Monday, July 5, 2021

Review: Batman/Superman #19

Last week we learned in DC's September solicits that the Batman/Superman title was ending. I was surprised and a bit dismayed by the news. Since taking over the title, writer Gene Luen Yang has made this title one of the most fun and entertaining book on the shelves. It has been fun to see our heroes sort of romp through adventures as pals.

Batman/Superman #19 came out last week, the next chapter in the Auteur.Io storyline looking at different 'universes' as written by the insane movie mogul. This book hasn't really starred out main heroes. Instead we have followed a Superman from a Golden Age movie serial and a more Silver Age Batman complete with boy wonder. In this chapter, Yang decides to delve deeper into the filmography of Auteur.Io and the DC Universe. And so we have Alanna Strange and El Diablo in the mix as well.

I also see that Yang is talking about some creative loss here. Auteur.Io is trying to create the perfect world. But it seems impossible in the current world where everyone has an opinion on how everything could be better. No longer can people just enjoy a story, foibles and all. Instead they have to comment. Heck, I do that almost every day here. But you can't please everyone and as a result, the stories become muddled messes. And great stories might be scuttled because some audience might find it horrible or offensive. I find the theme fascinating.

Alas, Ivan Reis has the month off here. Instead we have a smorgasbord of artists. It is quite a row of talent. Emanuela Lupacchino, Darick Robertson, and Steve Lieber are all top notch talents on their own. So to see them bring their styles to the various landscapes here is an added bonus.

On to the book.

Last issue, Auteur.Io captured the Earth 0 Superman and Batman in a Phantom Zone crystal he took from another film. In the process, the heroes we have been following have followed through. But just like the props from the movies are tiny in 'the real world', so are the heroes.

Yang has a great handle on dialogue.

I love Auteur.Io talking about how important his 'art' is, as if even standard punch-em-ups reach that level.

But I also love Batman talking about viewing the 'real' Batman and Superman like the perfect forms of our heroes while they are just the shadows in Plato's cave.

In the meantime, we learn that Dr. Atom is the Lex Luthor of one of the worlds that Auteur.Io felt was unworthy and therefore destroyed. 

He also tells Auteur.Io that he has been working to help Auteur's hopes of a perfect world. He has been improving this Superman's world to perfection by sullying this Batman's. According to Luthor this is a zero sum game.

The Auteur seems unfazed and unimpressed.  He decides to kill Lex.

Before dying, Lex decides to be a factor. He blows up. And that actually injures Auteur.Io enough to force the Auteur to retreat into one of his films.

The world Auteur.Io jumps to is Rann.

There he takes the form of a giant worm, a sort of Shai Hulud. 

The heroes join Alana in battling. Using a 'tornado gun', they blast the Auteur again, this time chipping away that robot armor revealing, briefly, a blue skinned humanoid.  It is his True Face.

The armor reconstitutes and Auteur again jumps through another burn hole to escape to yet another film. 

Without delay the three heroes and now Alana head through.

I do love the dialogue. Alana thinking the heroes names are silly is great. And Robin's retort about Sardath was perfect.

Off they jump into a Western world. Here Auteur takes the form of an actual locomotive.

It is strange that he has been 'above it all' figure to know actually embed himself into the films. 

But in this, our heroes encounter El Diablo on this runaway locomotive.

Yang has such a great handle on Superman. Here he is extending his hand to the man shooting him, asking him to be friends. Even Batman is amazed.

Realizing that the tornado gun injured Auteur before, Batman recommends that Superman recreate that effect. And so the Man of Steel does a 'tornado punch' stripping all the armor off.

Now we get a look at the true form of the Auteur and get a little backstory. He is a god of stories but he can't say his name or his pantheon. 

Somehow he lost his way.

One thing I know, your true name carries power. My guess is once he remembers his true name he will be able to reclaim his identity completely.

But the story takes a little darker turn and perhaps becomes a bit more meta.

This god ends up on Earth, watches movies, and is amazed at the stories. He is amazed at the shared joy.

Somewhere along the way, the movie theaters seem to close. The shared joy ends. Instead there is a new 'temple'. I think Yang is talking streaming and/or social media.

This new god demands perfection. And it consumes this god, creating Auteur.Io.

Is this some commentary on people complaining about the way a movie is made, those who say 'if I did it, I would have done something different'? Is it how polarizing people can become about films (think of the Snyder JLA) and therefore the demand of perfection is insanity. Is it that everyone tries to create their own perfect world on social media?

I tend to think, especially given the focus on movies, that Yang feels there is a loss here. That people don't just sit back and enjoy movies anymore.

But then the machinery of Auteur.Io wraps itself around this guy.

And now he is ticked off.

It is time for a third act switcheroo ... let's bring horror to the table.

This was a bit of a quick issue with so many location changes, reveals, and exposition that I barely had time to breathe. I did have to reread some pages to make sure I was following the action.

But the idea that the loss of cinema and shared experience has led to the corruption of story and the hunger for 'perfection' is fascinating. It has echoes of Morrison's Final Crisis. This is fun and entertaining.

The art is great. I wish we had a page breakdown of who drew what pages.

I'll be sad to see this book end.

 Overall grade: B/B+


Anonymous said...

I wonder if Yang isn't partly lamenting how TV took over from movies - with its electromagnetic waves spreading all around him. There was a loss of community, shared in-person experiences - the crowds emptied from the theaters as people retreated to their own living rooms to watch TV.


Anj said...

Agreed. A point I left out in the review.

Singular viewings has led to less shared experience.

Anonymous said...

Singular viewings has led to less shared experience

Is that contradictory to everyone commenting online and posting opinions? People can share their experiences from a piece of media with an untold number of people around the globe now. You also have live streams and online viewing parties. If anything people are sharing experiences more than ever

Anonymous said...

For me at least, Yang's metaphors are confusing. He transitions in a few panels from apparently saying theaters are being emptied out in favor of TV, to the desire for perfection. It feels like tortured metaphors to explain what's going on, and to get to a point where the threat of destruction by can somehow be "explained."

Radio and then TV did replace a lot of what people had gotten from film. Like the newsreels at theaters were replaced by newscasts on radio and then TV. So where you had people hearing the news all together in a theater, now you had people hearing it isolated in their own homes.

Sharing over social media did come - much later. Since it's not in person, it does have a different quality.