REVIEW: BATMAN/SUPERMAN VOLUME 1 – CROSS WORLD / AUTHOR: GREG PAK / ARTIST: JAE LEE / PUBLISHER: DC / RELEASE DATE: MAY 6TH
One of the core relationships of the DC Universe is that between Superman and Batman. Superman is a god-like creature, powered by the sun, who strives to do the right thing, driven by a sense of duty and responsibility. Batman is a mortal man who uses the night as a way to beat up criminals and is motivated by vengeance. The contrast between the two has been a constant source of ideas for comic book writers in the past, so it’s rather essential in the New 52 reboot that they get this dynamic right.
Sadly, it tries so hard it flies pretty far past the mark. The plot is a convoluted one, in which the New 52 versions of Bruce and Clark grow to hate each other’s sense of entitlement and privilege. Both heroes are rather unlikeable in this new setting and they need little provocation to start hitting each other, though this is thanks in part to the work of a demonic trickster. This leads to some dimension hopping in which they meet much nicer versions of themselves who proceed to lecture them on how important it is they work together. The usually superb Grek Pak seems determined to crowbar in a destiny style plot-line which really doesn’t suit a team up of the world’s finest.
Jae Lee’s artwork is beautifully dark. Each panel is a gorgeous mix of old and new, using modern techniques to render highly detailed characters and background and yet keeping an old school vibe. The action scenes work very well indeed and it’s quite cinematic; there’s even a touch of lens flare. It’s just a pity that the art does not reflect the plot.
Cross World should work; Lee and Pak are both brilliantly talented people and the idea behind the story seems sound. Ultimately it’s the New 52 versions of Superman and Batman that fail to engage the reader, sacrificing classical character dynamics for a post-modern, emo-esque moodiness that was interesting 30 years ago but now seems melodramatic, out of place and silly. The handful of people in world who are enjoying the New 52 so far will lap this up. The rest of us are firmly advised to pick up some back issues of World’s Finest instead.