Thursday, 27 June 2013

New Beginnings - Batman/Superman #1

10 years ago Jeph Loeb launched a new DC series called Superman/Batman, which played host to a veritable who’s who of creative talent (Abnett & Lanning, Michel Turner, Joe Kelly and Cullen Bunn as quick examples) for 87 issues and five annuals, before it's cancellation prior to the New 52 in 2011. Now we have the new version of the concept from Greg Pak and Jae Lee.

In the past I have really enjoyed Pak’s work - in particular I loved Planet Hulk - so as a Batman fan I was looking forward to this title.

In true New 52 fashion, there is a reboot afoot and the story steps back to Bruce and Clark’s younger days before they met in their heroic identities. Treading lightly in Gotham, Clark encounters Bruce after what appears to be an eventful night, although at this point he is unaware of his other identity. It’s all a little overwhelming for him in the big dark city and his hometown roots do show a little.

As first meetings go it is certainly a tense one, with each of them sizing up the other. It also leaves them both with questions.

The story then moves slightly forward in time and over to Metropolis where Catwoman of all people seems to be attacking Wayne Enterprises staff members. Taking an obvious interest brings the Caped Crusader into the fray, however it also brings another youthful, almost naive, cape as well. Once again we see them assessing each other with some startling issues in the difference in their powers too.

Set against the backdrop of Catwoman stepping up her criminal activity, we see Batman trying to stop her and Superman getting most of it all wrong. All of this allows the real culprit - an ethereal being who is possessing bodies - to run rings around them both, culminating in the possession of Clark. Taking a joyride in a godlike being has enticed this individual further, although there is an emotional element that appears to take an overriding factor too. It’s only when Pa Kent is around, after a strange teleportation back to Smallville, that things once again take another turn.

There is also an extra element in the storytelling, showcasing the dichotomy of light and dark that our two protagonists portray. The first main depiction of this is in the writing, with the obvious soft and ruthless tones in their dialogue with one another. Furthermore fans of the previous Superman/Batman series will recognise the familiar touch of conflicting internal monologues from the two protagonists - each of them which is depicted in either bright blue and white text boxes or grey and black. This factor is highlighted more when the spectral being speaks both internally and externally in red lettering. It's a good touch.

Jae Lee is the primary artist on the issue and his work is great. To compliment the story and script, there is a clear and distinctive stylistic change between the set pieces, depending on whether they flow around Batman or Superman. Even the characters themselves almost exude different lights.

en Oliver created the artwork for the final six pages, and whilst I didn’t feel it was as strong, I can completely understand the shift in tone as the narrative moved to Smallville. Clark's hometown brings a  comforting brightness to the story that is juxtaposed with the two dark and shifty cities. The final aspect which is worth mentioning is the colouring. The duty is split the same way as the artwork between June Chung and also Daniel Brown and really adds to it all. The colouring helps set the tone and also the difference between the heroes of the comic.

Not being a massive Superman fan, I did fear this comic wouldn't quite live up to the sum of its other parts, however this incarnation has brought me around a little. Pak and Lee's past works are exceptional and this collaboration is a comic that DC fans, Batman fans and Superman fans alike should all be grabbing a copy of.

Matt Puddy is able to turn his hand over, which is a huge victory on the road to recovery.

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