Batman Superman #3 came out last week and the book remained an absolute delight, a visual treat with solid story-writing. I really have to tip my hat to the creative team on this book.
Greg Pak is writing a very good story, contrasting the solid friendship of the Earth-2 World's Finest to the more measured slightly paranoid relationship of the younger versions. From delightful flashbacks to a sort of Silver Age feel of innocence at times, the Earth 2 versions are great role models for the Earth 1 crew.
But the story wouldn't be any where near as interesting as it is without the stunning art on the book. Jae Lee continues to put together some incredibly beautiful art. I have been trying to describe it to friends and I end up saying it is a mix of surreal and classic comic art. And, of course, that makes absolutely no sense. But there is a grandeur to his pages which is very appealing.
And the flashback pages of a school age meeting between the Earth 2 Clark and Bruce is rendered very differently but just as wonderfully by Yildiray Cinar. Those pages really feel romanticized and bucolic.
Put it all together and you have a book that is one of my favorite DC books right now. I almost didn't add it to my pull list and was not thinking of reviewing it here. Glad I decided to pick it up.
In the first issue, the Supermans fought the Batmans as the younger Earth 1 versions were disoriented about what was happening. In the second issue, the Batmans fought and the Supermans fought before everyone realized that they were being manipulated by a chaos demon called Kaiyo. Last issue ended with the arrival of Wonder Woman who stabbed Lois in the chest with a spear, driving the Kaiyo demon out of Lois body.
I love the opening page as the young Superman is stunned by everything he is seeing. Demons and goddesses battling is something new. So that probably puts this before the arrival of the Collector in Morrison's run, back when Superman was more of the people's heroes righting social wrongs.
I included the lower panel because it captures Lee's art perfectly. The background looks like an oil painting. The half pegasus on the right evokes a feeling of an ancient Greek temple even though it is live.Wonder Woman's position is awkward and beautiful as she reels backwards. And the inky tendrils from her hair convey some dream-like feel.
As for Lois, her chest wound is quickly dealt with by her Superman, who uses his heat vision (?) to spur cellular reconstruction. The Earth 1 Superman simply hasn't learned to use his powers that way yet.
I love how Lois says it tickles. For me it brought to mind all those Silver Age stories where Superman was bombarded by lightning, bullets, grenades, etc. but always said that it tickled. It made this world feel a little simpler, a little safer than the current DCU.
Hog-tied by the magic lasso, Kaiyo is compelled to tell the truth. Darkseid is coming to this world. Oh, and Batman has a secret weapon against Superman, a crystal weapon. We saw Batman use this on the young Superman in their skirmish.
Remember, at this time, no one knows who Darkseid is. And we know that he does indeed come to this world, creating havoc, eventually killing these Wonders. So this felt creepy in a way. We know it is going to come to pass.
Now, this World's Finest are great friends and colleagues, so this revelation that Batman has kept something hidden from Superman feels like a betrayal, sending the E2 Superman to Smallville to find it.
That leads to a flashback of when Bruce first met Clark. The Wayne's limosine breaks down in Smallville and while Alfred tinkers with the engine, Bruce gets coaxed out of the car to play.
It leads to a great scene where Bruce looks baffled by the game of baseball. And Clark, in an 'aw shucks' country boy way asks him what Bruce does do. The result is a nice bit of martial arts with Bruce flipping Clark over his shoulder and on to the ground.
So this is the first meeting of these heroes.
Clark finds the small crystal Bruce used in the fight amid the corn stalks. The crystal seems to magnify whatever energy is near it, explaining how the Kryptonite from issue one was able to debilitate Clark.
And then, by focusing his super-vision down to its unique charateristics, he finds what Kaiyo was talking about, a massive shard of the crystal under lock and key in a military installation.
So I don't know if I am thrilled with another anti-military story line. Couldn't it be bad guys holding on to it? And what is this thing? Will we ever learn its origins?
One thing I did like is the grainy representation of Superman's super-vision scanning. It is another nice use of art to bolster and complement the words tremendously.
The Earth 1 Superman can't get past the fact that this world's Batman had Krytponite and a crystal amplifier. I thought this was a great exchange.
As we have heard many many times, the Earth 2 Superman asked Batman to prepare a way to stop him should he ever get out of control. But Superman asks the follow-up question that no one ever seems to ask - who is preparing for when Batman loses control?? I actually want to know why no one has asked that before!
And again, Wonder Woman's hair might be my favorite single visual in this series. I looks like black flames.
We again flashback about why the friendship stuck between these very different boys. Bruce can sense that Clark is holding back and wonders why. Clark says he is afraid people would be scared. And Bruce thinks that would be great. Bruce was never afraid ...
Nice bat flying in front of the moon, echoing the future nicely. But this whole segment works. There is a sort of Superman For All Seasons feel to it. Even the sort of uneven, crayon-y panel borders brings a sort of child-like feel to these pages. so different from the more pristine present pages.
Again, the way that the Earth 1 Superman simply distrusts any Batman is such an interesting wrinkle. There is great friendship between equals before him but it doesn't seem to lead him to think maybe he should open up to these heroes.
It doesn't help that the Earth 2 Batman tries to stop the Supermen from heading to the government site by firing Kryptonite missiles from the bat-plane. The Earth 1 Superman and even Wonder Woman make short work of the plane, bringing it down. I have to say, even I thought that maybe Batman was working with the government. Even my trust was shaken.
And then Batman says he needed to stop the Supermen because the crystal would kill them if they broke in. He saved them by attacking (although you would think that talking to them might have worked to).
Just like that, the Finest are a team again.
Now I have read only a little of Earth 2. In the first issue, the world seems like a horrible place in the middle of the war with Apokolips, the heroes fighting as hard as they can.
But the world here exists before that horror. And so I do feel a bit of nostalgia, a bit of purity here. And Pak keeps showing it to us so we can see how the 'grim and gritty' New 52 heroes can't believe it or try to deny it.
Is there anything more Silver Age then heroes putting their hands into a pile to show unity? I love how the older heroes do it naturally and the younger counterparts simply won't. And the silhouetted Wonder Woman calling them stupid boys is perfect. It is something of a dark sentiment, so the silhouette works.
But it really felt like a simpler time, something like this.
Kaiyo arrives again, once more showing that Darkseid is coming and will destroy worlds. Maybe the giant crystal should be used as a weapon. It is clear Kaiyo simply wants to sow seeds of discord.
But great image here, red skies always a bad sign. And Darkseid casually holding the cape is scary. Are the heroes below kneeling before him? Or impaled on spikes? It is up to the reader to figure it out.
For someone who is still trying to deal a bit with the more grim version of the New 52, I really am enjoying this story. To see purer versions of Superman and Batman, a Superman loving Lois, a team of heroes that are working together as friends ...well it is a welcome sight. And to be able to contrast it to the newer versions of the heroes is a nice wrinkle. Now we know that the young Superman and Batman don't remember this ultimately ... but maybe we can say it influenced them a little.
Pak does a great job moving the main story along while adding the flashback sequences to flesh out characters who we have only briefly seen. As the middle issue of the arc, this worked, moving things along, fleshing things out, setting up a finale.
And add to that spectacular art and this was a great issue. The contrasting style of Lee and Cinar work well in telling this story.