The DC New 52 did a lot of things right. It brought in new readers, re-engaged lapsed ones and put DC back in the game financially with Marvel. It also brought with it quite a few problems. One was a timeline that was very unclear. Was Tim Drake Robin or wasn’t he? Did Crisis on Infinite Earths happen? What about the Death of Superman?
The other issue was the way it seemed to segregate its once amalgamated universe. Where once there was a world of shared relationships and storylines, now there seemed to be characters living in a vacuum. There was no place this loss of connectivity was felt more than with the friendship of Batman and Superman. DC’s two biggest characters seemed as islands in a storm, and it appeared that no writer was able to quite nail how to reforge that dynamic anew. That is until now, because Greg Pak and Jae Lee’s Batman/Superman #1 is the book that lovers of The Dark Knight and the Big Blue Boyscout have been waiting for.
Writer Greg Pak crafts an opening scene in this first issue that perfectly depicts the philosophical differences between the world’s two greatest heroes. It’s a small moment, just a child being bullied on a playground, but in it you can tell that these are two men who both wish to change the world, but will disagree on just how to do it. Pak illustrates this by giving the reader constantly alternating perspectives which never allows us to think of either Superman or Batman as the protagonist of the story. This allows the writer to get to the core of his characters without having to rely on any prior knowledge by the reader. This is Pak staking out his claim to the early days of the New 52 and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air.
Pak is an excellent writer, but what makes Batman/Superman #1 feel so fresh and so different from any other big hero book on the market is the brilliant gothic art of Jae Lee. His depictions of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne are what you might call “off model,” but the result is a visual style full of surprise and energy. Many of Mr. Lee’s scene’s feel like surreal tableaus, set on a strange world and it lends even more majesty to these already epic characters. This is gorgeous work and I only wish it made up more than the half an issue it does. The second half of the book is dutifully pencilled by Ben Oliver and while his work is solid it lacks the personality of the opening pages.
Batman/Superman #1 is large step in the right direction for The Man of Tomorrow, and, along with Batman: Zero Year, is a fantastic attempt at defining the murky DC New 52 timeline. It’s also a showpiece for artist Jae Lee, and if all we got out of this book was a way to see the man’s art monthly, it would be worth it. Fortunately, Greg Pak is also delivering an entertaining and insightful character piece and I’m looking forward to exploring these two characters right along with him.