that, there is too much purple that doesn’t mesh well with the other colors.
Lastly, there’s an image of Bruce performing surgery on himself in the cave, using comic book technology. I do think this is a funny moment, but not for the right reasons. I find this idea so nonsensical that it becomes hilarious, but not in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way. I think that this sums up my general stance on the book so far. It’s a story that seems rushed and poorly thought out, where the single panel that makes me laugh happens to be something that I can’t take seriously at all.
- You have too much money? I honestly don’t know.
Overall: I can’t recommend this comic. The writing and the art are subpar, and the story doesn’t really go anywhere in the end. This book just feels pointless at the moment, and I genuinely can’t think of a good reason why you should spend your time and money on this.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.