This issue offers a quick and easy read, and though it isn’t without flaws, there’s a lot to like here. Gene Luen Yang writes Superman well. I love that Superman takes the time to listen and talk to a teenager that was going to take his own life, and I love that Superman stops to light a homeless man’s fire. Moments like these showcase Superman’s empathy and willingness to help those in need, no matter what it is that they need help with. It reinforces this notion of Superman as a kind of guardian angel, this idea that when Superman arrives, everything’s going to be okay. I am a fan of that depiction of the character, and I definitely prefer this over cheap, edgy takes that we see in some other Superman publications.
Furthermore, Superman narrates most of the comic, and the narration is crisp. I often resist exposition when writers use it too much, but at the same time I think that it’s, to an extent, necessary to include that in a comic that only has 20 pages. Superman’s narration does have some exposition, but also gets to the point quickly. This is a good example of how to balance these things, and I think Yang does a fine job capturing Superman’s voice at the same time as well.
But Superman isn’t written perfectly in this issue. At times he can seem very naive, as if he doesn’t fully understand the consequences of his actions. For example, he flies and walks around Gotham in his costume, and Batman tells him that he will get noticed by the wrong people if he does so. Superman just brushes this off like it’s nothing. I don’t like seeing Superman like this. If it’s a younger Clark, who just arrived in Metropolis from Smallville, then I have no problem with this at all. But if I’m meant to believe that this Superman has been around for years, has been raising a kid with the same power-set (and all the issues that come with that) as himself, and has married one of the toughest reporters in the entire DCU, then this naivete is very out-of-place and out-of-character.
This same naivete leads him to getting caught by a villain. A more mature and prepared Superman could’ve scanned this villain and found out about the villain’s weapon beforehand. He would’ve seen through the villain’s deceit. I get that Superman should have some flaws and I think that his empathy and trust in other people are great ways to explore them. Superman should absolutely make mistakes, too. But how many times does Superman have to get backstabbed by someone he decided to give the benefit of the doubt until he realizes that he has to be a little bit more careful? There has to be a better way to explore the character’s flaws.
There are two other things that struck me as weird in this comic. First, the nonsense of Superman revealing his secret identity is brought up. For some reason, Superman suggests to Batman to do the same and argues that revealing his identity to the world has been the most freeing decision that he’s ever made. Now, I’ve stayed clear from Bendis’ run for the most part, but I don’t think one has to have read that particular “Truth” arc to figure out how dumb its premise is. Superman should absolutely understand that revealing his secret identity is the last thing that a superhero like him should do because it puts everyone he cares about in danger. So, no, I don’t appreciate that this is being referenced and discussed in this issue. I’d rather we all pretend that that stuff never happened. Sure, it’s a thematic connection to the whole False Face Society angle that this story is taking, with people hiding their real faces, and of course the whole Magistrate situation in Gotham, where masks are outlawed. But it doesn’t fit Superman as a character, and it doesn’t fit Batman, and it remains entirely superficial. Honestly, I think this should have been cut.
Second, both Superman and Batman are pretty clueless about what’s happening in each other’s cities. I get that they are busy protecting their own cities, but Batman has eyes and ears everywhere and Superman is able to hear a heartbeat halfway across the planet. Of course they probably wouldn’t know all the details of every case in the other city, but at least they should be aware of what’s going on on some level.
As for Batman himself, he is fine in this issue. Some of the things that he does seem a bit typical, like when he grunts when he’s annoyed or how he acts like a jerk at times toward Superman. It’s a bit of a shallow depiction of the character, but it’s not out-of-character as I can see him acting like this in this type of stressful situation. But I think we’ll get a clearer idea of Yang’s take on the character in the next issue. The spotlight has mostly been on Superman in this one, but with the way this issue ends, it’s highly likely that the spotlight will shift in Batman’s direction.
Moving on, I have been a fan of Oliver’s art, particularly his covers, for quite some time, so it’s pretty cool to see him pop up here. His characters act like real people, for the most part, instead of striking weird superhero poses, but at the same time their faces seem a little empty in some of the panels. His page layouts are very clear and make it easy to follow all the action, which elevates the storytelling, but sometimes his backgrounds lack details and his action scenes are rather stiff, missing the kinetic energy that would make them stand out more. That said, there’s a smoothness to the art throughout the book, as the inking is quite subtle while still defining characters’ shapes and creating a solid foundation for the environments, backgrounds and various objects. Prianto’s colors blend in with Oliver’s pencils seamlessly. The different colors mix and match nicely and I think there’s a good balance in contrast when we transition from a bright place like Metropolis to the grittiness of Gotham. On the whole, the art is not flawless, but still really good!
- You’re a fan of Ben Oliver’s art.
- You like the False Face Society.
- You want to see what happens when Superman arrives in “Future State” Gotham City.
Overall: I’ve criticized aspects of this book, and while I think some of these points should be considered by creators and readers alike, I still recommend this one. Once I look past some of these flaws, an entertaining story emerges. You will find nothing shocking or groundbreaking here as this is all pretty much meat and potatoes, save for the current status quo in Gotham, but sometimes that’s enough. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.