By: Greg Pak (story), Brett Booth (pencils), Norm Rapmund (inks), Andrew Dalhouse (colors)
The Story: What better way for super-buddies to bond than a night of gaming?
The Review: During the pre-relaunch days (which feels further away all the time—can you believe we’re now heading into year three?), I never cared much for this team-up title, even when the billing was reversed. Though you got some fairly entertaining material out of it, there didn’t seem to be much direction or even a consistent tone to the various arcs, and none of it ever had much of an impact on continuity anyway.
I had hoped Batman/Superman would reverse that trend, but you really couldn’t tell until you got the second arc in your hands to see how well it ties into the first. The answer, unfortunately, is “Not very.” Pak makes a fairly significant time jump from his previous arc, as we open on a Superman who has long given up his T-shirt garb and now operates on a first-name basis with Batman even in costume (though against Batman’s will). This seems like an odd storytelling choice. If the point of this title is to expose the development of Clark and Bruce’s relationship, why would Pak choose to skip over a fairly big chunk of it?
Setting that point aside, Pak does have an interesting view of how the World’s Finest view each other. Though friends at this point (as even Bruce acknowledges), there remains some lingering tensions in the contrast between their personalities. At first, you’re not sure how much you like Clark acting like the overbearing frat brother around Bruce, and even Clark questions his behavior at times. Ultimately, he offers the convincing rationale that Bruce is just so fun to annoy and that Bruce can protect himself.
Indeed, a good chunk of the issue examines Bruce’s ability to take on Superman-level challenges. I’m not sure if taking down a false Metallo using the ol’ water-and-electricity trick classifies Batman as being all that “smarter” than his more powerful opponent, but the point is clear. Pak seems to suggest that Bruce’s condescension and Clark’s cockiness toward each other may be the side-effect of their different abilities; Bruce treats Clark as a child to compensate for his physical shortcomings, and Clark responds to this patronizing manner by repeatedly alluding to Bruce’s lower power levels.
The interaction between our two leads is somewhat engaging, but set within a rather confusing, forgettable plot. By the end of the issue, you can’t tell if the real villain is Hiro Okamura (the new Toyman), his clearly more intelligent assistant Agnes, or Mongul, nor can you distinguish how each contributes to the other’s actions. Pak also makes it more difficult than necessary to understand exactly how they’re carrying out their plans. There’s a mixture of virtual reality, nanite infection, and holographic technology that just gets jumbled together to produce the results Pak needs, and you never once grasp how they interconnect.
I think the question needs to be asked: what was the point of this horizontal gimmick? Why? Why? It might be the proper format for a digital medium, but it makes reading the physical issue uncomfortable. It doesn’t exactly aid in the story’s telling, either. In fact, I wonder if the confusion in the issue might be the result of Booth’s less than sophisticated artwork. Usually, Booth can get away with his juvenile style as long as the characters are relatively young and the story sufficiently light. Once gravity enters the title, however, Booth’s work often comes across as exaggerated, loud, and hyperactive.
Conclusion: It takes a bit of effort to get a handle on what the story’s even about, much less whether it’s any good, and the art is ill-suited to convey its dramatic weight.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I imagine Jimmy Olsen will be pretty chagrined to discover that he’s actually attacking his best pal now.