Monday, March 29, 2021

Review: Batman/Superman #16

Batman/Superman #16 came out last week, the first issue with the new creative team of Gene Luen Yang and Ivan Reis. And, to be honest, it felt more like the first two issues as Yang spins a tale of two new worlds, each with one of our titular characters acting as a super-hero. Then, just before the end, Yang splices the stories together and gives us a glimpse at our actual DCU heroes and how they are going to get pulled into the mix. 

I like this issue a lot. While Yang's run on Superman wasn't a favorite, his New Super-Man and Terrifics work was stupendous. He seems to have a good handle on fun, super-hero adventures. He also is quite creative in his story-telling approach. While not as wild as the Terrifics 'Choose your own adventure' issue, this issue's double plot was interesting, so much I read the book twice in a row, utilizing both ways of reading the layout.

Ivan Reis is on art and just shines. Reis work was spectacular on Superman with Brian Michael Bendis so I am glad he remains on a semi-super-book. He really embraces the weird new worlds and the very structured panel layouts. Just great stuff.

And a solid cliffhanger ... maybe three cliffhangers ... to leave me wanting more.

On to the book!

From the opening page you see what Yang is doing.

We are watching two 'movies', one of Superman and one of Batman. 

And yes you can read it page by page, reading both stories at the same time. Or you can read the Superman one and then read the Batman one. I read it both ways. 

I think that given the way the plots seem to reverberate, it worked better to read by page.

These aren't our heroes. You can tell immediately by the costumes, not quite the ones we normally see.

And other differences. I am sure there are people who will be trumpeting Yang making it 'Truth, Tolerance and Justice' instead of 'Truth, Justice, and the American Way'. But if we are going to try and update Superman's phrase to somehow embrace the new political zeitgeist, I want something more than tolerance. 'Superman is a hero, he is tolerant of ____' isn't a ringing endorsement. 

How about 'Defender of the underrepresented?' Or 'Protector of the Marginalized'? And add it to the end of 'Truth, Justice, and the American Way'. That's classic and iconic, and not a bad ethos.

Meanwhile, Batman is too cool to have any such tinkering with his names. He remains the 'Weird, Dark Enemy of Evil.' I guess Batman doesn't have to be tolerant.

On their worlds, adventures ensue!

On Superman's Earth, 'The Unknown Wizard' attacks a science exposition in Metropolis. The Wizard is Luthor. And he is upset because he invented the crown jewel of the show, the Omni-Battery. The power is from some organism. It is a classic feel of Superman with Lois still a crack reporter and Jimmy still a young cub.

Meanwhile, a villain called the Spider-Woman has broken into Arkham and escaped with Joker, Penguin and others. She is quickly stopped by Batman and Robin. 

The art sizzles here. Love the perspective of the last Superman issue. And love the energy in that last Batman panel. You feel SpiderWoman tripping.

And then, the big changes on these Earths.

On Superman's Earth, the person that Lex has accused of stealing his ideas is Martha Wayne. She and Bruce survived Crime Alley. And she is making the most of it, leading Wayne Enterprises into the future with her playboy son Bruce. And Bruce definitely likes what he sees in Lois.

Meanwhile, on Batman's Earth, Spider-Woman tells Batman that the Warden of Arkham is doing horrible things to prisoners. That's why she broke out the villains. When Batman and Robin break into the Warden's office, they find it stuffed with odd items ... including Superman's rocket with corpse included.

So on opposite worlds, the other hero doesn't exist!

Now that is a nice wrinkle to these stories. There is almost an Elseworld feel to all this.

Superman becomes suspicious of the Martha. Bruce invites Lois to his place for a date. And so, as Clark, Superman heads with Lois and Jimmy to Wayne Manor. There Lois runs into a Bane-ified Alfred. 

Alfred has some device on his belt which opens some portal. That portal throws Lois into the other universe.

In that universe, Batman has seen that the Warden (without a doubt Hugo Strange) has been traveling to the Arctic. When he gets there, he and Robin are met by an army of thugs. And then Lois literally is spliced into that film from the other. 

What I like here is the implication that Lois is 'Spider-Woman'. On both worlds, Lois knows the truth or needs to uncover the truth. That was perhaps my favorite little wrinkle in the story.

But What I really love is the page layout. Reis nails the look of burning film and Lois dropping down. Very slick.

Finally, on our Earth, Superman and Batman investigate a malfunctioning WayneTech satellite. The satellite is covered in film!!!

And there are some beings who aren't happy with the World's Finest from interfering!

Such a great romp! Just good old-fashioned, mulitversal Elseworld fun! And certainly, I could use as much of that in my life that I can get!

So count me in!

I did more than tolerate this book. I loved it.

Overall grade: A


Gear said...

From Yang’s Twitter feed:
“The issue is an homage to the Superman and Batman movie serials of the 1940s. The phrase "Truth, Tolerance, and Justice" rather than the more familiar "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" is a tribute to the 1948 Superman film serial.”
Here’s the tweet where he includes a clip:

Martin Gray said...

Nice review, sir, this issue was a total treat, there’s so much thought gone into the story and so much craft into the execution. Roll on part two!