Batman/Superman is the Superman book many fans have been waiting for, and the inclusion of the Dark Knight is an obvious treat.
It has almost been two years since the start of DC’s New 52 initiative, and within those years there has been little to be excited about when it comes to Superman. Grant Morrison’s Action Comics had its glimpses of character-focused greatness, but for most of the New 52 the protector of truth, justice, and the American-way has never truly felt like a Superman worth believing.
It is with much excitement, then, that Greg Pak’s Batman/Superman finally captures the spirit of Superman we’ve longed for, and skillfully juxtaposes him against Batman in way that is true to both characters’s spirit.
The Batman/Superman dynamic under Pak’s guide sheds light not only onto the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel’s first combative meeting, but uses this at-odds interaction to dig deep into the cores of their character. Pak’s story takes place early into both heroes’s careers, with an overconfident Clark still disguised in his worn jeans and boots, while Bruce’s inexperience causes him to make some painful mistakes that cast him as a monster. This lack of experience from both plays out well in Pak’s inner-monologues where he gives us insight into how each hero views his counterpart, all without feeling heavyhanded or over the top.
Pak achieves this by stripping his script down to only the most vital and purposeful statements and allows artist Jae Lee to carry the major storytelling responsibilities. Even though Pak is only one issue in, it is clear the writer has a fantastic understanding of who Batman and Superman are, but is only teasing with glimmers of how each will grow as the series progresses.
If Pak is allowing his artist to carry the weight of the storytelling, then he could not have found a more fitting talent than Jae Lee. Lee’s art is simply gorgeous. It is gothic when necessary, bright when the story necessitates it, and captures the essence of Batman and Superman’s outlook through beautiful visuals. The story offers many opportunities for both static conversations and high-intensity action sequences, but regardless of tone, Lee commands the page with ease.
The promotional piece that tells the tragic histories of both heroes remains one of the best looking and emotional images in the book, while the battle between the young heroes is fierce and conveys the danger each faces. As the book takes a dramatic turn towards the end, however, fellow artist Ben Oliver finishes out the pencils. Despite the artists’s very different visual tone, the switch in the story matches well with the different direction of the art. Although fill-in art typically is disappointing to see, Oliver handles the duties well, and as Batman/Superman returns to a typical 20-page count, Lee will hopefully take on full art duties.
Greg Pak clearly understands DC’s two greatest heroes and is crafting a story to capture their minds and might in the best way possible. With Jae Lee bringing this story to page in the most beautiful way possible, Batman/Superman is bound to be one of DC’s most in-demand titles.
Greg Pak (W), Jae Lee w/ Ben Oliver (A), DC Comics, $3.99, June 26, 2013.