Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Batman/Superman #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

The first time I read this issue, I thought to myself, "O-kay, I'm going to have to read it again before I even try to say something coherent about it."  I mean that in the best possible way.  This issue is a trip from start to finish and I can honestly say that I haven't been more excited about a new title in a while.

From a plot perspective, Pak uses a somewhat dreamy narrative structure, making it unclear (in a good way) what we're actually witnessing at times.  The first few pages depict the meeting of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent in a Gotham park.  At first I thought that we were dealing with an alternative universe, given the revelation that the Kents died in a car accident.  However, a trip to Wikipedia revealed that this change came with the DCnU.  However, the entire sequence has an Earth-One vibe, so I'm still not entirely clear if we're supposed to believe that this moment is the first time that Bruce and Clark met in the DCnU.  Before we can get some context clues to help us ascertain that, though, Bruce and Clark are transported somewhere else, with a possessed Clark encountering an older Bruce.  Pak deepens this mystery by making it clear that the older Bruce had been warned by an older Clark to be "prepared," though it's unclear what they were doing that led them to this place or why Clark knew that they had to be "prepared."  (It seems clear that next issue will depict the younger Bruce confronting an older Clark.)  Why the mysterious figure who possessed Catwoman and now possesses younger Clark decided to transport Bruce and Clark (and their older counterparts) to this place remains to be seen and I expect that we're not going to get that answer next issue.

In terms of the art, Lee and and Oliver help contributed to the dream-like atmosphere that characterizes this issue.  I've never been a fan of Lee, but, OMFG, his Bruce and Clark are beautiful.  Bruce in particular shines here, almost literally, as he sits in his army uniform watching the children fight, his blue eyes smoldering.  With limited background imagery, Lee manages to convey how nightmarish Gotham is, where even its park structures seem to evoke the worst of humanity's imagination.  Lee also accomplished the impossible when he managed to make me feel emotions over Bruce's parents' death, something that I long thought impossible given how overused it is.  Something about a young Bruce cuddling against his father one last time, after Pak explained how comforting Bruce had found his father's presence when he read him bedtime stories as a child, made me feel Bruce's pain at their loss to an extent that I possibly never have.  It made you actually feel the pain of that young boy and not just the refracted pain of an adult Bruce reminiscing about that terrible night, as is often the case.  Not only is conveying this pain so clearly a remarkable artistic feat in and of itself, but it also shows how Pak and Lee are working in concert here, with Lee really drawing out the emotions that Pak is expressing.  Given how distinct Lee's artwork is, I also have to say that Oliver does an excellent job picking up the baton almost seamlessly from him.

Needless to say, after reading this review, it should be clear that I feel like we really witnessed something special with this issue.  I feel the need to read it again, because I gathered so much after the second reading.  This book feels the way that I wanted "Justice League" to feel, injecting an excitement over seeing two iconic characters interact for the first time that the DCnU promised by seriously failed to deliver.  If Pak manages to save the DCnU concept a bit, as he seems poised to do here, DC owes him big time.

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