After the last issue, Batman and his team have finally found Superman and this series is finally drawing to a close. This comic is pretty bad. That’s all that needs to be said and all the discussion that it merits. It’s the type of story that is both frustrating to read and completely forgettable when you’re done. Unfortunately, I’ve got to dig in a bit deeper.
So strike one against issue eight: Do you know what sucks when you’re reading a forgettable comic? A delay. Which is exactly what we got. This final issue was delayed almost a month. I suppose it was worth it to keep the art consistent for the whole series but it certainly made this climax even more underwhelming than it already would have been. Worse still, the content of the comic is not helping matters.
This issue starts with Superman waking up and admitting that his people are, in fact, evil. The trio of aliens immediately show up after that and the rest of the issue is comprised of fighting and arguing between the two groups. Exhilarating stuff.
What is the point of this comic? I’ve been trying to figure that out. The most offensive moment in the comic, and probably the series as a whole, is the character assassination of Superman. It’s also the most telling as to the Whitta’s point. As I mentioned before, Superman admits to the aliens’ claim that his world was predatory and evil. Then he goes on to say he became a hero to atone for his ancestors’ wrongs. This completely devalues Superman. Rather than being a hero because he’s a good person, he now has some ulterior motive. He also never warned Earth or his friends that these aliens were coming despite fearing their arrival his whole life. His solution to their appearance was to hide and hope they leave, thinking he isn’t on earth anymore. I’d rather read about another evil interpretation of the character like we’ve seen in Injustice. At least that is a unique version of the character with a different worldview. This is just a poorly characterized spineless version of the character and I’m not sure Gary Whitta even realizes what he has written based on the way the rest of the comic plays out.
Now why is Superman’s characterization so telling as to what the comic’s point is? Well, what it reveals is Gary Whitta’s distain for Superman. The character is wielded as a plot device whose only value is in producing obstacles for Batman. There is no message. I am now entirely convinced that the pitch for this comic was “Batman has to break into the fortress of solitude. The end.” All the other accouterments of this story were created to give the pitch a reason to exist. Outside of making all the characters look like fools multiple times over there aren’t any “new” ideas added to the mix. In the end, Superman is forced to give his powers up to Batman to make himself look better when he is brought before the ruling tribunal of the alien antagonists and tried for his ancestors’ crimes (Off panel of course. Why would we want to see such an important plot point?). What element of the story does this serve? Thematically, the focus is on loyalty and betrayal, justice and injustice. I don’t know how to interpret the resolution in that framework. Batman takes Superman’s place and Superman retires to being an average human. It’s random. Even if it did fit the themes and the whole book was cohesive in that sense it wouldn’t change the fact that at its core this was a directionless comic with no central point and nothing interesting to say about the characters.
The art in this final issue was also the weakest of the entire series. Even with an extra month to catch up, everything is rushed. Worst of all, same face is creeping in and it’s not a nice face. Everyone has baby mouths, round chins, and awkward expressions.
The non-human characters always fare better but they aren’t drawn to the best of Robertson’s abilities either. A decline in quality is to be expected when an artist has to work on a monthly comic but personally, I find that Robertson’s decline on this series is too steep. If Diego Rodriguez’s colors weren’t so good, many pages in this comic would look downright unprofessional. It also doesn’t help that the story Robertson is drawing is so weak. Sometimes poor art can be forgiven more easily when the writing is great. Regardless, this is a poor final impression.
- You’ve already bought the first seven issues
- Seeing Lex Luthor brutally murdered is appealing (yeah, that’s in here)
- Honestly, that’s it.
Fortress still isn’t the worst Batman comic ever published but it might be the least essential. I’d rather read the Dark Knight Strikes Again or Batman: Odyssey over this any day. At least those are entertaining in their insanity. This is just a dull half-story that didn’t need to be told. Save your money.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.