Monday, September 13, 2021

Review: Batman/Superman Annual 2021

The Batman/Superman title is leaving us soon, canceled within the next couple of months. It is a shame because I never tire of seeing these two icons working together as heroes and friends.

In particular, once the Infected storyline ended in this iteration of the title, the book has really soared. In particular, writer Gene Luen Yang has done a great job injecting some life and fun into the proceedings. While I thought his last story arc regarding Auteur.IO went on a touch too long, there is no doubt I liked these alternate versions of the characters.

The Batman/Superman Annual 2021 came out a couple of weeks ago (sorry it has taken me so long to get to it) and gave Yang the opportunity to play with those characters one last time. Given they will most likely be lost to comic limbo and that I enjoyed them, I was happy to read this solicit. The concept of the flip book also was interesting. We have seen split pages used with these characters and Yang himself did a 'choose your own adventure' Terrifics issue. So I liked that idea too. The plots are fine, picking up some threads from the prior arcs and padding out the textures of these worlds.

I also liked the artists on the book. Francesco Francavilla has a very film noir style which worked swimmingly for the Superman tale set in the grungy Gotham of Batman's world. And Paul Pelletier's clean pencils also shine in the Batman story in the clean cut streets of Superman's Earth.

I will say the flip book trick wasn't really necessary as the two sides meet in the middle just for a second and neither really is needed for the others story. This could have been just two chapters in one standardly oriented book.

On to the details.

The main theme here is that our heroes have swapped worlds for missions that seem better suited for them on the other's world. Here, Lex Luthor, as the insane warden of Arkham Asylum and still an unhinged mad scientist has released the villains of that place out into Metropolis, now calling it Lexopolis.

And these villains seem super-powered too. So Superman is a better presence to confront them.

I do love the art here, dark and rough and a bit muddy by Francavilla. Perfect.

Luthor has souped up a bunch of inmates. There is a sort of mix and match feel to them as well, a little bit Batman and a little bit Superman. So we see Poison Ivy. We see Man-Bat. But we also get this Two-Face/Metallo mash-up.

But the big threat is an Omni-Battery (a plot point at the beginning of the Auteur.IO story arc). Except here it is an incredibly powerful being named Rudy acting as Luthor's power source.

This is all very imaginative. Two-Face/Metallo is pretty cool.

These baddies, backed up by Rudy (clearly a Parasite analog) is enough to overpower even this Superman. 

He is rescued and removed from the Arkham site by Spider Lady! You may recall Spider Lady is that world's Lois Lane, active as a vigilante here!

Hidden away in the Spider's hole, he meets Rudy's family.

The time comes to re-engage. Except this time Superman and Spider Lady bring Rudy's family with them. And the sight of his family spurs Rudy to rebel against Lex and help Superman win the day.

Again, great art here. That shot of Rudy's family is just wonderful.

And then an interesting sort of cliffhanger.

Superman admits he has fallen in love with the Spider Lady! An interdimensional Superman and Lois couple! I love it!

But how will they work this out. Both probably feel beholden to their own worlds? 

Why not find a neutral site to talk about it ... more on that later.

Let's flip the book and head to the other story.

Bruce Wayne/Two-Face/Bizarro of Superman's world has escaped his prison. And there is some concern about what this strange monster will do. So who better to investigate than another Bruce Wayne.

Anyways, I love this scene with a Commissioner Gordon who has not become accustomed to surprises spit-taking his coffee. But also, I can't help but smile at Batman and Robin standing in a diner in the daytime. What's next? Walking down the street singing Christmas carols?

Batman thinks the obvious target of the Bizarro/Two-Bruce will be the incarcerated Martha Wayne. So he sneaks in as Matches Malone to watch her.

I do like this sort of pause when he accidentally talks about Thomas Wayne. 

I like the retro-future look of this place too.

Thinking back to when he first met Bizarro Two-Bruce in the early Auteur.IO arc, Batman remembers that this world's Bruce simply couldn't decide on anything. 

Perhaps he can use that to his advantage.

Again, Yang doing a good job here building up a history and continuity for these worlds.

Bruce does indeed kidnap Martha and brings her to Crime Alley. He seems conflicted on whether or not he should kill her.

To help Bruce decide, Batman gives him a coin to flip. If scarred side wins, he should kill her.

When the scar side does show up, the Bizarro Bruce does indeed decide to kill Martha. But as this is backwards speak, he means not kill.

And even better, Batman slipped him a double scarred coin. Since a bad outcome on the coin flip means a good outcome from a Bizarro, I thought that was a nice twist.

But then a crazy cliffhanger.

Alfred of Superman's world becomes a sort of Bane-Doomsday. Dooms-Bane?

I wasn't expecting that!

Batman leads the Doomsbane into the middle page which is sort of sideways page uniting the two pages. 

At this Fortress between the worlds, Batman and Superman can hang out. Superman punches out the Dooms-Bane and kisses Lois. And Batman looks at a statue of his parents, a sort of homage to the Jor-El and Lara statues we know about in a standard Fortress.

So yes, the two stories eventually cross over, but just here and only superficially.

This was a decent look back at these worlds, more like solo adventures rather than a team-up. The art was solid throughout. 

But this is probably the last we will see of these characters. Too bad.

Overall grade: B

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

I’m with you, this has been a really fun run but it’s gone on too long - this annual definitely wasn’t needed, and again, a gimmick that doesn’t work unless you have the physical copy.

I want to see more of Alanna and El Diablo together!