Review: Batman/Superman #1
Arguably the most fascinating and truly interesting relationship in superhero comics is the pairing between Batman and Superman. As heroes, they stand for justice and dedicate their time to fighting both villains and the evils that society can perpetrate. However, these two men also have very different upbringings and views on how the world works, and it is that difference as well as their methodology for fighting crime that drives the interest in the “World’s Finest” duo. How did comic writer Greg Pak fare with the first issue of the new team up series “Batman/Superman” #1? The answer, is that he works at showcasing Batman and Superman’s core differences which, when paired with Jae Lee’s impressive and stylish art, make this comic a great introduction issue to a compelling new series.
The opening five pages are a wonder to behold for readers. Pak sets Clark Kent in the rundown and gothic Gotham City underbelly. In his striking red jacket, he stands out from those drabbed in bleaker and muddied colors as he searches for Bruce Wayne. Wayne is first shown posing as a bum in an olive drab soldier’s jacket, and this alone could make for a great commentary on whether Bruce himself is playing a role here or if Pak is making a statement on how he views Bruce as a war veteran in some aspects. The situation of a child being bullied is a perfect chance to see the differences in how both Bruce and Clark see the world. Bruce’s rigid and realist views contrast here with Clark’s desire to interfere and help those who are in need. It is moments like this that will make this series so compelling, as we see both men attempt to convince the other on why they feel their action (or inaction) is the correct method both morally and practically.
The two page spread where the reader is given the title and credits for the issue is also a striking. The panels are separated by the page break, with the left side showcasing a light colored and beautiful Smallville for Clark’s youth while the right side has the dark and almost horror-like imagery of Bruce’s youth. Pak uses these panels to great effect to display a differing yet similar origin for both heroes. Clark is seen with Lana interacting outside in the sun, while Bruce remains isolated in his bedroom in the cold mansion. However, both men have their fathers there for help in some way, and in this New 52 universe both men have lost their parents to seemingly random acts. Both losses have important effect, as the Kent’s car crash proves Clark couldn’t save everyone while the murder of Bruce’s parents introduces him to the darkness that exists in the world.
Jae Lee provides his very unique artistic style in this first issue. His work almost gives off a Norman Rockwell vibe in its detail, and every panel comes off looking like a painting. His Gotham City is one full of gothic style architecture, and the darkness of Gotham is exuded perfectly through simple images such as a gargoyle fountain and blackened trees that vine off in the background. Colorist June Chung makes sure to differentiate between Smallville and Gotham with background textures, and her job on Superman allows for him to stand out with rich red and blue colors in comparison to other characters such as Catwoman and Batman. When the story switches to possibly another universe or time period, Ben Oliver takes over and doesn’t let up on the art. His style contrasts with Lee’s, but not in a bad way, as he makes great use of a shaded style that works more for the Smallville part of the book when paired with Daniel Brown’s coloring in that section.
Overall, the plot flows well, as the reader witnesses the first major run in between Superman and Batman. Naturally, Superman believes that Batman is a criminal, and their fight is a great display on how these two operate in battle. However, the story can get puzzling in a few areas. First, on one page where Clark gets dropped off the building a dresser falls on him out of nowhere. After seeing Batman push an oven out the window in a following panel, we are led to believe he also pushed the dresser as well, but it is staged in a confusing manner so the reader may not understand what is happening. Also, an appearance by Catwoman is not really explained except for that she has been possessed by a mysterious entity. Whether that is the last of her we will see is yet to be revealed. Even the entity itself is not given much of a background or any type of motivation yet, so it is hard to understand what is happening with Superman later in the story as a result of its machinations.
When last Superman and Batman first met, it was 1986 and John Byrne had created a classic story. This time around, Greg Pak has crafted a very interesting take on the New 52 first meeting, anchored by the beautiful and extremely stylistic art of Jae Lee. Here is hoping Pak can keep up the great work and continue to show why these two characters have such a fascinating and exciting relationship.
Batman/Superman #1 gets a 4/5