Saturday, July 12, 2014

Batman-Superman by Greg Pak issue #1

Understandably enough, I had my reservations when I bought the first of Greg Pak's run of Batman-Superman issues. But, just like with Before Watchmen: Ozymandias, Jae Lee's art style has caught my eye. Indeed, the cover for this issue is something very majestic to look at. Besides, I have always liked Superman and Batman together even when it's just in theory. The contrast between what they stand for as heroes and how they became heroes is something that keeps their interactions interesting and tension-filled for me. But again, I did not have any sort of high hopes for this run (even if I did enjoy the annual issue of this run which I read and reviewed two months ago).

It was surprising then that Cross World had a great premise and storytelling potential to it after all. Visually enhanced by Jae Lee's incredibly unique art composite (there are great panel designs here that made me go "ooh, that's creative"), Pak's story is more character expository than plot-centered. I was really more intrigued with New 52 Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent here. They're obviously very prejudiced toward each other. There was a lack of respect in both their parts bred out of sheer pride and an unwillingness to see the perspective of the other. I'm...liking that angle. When they did put on their costumes and had a fight, I enjoyed the series of their respective monologues that contradict and disagree with each other.

I suppose it's really the character dynamics and construct of their personalities that reeled me in for this issue (aside from the illustrations). Speaking of which, the last few pages had another artist who worked on it, Ben Oliver. The change from Lee's art to his wasn't jarring at all, considering the circumstances of how the plot progressed later on. Basically, our world's version (the New 52) of Batman and Superman were transported to an alternate universe (otherwise known as Earth-2) where they meet their more mature counterparts who are long-time allies and best friends. New 52 Superman lands in Smallville and meets the Earth-2 Batman who used a kryptonite to get him to calm down. New 52 Superman is obviously not pleased. He's fairly young too and volatile--not a trait I would associate with Superman EVER, really, so I kindda started calling him 'Superboy' while reading to myself. But then again, if you've been following the new Action Comics, then the characterization for today's Superman makes perfect sense. So I can live with the fact that he's...less attuned with what he stands for (truth, justice and the American way) since he's still coming to terms with who he is as a man with such godly powers. There are now flaws to him that I think are written in to make him more recognizable to a new audience. After all, he's always been criticized as being a paragon of perfection which is more of a bad thing than a good thing for Superman bashers out there because to them, it makes him 'unrelatable'. I personally understand the complaint but I don't share the extreme dislike or disregard over Sups. I love Sups, not as much as my Bats, but he's quite important to me too nonetheless. Superman represents an ideal that we should all aspire to live up to, but yes, I think I would appreciate his character to be more nuanced, to be more flawed. And Pak does write him like a young man in his twenties with lots of repressed rage and self-doubt. It's refreshing.

Still, the concept is working so far. The villain here, some trickster god, is yet to reveal the motives for transporting Bats and Sups to Earth-2 but I'm sure that will be the focus of the next issue. Overall, a rather compelling premise so far. I'm loving the artwork because it's just so freaking gorgeous. And I like tension and loathing between New 52 Batman and Superman. I'm definitely interested to see how they would react to the different versions of themselves in another world.


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