Dan DiDio and Jim Lee promise in the introduction to this issue a re-imaging of DC's major characters, striving to "preserve what makes our characters so iconic while never being too precious of the mythology for fear of chaining down our characters." It's a high bar, and we'll see if they get over it in the coming months. I'm going to focus on the Batman and Justice League stories here, since I really know nothing about Superman.
The Batman story is a prelude to the next era of Batman. Snyder makes it clear here that he plans to stick with this idea that Bruce died fighting the Joker. If we hadn't just gone down this road a few years ago, maybe I could muster more excitement about it. After all, Snyder stakes out some pretty interesting territory here. Some unknown minor company named Powers International has bought the remains of Wayne Enterprises, and its CEO builds a suit for Commission Gordon to become the next Batman. This development certainly does play with major aspects of the mythology, along the lines of DiDio and Lee's comments. While the funding from Wayne Enterprises certainly facilitated Bruce having the tools that the needed as Batman, Batman was never a corporate symbol, like Iron Man was for Stark Enterprises. In one fell swoop, Snyder has not only made Batman an extension of a corporation (with unclear motivations) but also as a tool of the police (and no longer a vigilante). I'm certainly intrigued to see where Snyder takes that, and I'll give him credit for not telling exactly the same story that Morrison did when he killed Bruce. In fact, an open question here is whether the Bat-family even has any connection to Batman at all at this point.
That said, though, it's hard to say that it feels fresh. After all, Snyder initially made his mark on the Batman mythos by brilliantly chronicling Dick's struggle to fill Bruce's shoes. In other words, Snyder isn't only telling a story that Morrison already told; he's telling one that he himself has also told. It's why Bruce's "death" in issue #40 felt anticlimactic in the first place. All comic-book deaths seem meaningless at this point, but Bruce dying twice in seven years just seems like overkill. (Heh.)
Plus, the story carries with it a number of original sins from weaknesses of previous stories. First and foremost, I'm still confused by Bruce's somewhat unhinged decision to kill the Joker and himself in that cave in "Batman" #40, since it still seems like he had other options. Moreover, Wayne Enterprises was bankrupted because Bruce was too careless to diversity his holdings, something that didn't make sense when we first learned about in "Batman Eternal" and doesn't make any more sense now. We also just resurrected Damian, but it's par for the course for Snyder to deny them time together, since he's always seemed to be bent on making sure that the family never stayed intact. Finally, as the Justice League story later in this issue makes clear, Bruce doesn't seem to be dead for the Darkseid War, something that presumably will last more than a handful of issues. As such, it's going to be hard to buy the mourning for Bruce in the Bat-titles when he's hale and hearty in "Justice League."
But, I'm willing to give Snyder a shot. I can't say that I've really been a fan of his run on "Batman" (as I was on the one in "Detective Comics") but I haven't hated it either. I'll say that I'm much more excited about the upcoming Darkseid War in "Justice League." Johns reveals that Darkseid's daughter, Grail, was born to an Amazonian assassin on the same night as Diana on Themyscira. The assassin vowed to protect her daughter, hiding her birth from Hippolyta and escaping with her. We don't learn why the woman had the child with Darkseid or why she and her daughter now want to kill him. But, this story does exactly what it's supposed to do, make you eager to keep reading. It really amped up my excitement for the "Darkseid War," despite the fact that I'm a little over him after "Earth 2."
I have to say, this issue was really critical for both "Batman" and "Justice League" readers. I give a lot of credit to DC for using the "Free Comic Book Day" event the way that it was meant, pulling in new readers and getting existed ones pumped for where they're going. If you haven't read it, you should really do so, particularly since it's free!
*** (three of five stars)