If I had to sum up Batman Superman #3 in one word, it would be “otherworldly”, though words like sharp, vivid, imaginative, and (just plain) good are appropriate as well.
The word fits for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is that it references the fact that the story takes places on a parallel world where both Superman and Batman are older and wiser, and similar to the Superman and Batman of the New 52 without being the same. The second has to do with Jae Lee’s art, through which the story takes on a very ethereal feel. Lee’s signature art style, which manages to capture complex movement in surprisingly clear and uncluttered images, is a perfect match for this story. The sparse use of backgrounds and foregrounds, and the heavy use of mists and shadows makes the reader feel like maybe the action in this story is all happening in a dream, but Greg Pak’s strong dialogue roots the reader in the scene.
Speaking of which, the action in this book barely ever slows down. In every panel, someone is flying somewhere exotic with capes flapping in the wind, or hurling something huge and heavy at someone, or charging into battle on a brilliant white Pegasus, or full-on assaulting a friend with deadly weapons. Despite all of that, Pak’s dialogue writing persists in driving the character development forward. This is true to the extent that the speaker is almost always identifiable by the reader without looking at the art; and that’s saying a lot in a book where there are two of each main character.
Yildiray Cinar’s work on the Clark/Bruce backstory gives the book its heart. The brighter colors, solid lines, and inclusion of familiar elements in the foregrounds and backgrounds gives the story a homey atmosphere. Cinar’s segments serve nicely to break up the posturing and sass of the Jae Lee scenes by using the candor and unabashed enthusiasm of two children at play to make us feel like we know the two titular mythological characters.
This title as a whole has had a very cinematic quality to it—not just because of the grand scale of the art, and the Man of Steel-esque use of flashbacks, but because of the way that the characters are introduced. There is a degree to which we are expected to be familiar with who Batman and Superman are, but in most ways, this is a complete reintroduction to the pair, with a focus on Clark and Bruce’s relationship. Everything that the reader needs to know is given within these pages. Darkseid is even given a reintroduction via an ominously brief appearance not unlike Thanos’s appearance at the end of The Avengers.
As great as this book is, there are a few shortcomings. As one would expect from a time-travel/parallel dimension story, there are times when the action in the scene is confusing. It’s not always clear which Batman is doing what to which Superman, and there are a lot of players to keep in mind. Part of the confusion could come from the fact that there have been so many different high-profile versions of Superman and Batman in the past few years, and it’s hard to keep them from blending into each other. This is compounded by the fact that neither of the Batmen or Supermen in this book are the “present day” versions from the New 52.
Overall, the book serves as an excellent ramp up to the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, and shows the fanbase that a good Batman vs. Superman story is possible. It will be interesting to see how many elements of this book make it into the franchise.
Greg Pak (W), Jae Lee & Yildiray Cinar (A), June Chung, Matt Yackey & John Kalisz (C) • DC Comics, $3.99, August, 27 2013