Batman/Superman #1 review

It’s several years ago and Metropolis-based Wayne Enterprises staff are being murdered. Hoping for a lead, young Daily Star reporter Clark Kent tracks down billionaire contemporary Bruce Wayne in Gotham. Suspicious of the stranger, Bruce refuses to discuss the matter, leaving Clark sitting in a gloomy park.

Later, in Metropolis, Batman catches Catwoman acting strangely, robbing the home of a Wayne security chief. Superman shows up and the pair battle, until a previously unseen fourth player sends the young heroes elsewhere. We don’t see where Batman ends up, but Superman finds himself in a field, knee deep in mystery.

So here’s the latest version of DC’s World’s Finest Comics, in which readers can find ‘your two favourite heroes in one adventure … together’. Given that DC have been publishing a series titled Worlds’ Finest Comics (note apostrophe placement) for awhile, starring Huntress and Power Girl, this gets to be Batman/Superman, which is far better than the previous series, which rather than a title, went under an ugly combo of the two heroes’ chest symbols.

Art by Jae Lee and June Chung

The first thing you notice is the art – illustrator Jae Lee and colourist June Chung’s cover sets the tone, heralding page after page of ornate, gothic, silky, work. There isn’t a panel from the pair that isn’t suitable for framing. And while the pages invite the eye to rest, to take in the naturalism of the figurework and detail of the backgrounds, the layouts never bring the story to a full stop, always serving the narrative. The contrast between Clark, in the bright red of Smallville, against the Gotham night, implies that maybe he doesn’t belong here – but to my mind, Superman belongs in Gotham as much as Batman belongs in Metropolis, they’re the questing knights, ready to go wherever they’re needed.

Art by Jae Lee and June Chung

Lee and Chung don’t do the entire 25pp book, though, as Ben Oliver and Daniel Brown step in for the last seven pages. And while I’d rather a single art team worked on the entire issue, they do an excellent job, with a scene change helping ‘explain’ the different approach. The layouts simplify but the work continues to tease the eye. And occasionally dazzle …

Art by Ben Oliver and Daniel Brown

It’s not all about the artwork, though, as the story also impresses. Writer Greg Pak utilises the now traditional ‘duelling narration’ to compare and contrast the characters of our stars. I was wary when Clark’s first words brought a Smallville anecdote but, as with Scott Snyder’s Superman Unchained script a week or two back, the reminiscing brings something to the table – and it motivates Lee and Chung’s exquisite title spread.

There’s another echo of a recent Snyder DC book, Batman #21, as Pak presents a tender scene between the boy Bruce and father Thomas Wayne, and while Lee and Chung portray it superbly, it’s the word picture Pak paints that truly adds to the Batman legend.

There are no real surprises with the way the heroes are portrayed, with Bruce cynical, seeing life as one long fight for the ordinary guy; and Clark dismayed by the gloom of Gotham, while never the naive farmboy people take him to be. That’s not a negative, though, it’s Pak being consistent with modern tellings of the heroes’ early relationship.

The villain of the piece isn’t immediately recognisable to me, but the odd BOOOM sound effect tells us there’s an Apokolips connection. And the closing image puts Superman in a very interesting place, physically and mentally. I can’t wait to see what Batman’s equivalent encounter will be next month.

There’s a headscratcher of a moment in which Superman describes a frightened child’s heart as running at ‘two hundred beats per second’ – per minute, surely?

We get bonus material with a look at the variant covers of Guillem March and Kenneth Rocafort, making the issue even more of an artistic treat. The only small misstep is a marketing matter, with DC’s super-cheery ‘The New 52’ slug sitting uncomfortably on Lee and Chung’s moody artwork and alongside the Art Deco logo font. Oh, and it’s a tad mean of DC to put Oliver’s name in a slightly smaller font than those of Pak and Lee – without him, we’d not have the comic. And seriously, the colourists deserve to be featured, too.

Niggles aside, this is a confident, absorbing opener, beginning in a familiar place before giving us a new spin on the first meeting of Batman and Superman. Yes, it’s yet another DC book centred on the big two, but it earns its place in the line because, well it’s a great-looking, well-told tale featuring – all together now – your two favourite heroes together!

3 thoughts on “Batman/Superman #1 review

  1. Greg Pak's a proven, solid writer, so the book's in good hands as long as he's steering the ship.

    As for the art, good lord! Jae Lee is just….wow.
    I don't think he'll be a regular there due to time issues of course, but I'd like him to stay for as long as he wants.

    Interesting story ad premise, as Pak proves he can really nail down their characters, NU52 or not.

    Damn good start here.


  2. Couldn't quite follow the story so I think they're trying Something Clever ™. At least it was easier to digest than the awful issue of Hawkeye out the same day. I bought it for the art (A rarity for me) and the fact Pak is serviceable but doubt I'll buy issue two. Just no oomph for me…


  3. Grabbed this one on a whim and it was surprisingly better than I expected. I don't mind two different artists with different styles working on the same issue if they are used right (like in Animal Man currently, where the regular world is drawn by Steve Pugh, but a different artist is drawing the Red world so both places feel different in look and in tone.).


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