Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: Batman/Superman #6

Batman/Superman #6 came out last week and was a fun read. This is a fast-paced crazy action story by Greg Pak. And that sort of story works well with what artist Brett Booth brings to the table. It is also soaked with a gamer mentality which adds another wrinkle to this story.

I have been intrigued with Pak's approach so far to Superman. The first arc in Batman/Superman was like an art film. The ongoing run in Action Comics is like ... well... like a great action movie. This arc in Batman/Superman is like a cartoon. For that genre, it is a wild entertaining ride. Whether it is violence-spores, or nanobots controlling Batman, or a hive-mind of desensitized gamers working for Mongul, it is an insane mishmash of plot points to justify the brawling.

And yet amid the fantastic brawling, there are still a few character moments that make this meatier than a simple slugfest. In fact, the best moment might be from Jimmy Olsen and the beta-testing gamers.

Add to that the 'wide screen' horizontal layout and Booth adds some wild splash pages and narrow long panels which feed the story.

'Boss Fight' is an apt name for this video game inspired story. And here is Superman fighting the boss of this level.

Oh yeah ... hidden in all those crazy plot threads is the big bad Mongul. As we learned last month, Mongul is hoping to use the masses of gamers to help him overrun the super-heroes on Earth so he can take control. To fuel their fighting game strategizing minds, he has sent spores to Earth which triggers violent thoughts in people's minds. It is even effecting Superman as he keeps checking himself.

Remember, last issue Superman worried about Batman taking on true super-villains like Metallo. Here he is shocked that Batman tried to take on Mongul. Nice opening page here. Superman throws Mongul miles away buying him time to assess the situation.

For example, apparently Batman is dead, a smoking wound gaping in his chest.

As I said, the sideways panel allows Booth to do panels like this, showcasing a wide view.

Mongul's plot seems to be working though as the Toy Master's beta testers still think this is some virtual reality game. I like how Superman saying 'Hell' is considered out of character.

Superman is fighting that rage, leading to the 'H-E-double hockey sticks' mild curse. What we do know is that Toy Master's woman assistant is an alien aiding Mongul.

But the gamers still think this is a game. Even though Batman is 'dead' he is up and running, maintained by nanobots that have been in injected into his system. And since Batman has been 'upgraded' to a meaner, stronger, super-powered version, why not have him fight Superman. I mean ... it must be three minutes since a Superman vs. Batman fight happened!

It does allow Booth to do a 2-page spread on this axis of the two heroes brawling.

Amazingly, Batman is such a strong persona that he is able to wrest control back from the gamers. And the gamers suddenly realize this is real.

And then we get a nice little discussion which shows us the outlook of the characters.

Batman wants to destroy Mongul's consoles which links the hive-minds of gamers into the nanobots. Even if it means he will die, it will save the world from devastation. It is practical and self-sacrificing. Very Batman.

Superman thinks there has to be another way to stop Mongul without sacrificing Batman's life. That is pure Superman, always thinking of other solutions than violence and death.

But the best is the gamers who use their influence to stop Batman. Even if they wanted him to die in the game, in real life they have 'common sense'. They know better than to want to kill heroes.

Is this some commentary on people's worries that violent games desensitize people to real life interactions? Who knows.

Could it be some riff on current video games like Injustice? Maybe that comic readers don't all want to see that translated to the 'real life' of the DCU? Maybe I am transferring.

Regardless, I was thrilled to see this though. Best moment of the book for me!

Their restraint is overwhelmed though. Mongul's sidekick opens up the 'new video game' to the masses. Suddenly millions of minds, hopped up on violent spores and tuned into video game strategy, log on and link up. Their on target - Superman.

I liked this panel, a nice representation of a matrix-like computer world, 'face time' panels open, and the sidekick giddy as she sells it.

The plan is unfolding just as planned. Millions of minds will work for Mongul, helping bring about their own slavery.

It is a simple and well-worn art panel, but I like the woman's face overlooking the city and then pulling back to show the world.

Will Superman be defeated by XBox Live?

I felt like I should pop some popcorn for this story. It is a wild fight-filled issue, layered with video game overtones, and shown in wide-screen format. It is a Michael Bay sort of story. And every so often, that is just fine. It isn't the first arc of this title. It isn't what is happening in Action Comics. But it is entertaining. And that is all I really ask for.

Overall grade: B


Jay said...

The plot in of itself doesn't strike my fancy as much as the first arc did, but all the same I support the idea of each arc having very different tones. This whole arc really seems inspired by some of the more wacky Silver Age-type adventures using modern tropes (online gaming). And as much as he seems to be ragged on I still think Booth's art is pretty good, outside of the occaisional funky looking face.

Martin Gray said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed this issue, Anj – I gave up on page 9. I hate packing in a book after I've started it but this was a real chore and I just couldn't make it through. I didn't enjoy the last issue with the sideways panels and was dismayed to find the same format this time. Having to hold the book sideways feels awkward and makes the book feel oddly self-conscious.

I'm not sure I followed the plot. What was real, what was computer? I suspect you have to be a gamer to get much from this comic - it reminded me of the worst excesses of Jeff Loebs' Superman/Batman comic, right down to an annoying Toyman-Boy. I'm afraid I found all the computer game talk incredibly boring and wanted to slap the testers. Especially that person pretending to be Jimmy Olsen.

I certainly shan't be buying the rest of this storyline. $3.99 is too much to pay to be annoyed and frustrated.

I do have something good to say – well done DC for putting all the ads at the back so the experience of slogging through it was slightly less awkward than last time.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

Mart, I have watched bad movies where all I do the whole time is snark about how boring some parts are, inconsistent in other places. I put that sort of sarcasm into the voices of the gamers which made it easier for me to deal with. Still nice to see them decide not to have Batman die for real.

As for the plot, it is a bit jumbled. I don't think anything is in a video game. It is all real. But between violent spores, nanobots, hive minds, and hard light constructs, it is murky. But for me, it is also loud and fun.