The Man of Steel. The Dark Knight Detective. The World’s Finest Heroes.
Haven’t we seen this before?
The biggest problem with Batman/Superman #1 is that sinking feeling that we’ve seen this done before and done better. At the very least, we’ve seen this done before. Batman/Superman team-ups, while not quite a dime-a-dozen, are incredibly frequent in modern comics. As such, writers face a heavy burden in finding some way to make their team-up story stand out.
In the case of writer Joshua Williamson, he tries to accomplish this by giving our heroes a memorable new villain to stand against. And as far as memorable new villains go, it is hard to top The Batman Who Laughs – a version of Batman from an alternate universe who was infected by the same formula that turned The Joker into The Joker. He has all of Batman’s knowledge and training but none of his ethics and the same streak of mad genius that makes The Joker so unpredictable.
The best aspect of Batman/Superman #1 is that Williamson does a masterful job of explaining just who The Batman Who Laughs is and making the exposition a natural part of the story, for the benefit of those readers who didn’t read his recent seven-part mini-series or the Dark Nights: Metal storyline that introduced him last year. Williamson also manages to fit this story into the events of other comics, with an off-hand reference giving a nod to the storyline of the current Jimmy Olsen mini-series and the fact that Superman’s pal was recently reassigned to The Daily Planet’s office in Gotham City. It’s little touches like these that make Williamson’s writing a delight and one of the reasons I have loved his run on The Flash Rebirth.
Unfortunately, that special touch is about the only thing the story has going for it and most of the issue is devoted to the same tired analysis of how Batman and Superman have far more in common than they’d like to admit, in spite of their being like night and day on the surface. You’ve seen this before. We’ve all seen this before. And while Williamson carries the conversation off well, if I never read another story where Batman asks Superman if he ever thought about how to stop Batman if he went crazy and then demands to know why not, I will die a happy fanboy. That being said, the final pages of the issue are stunning and build to a cliffhanger that promises big things in the issues to come.
While the story may not be wholly unique, the artwork is something special. David Marquez has a brilliant aesthetic that is detail-driven yet crystal-clear, avoiding the grit of many other artists who utilize complex line work. Paired with colorist Alejandro Sanchez, the finished art is instantly gripping and utterly gorgeous. Letter John J. Hill is also to be commended for keeping his letter boxes and balloons to the sides, allowing the art to go unobscured throughout the issue.
As far as Batman/Superman stories go, this series is a solid one. It takes its time to build up beyond the usual compare/contrast monologing as Superman and Batman initially butt heads but it comes into its own as they start working to take down the villain. The story is unsurprising up until the end, but the artwork more than makes up for the first half being strictly standard. I don’t think you’ll regret it if you give this book a try.
Batman/Superman #1 releases on August 28th, 2019!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.