I’m having mixed feelings about this annual. I like the opening scene: we see two fifth dimensional imp kids playing with Batman and Superman action figures, arguing about which of these two heroes would win in a fight. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite show up to stop the kids from arguing. The artwork is quite good during this sequence: the facial expressions are full of life and character; each panel flows nicely into the next; and the various colors create a nice fifth dimensional atmosphere while also blending in with the shadows and inks in general. The book is off to a good start with this endearing opening scene, but starts to lose me once Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite start an argument of their own over who would win in a fight.
First Bat-Mite tells a story about how Batman would defeat Superman. This story is chaotic and full of holes, but that seems to be by design as Mxyzptlk actually criticizes Bat-Mite for this afterward. But that doesn’t mean that this segment works. Even though the chaos and the plot-holes are here by design, the truth is that everything here is so over-the-top and nonsensical that I have trouble focusing on the narrative. While this is narrated by Bat-Mite and therefore should be taken with a grain of salt, we still end up with a Batman and Superman that just randomly move from location to location while trying to defeat each other in combat. This type of stuff has the potential to be really funny, but Mxyztplk’s criticism doesn’t work as a joke—it’s more like a confirmation of my frustration with the storytelling. The artwork during this section does fit the narrative, though: every hero’s muscles are as over-the-top as the narrative itself and even though the fight doesn’t make sense, I like how much room and freedom the artists have to be creative and have fun.
Next, Mxyztplk tries to explain how Superman would win in a fight, but while the over-the-top nonsense as told by Bat-Mite was at least somewhat entertaining because of how crazy the art could be, I have to admit that I find Mxyzptlk’s section to be quite boring. Not only is this section a mindless slugfest, the art isn’t all that interesting to look at, either. With this section being set mainly in the Fortress of Solitude, the backgrounds just consist of walls of ice and the statues of Superman’s biological parents, while Batman and Superman just stand around talking rather than fighting.
I do appreciate the message at the end of the comic, which is that Batman and Superman would never actually fight each other. Superman’s final words in this book can be read as meta-commentary, too, if we replace Bat-Mite and Mxyzptlk for the readers of this book, but, whether this meta-element is intentional or not, it comes off as a bit heavy-handed and shallow at the same time. That said, at least I’m glad that both Batman and Superman acknowledge that they don’t want to, nor should, fight each other—there have been enough stories about heroes beating each other up and, frankly, I’m tired of those stories. If anything, this annual does make a case against such storytelling, which speaks to the one ongoing theme in the current Batman/Superman run that I like the most: the friendship between the World’s Finest superhero team.
- You like seeing Batman and Superman duke it out.
- Or, alternatively, you like seeing Batman and Superman decide that they will never fight.
- You are a fan of Mxyzptlk.
- You are a fan of Bat-Mite.
Overall: Like I said, I have mixed feelings about this issue. There are things that I appreciate: some of the jokes make me laugh; the opening scene is a good setup for this type of story; and the commentary at the end about how Batman and Superman shouldn’t fight is appreciated, even if it remains kind of shallow. The three different art styles also match the tone of the respective stories, although the art styles are very different and don’t really match each other. Perhaps this annual’s biggest shortcoming is that the book ends up feeling somewhat pointless when you realize just how nonsensical and weird most of this stuff is. All things considered, I think this comic could offer some quick entertainment, but it never manages to be more than just a throwaway comic book.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.