This is the first issue of the new “Planet Brainiac” arc in Batman/Superman. For those who are looking to get into this series, this could be your jumping-on point. But the question is whether or not it’s going to be worth it, because, so far, this series hasn’t been great. So let’s see what this issue brings, shall we?
The story opens with Steel and Batwoman arriving in a destroyed Batcave to figure out what happened to Batman and Superman. The scene is successful in that it creates mystery and incentive to keep reading. However, the scene also relies heavily on exposition. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely a place for exposition in any story and the way it’s used here is entirely functional and I get why it’s here: it’s the most effective way to bring both the characters and the readers up to speed in a 20 page comic book. That, in itself, is fine. Where the creative team starts to lose me is when several stories from other comic book series are referenced and a villain called Chemo is featured, and I haven’t read these other series and also don’t know who Chemo is and why I should care. These elements might become more important for the story later on, but as it stands, to me, it feels like dead weight that takes away from the intrigue during the opening scene.
Furthermore, the dialogue could’ve benefitted from an additional editing round. For example, when Batwoman and Steel find Batman’s recorded message on the computer, Batman tells them that he doesn’t have much time. He is recording the message in a dangerous situation, after all. But for someone who is in a hurry, he sure takes a long time to get to the point, especially when the bottom line of his message is: don’t come for me, it’s too dangerous. For some reason he also takes the time to explain how this special algorithm that he created works, but I don’t think the characters or readers need to actually know that. What’s important is what the algorithm does, not how it does it. This kind of explaining slows down the pace, which is in conflict with the idea that Batman is running out of time.
There are other questionable moments. For example, Steel doesn’t sound like the intelligent and disciplined John Henry Irons that we all know and love, but rather like a bit of a naive dude. It’s especially weird when he’s able to hack into the Bat computer (which really shouldn’t be that easy to begin with!), but then fails to see that he’s watching a recording of Batman, rather than a direct live stream. He only realizes this when Batwoman tells him. Another strange one is when Batman claims that he’s fluent in Kryptonian while looking at Kryptonian writing, but then says he isn’t familiar with the phrasing—Superman then tells him it’s from Kandor and that it’s only one word repeated over and over. One single word. How is Batman not able to recognize that it’s a single word? But these are just minor examples.
What I find the most annoying about this issue is that it keeps drawing from and referencing other series. Most of the dialogue that’s used to reference/advertise these other books doesn’t mean anything to me because I haven’t read those other books. An occasional reference is fine, but this book has been doing this since the first issue, and it doesn’t make for stronger storytelling at all. If this book was more self-contained and didn’t pick up random story threads from other comics, this would be much less of a chore to get through. It’s a shame that this story loses its intrigue and narrative focus almost immediately, because this looks like it could be a very entertaining ride.
The artwork, for the most part, works for a superhero action story. But, even though the action scenes are big and quite a spectacle, I find that some of the images look kind of stiff. For example, there’s a panel of Superman crushing the Batmobile when it’s gone haywire, but it almost looks as if it’s an image of the Batmobile and an image of Superman that have been put together. I’m sure that the pencil version of the illustration looks fine, but there’s something about the combination of these colors and the composition that makes it look off. Moreover, it’s quite distracting that faces seem to morph slightly from panel to panel, and a lack of backgrounds on many pages makes the art look a little bit rushed at times. Layouts can also be a bit messy, especially during the action scenes where we see explosions and bright colors. Sometimes there is just too much visual input on the page, which can get overwhelming.
- You are looking for a jumping-on point for Batman/Superman.
- You keep up with books such as Supergirl, Metal Men, Event Leviathan, and Justice League: The Justice/Doom War.
- You are just looking for some light reading to pass the time.
Overall: This book does a fine job of setting up this arc and manages to create intrigue in the opening pages. However, as the book goes on a number of questionable narrative choices show up, and the art, while entirely functional, can be a little rough around the edges at times. All things considered, this is an entertaining issue, even if there isn’t much to be found underneath the chaotic action.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.