I haven’t been the biggest fan of Williamson’s Batman/Superman run, to say the least. To me, this title has been problematic since #1. This is Williamson’s final issue, though, and despite not really enjoying the series so far, I have been hoping that he could deliver a fun conclusion to his run. Has he managed to pull this off? Let’s have a look.
The main problem that I have seen in Batman/Superman is that there is way too much exposition and, as a result, the dialogue often feels stiff and dry. That same problem exists in this issue. Characters keep over-explaining things to each other, even when these characters should already know certain things. But, despite the dialogue not being very fun to read, it’s not as much of a chore as it has been previously, and it gets the job done.
However, that is not to say that everything about the opening scene makes sense. We are in Arkham with Batman and a few members of the Arkham staff, examining Solomon Grundy. Batman calls in Superman and, shortly after Superman arrives, Poison Ivy walks in, and she explains Grundy’s situation: he has somehow turned into an atomic bomb and needs to be returned to Slaughter Swamp as fast as possible to prevent him from exploding. Now, I think Batman could have easily explained this information, and I doubt anyone would question how Batman knows that, so Ivy really isn’t necessary for that part. Furthermore, Ivy tells Batman and Superman that a group of mercenaries is on its way, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that Ivy knows about these mercenaries seeing as she’s locked up in Arkham. To make this worse, Batman apparently already knows about these mercenaries and he tells Superman that that is why he really called him. At this stage I’m just shaking my head, because if Batman called Superman specifically to help him get Grundy to Slaughter Swamp and fight off the mercenaries, then what is the purpose of Ivy’s appearance? Even though the premise of the story is established, the entire opening scene just becomes problematic because what happens here is rather contrived.
I’m also not sure how Grundy can be a walking atomic bomb. I am by no means an expert on the character, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong in the comments, but it seems to me that Williamson is making this stuff up. That is fine if it’s explained properly, but that isn’t the case. Yes, Ivy talks about how Grundy’s powers work, explaining that he always resurrects with a different personality and level of intelligence, but how this leads to him becoming a nuclear bomb is unclear to me.
Later in the story the mercenaries arrive. Batman is flying the Batplane while Superman is flying through the air next to the plane. The mercenaries are also airborne. They state explicitly that they did not know that Superman would be there, so it is established that they are totally unprepared. If that is the case, I don’t know why Superman doesn’t just beat them up really quickly so he and Batman can continue on their merry way with Grundy. All the fighting that ensues seems completely unnecessary to me with Superman there. Additionally, it’s never explained how these mercenaries are able to track down the Batplane, which is supposed to be one of the stealthiest aircrafts in the entire DC Universe.
Perhaps this book’s biggest shortcoming is that, throughout, I never feel like Solomon Grundy is really about to explode. There is absolutely nothing here that makes me feel like our heroes (and the world) are in danger. Mostly, it’s smooth sailing for them, even if the story attempts to make you believe that there are stakes here. The issue is literally this: Batman and Superman squash bad guys and deliver Grundy to Slaughter Swamp, and we learn nothing interesting along the way. There’s nothing exciting here. Even Swamp Thing’s appearance can’t save the book, as he doesn’t sound like himself at all but way too casual instead, and anyone that’s familiar with the character can see his appearance coming from a mile away. This type of story, where a character like Grundy (or Killer Croc) needs to find peace in a swamp under guidance of Swamp Thing, has been done enough times in the past that it just ends up being a rehash.
As for the art, I don’t mind it, overall. The inks are a bit too thick for my taste and I don’t like how Bruce, unmasked, looks a bit too similar to Clark. I also am not a fan of how strange most of the faces look. But I like the layout on the splash page where Swamp Thing is revealed, where tree branches form panel borders—the aesthetic connects to the character theme nicely. The action, when the mercenaries attack, is quite fun, and the pages are quite clean in terms of how much action happens in each panel, and the sequence of events makes sense (although the actions that these characters take can still be called into question). However, the backdrop is very boring, as we just get lots of snow and that’s about it. Nothing about the backgrounds stands out to me, and even the interior shots of Arkham Asylum look very generic to me. If I was shown these backgrounds without any context whatsoever, this could have been any kind of facility in the DC Universe, as nothing about it makes it stand out.
- You’re looking for a fast, throwaway story to fill five to ten minutes of your free time.
Overall: This is definitely not the worst issue in this run. It’s a quick one-and-done story and it doesn’t try to be more than it is. I guess if you don’t stop to question everything that happens here, and just take certain things for granted, it can be an entertaining read. However, all things considered, I don’t think this is quite up to par. It’s just too fast and too sloppy throughout, and as such I can’t really recommend purchasing this one.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.