Ever read a regular issue of a comic and wish it were in prestige format? That’s how this comic has me feeling, as new writer Gene Luen Yang, artists Ivan Reis and Danny Miki and colleagues produce something very special.
The story nods to the 1940s big screen versions of Superman, Batman and Robin, with close approximations of their fiendish Silver Screen enemies. The Silver isn’t part of this story – it’s printed in glorious colour – but the serial sensibility is present and correct, as Yang narrates in a style somewhere between prosaic and grandiloquent. It’s a neat balancing act but perfect for this production.
And ‘production’ is the right word for a story that marries movie frames with comic book techniques. Make that two stories.
Batman/Superman #16 gives us parallel adventures, presented in gorgeously laid-out spreads by Reis with slick finishes by Miki, evocative colours by Sabine Rich and classy letters – just look at that title page – from Saida Temofonte.
Of course, the tales are connected and the two storylines come together at the end in the most perfect of ways.
There’s a twist in that while the overall feel is Forties, and the dialogue crackles with screwball wit, there are 21st-century elements.
There’s pure joy as the story pays tribute to the pioneers who brought the World’s Finest heroes out of the pages of Funny Papers and into cinemas worldwide. Along with the ever-present Lois, Jimmy and Alfred we get the Unknown Wizard, Spider Lady, Dr Atom, a fistful of more familiar foes and a surprise or two.
Reis doesn’t go for exact renderings of the 1943 Batman and 1948 Superman serial elements – probably down to copyright – but the slightly baggy super-togs and matinee idol looks of the characters puts us firmly in the right frame of mind. The way the frames bleed over from one page to the next is deeply impressive. And the facial expressions are wonderful.
The extra effort everyone put into this issue, and that includes editors Ben Meares and Paul Kaminski, pays off big-time. It’s a smartly conceived, superbly executed feast for the eyes, preparing the ground for a World’s Finest team-up like none before – a meeting of the Man of Steel and Caped Crusader of two film realities.
The movie poster-style cover by Reis, Miki and Rich is the perfect finishing touch, as shining heroes and sinister villains invite us into their world.
The last page of this issue promises things will get even more interesting, and I cannot wait. As a digital buyer, I’m already looking forward to this in collected, physical form (perhaps with the classic ‘Superman, Matinee Idol’ from 1942’s Superman #19, which also used the film frame panel borders, as a bonus back-up). It’s going to be a reel treat.