Today, Mikyzptlk and Scott are discussing Batman/Superman 2, originally released July 24th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Alternate universe stories are just plain fun. Shows like Star Trek: TNG, Sliders, and most recently, Fringe have all played with the concept of parallel Earths. It’s fun to explore how one change or another can affect the lives of the characters we know and love. By adding or removing variables, writers have a chance to dig into characters in ways they might not normally have the opportunity to do. Sometimes, this exploration is only for the benefit of the audience, and the story is just some kind of “what-if,” other times though, like in Batman/Superman 2, the parallel universe trope is used not only to explore variations, but to further the development of the characters as well.
Since there are some universal doppelgangers in this book, I’m going to refer to them by a combination of their name and Earth designations. Since our Batman is from Earth 0 (I assume), he’ll be known as Batman-0, etc. With that out of the way, Batman-0 and Superman-0 have found themselves on Earth 2, though they don’t know that themselves. Batman-0 enters the Batcave and quickly encounters Catwoman-2. They begin to fight, but Batman-0 quickly discovers that he (or at least some version of him) is married to Catwoman-2. Over in Kansas, Superman-0 has beat the hell out of Batman-2, but has been stopped in his tracks by his not-quite-father. Superman-2 hits the scene just as Batman-2 is zapped back to his cave by the orchestrator of this whole plot, Kaiyo the Trickster. Batman-2 gives chase, but quickly loses track of the entity.
Eventually, the Supermans and Batmans each discover they are all, somehow, dealing with true doubles of themselves. Since they can’t figure out how yet, our heroes from Earth 0 are each, separately, taken on a tour of their respective cities. The two find that their Earth 2 counterparts have helped each other improve their cities to extraordinary levels. The Supermans then encounter Lois Lane-2 (married to Superman-2, naturally), but before they have a chance to discuss much, Wonder Woman-2 shows up and exposes Lois for being possesed by Kaiyo, who reveals herself as a god.
That’s Wonder Woman-2 flying on a pegasus. If you’d rather keep staring at that picture instead of reading the rest of this, I wouldn’t blame you. Seriously though, Jae Lee’s art continues to be interesting, creepy, and absolutely gorgeous. I don’t say this often, but I really wouldn’t care about the quality of the writing so long as I had art like this to look at for 22 pages. Fortunately, as we head into issue 2, Greg Pak’s writing continues to be as interesting as Jae Lee’s art.
Now, as far as the structure of this issue goes, it’s fairly simple. Our Superman and Batman, though on their own, both fight against their doppelgangers, come to a mutual understanding, and are then taken on a sweet tour. I appreciated the simplicity of this structure, and how Pak inserted purposeful parallels into the structure of his story. I think the simplicity of the structure made a good deal of room which allowed the Batmans and Supermans the chance to get to know, well, themselves. Both pairs of heroes get treated to some great moments of storytelling. As for Batman(s), we get to see Batman-0 encounter his not-quite-bride Catwoman, which is a treat in it of itself, but then we get to see what happens when Batman meets Batman. The results are what you might expect.
As awesome as a room of two Batmen can be, it was the Supermen scenes that really packed some emotional punches. As I said earlier, Superman-0 beats the hell out of Batman-2 early on, but it’s not a secret Kryptonite ring stashed in Batman-2’s utility belt that stops Superman-0, but his long-lost dad.
As you probably know, Superman’s parents are dead on Earth 0. That said, it sure does seem like some writers are intent on bringing Ma and Pa Kent back any way they can. Sholly Fisch found a way to get Superman to interact with his departed father in an Action Comics backup, and now we have Greg Pak resurrecting the Kents as their Earth 2 counterparts. For reasons that I won’t get into, I’m not a fan of the fact that Superman-0 has lost both of his parents. However, we have gotten some pretty great emotional moments out of that conceit. The moment seen above is fairly heartbreaking, but as the Batmen figured out they were facing each other on their own, it was Ma Kent that discovered the truth of Superman-0.
This is incredibly clear and concise storytelling, both on Pak’s and Lee’s part. How do you have the Supermen become allies? Duh, the mother always knows. Additionally, it’s incredible how much emotional depth Lee is able to showcase with nothing but silhouettes. There’s another scene that follows this where Superman-2 stands over his mother as she places her loving hand over Superman-0’s head, again all done in silhouette, and again, just as heart-crunchingly sad.
Honestly, if this is where the issue would have ended, I would have had no complaints. Greg Pak was kind enough to keep the story progressing though, much to my satisfaction. The tour of the Metropolis and Gotham of Earth 2 was fascinating, if brief, giving me just enough to whet my appetite for what I hope will be a further exploration. The last remaining pages, however, gave us the introduction to two of the DCU’s most important female figures, Lois Lane and Wonder Woman, which were also quite satisfying scenes, leading us to the cliffhanger.
So Scott, I know you were a bit thrown by the sudden introduction of Earth 2 in issue 1, now that you’ve spent some time in it, are you more comfortable with where the story is going?
Scott: The initial shock of the Earth 2 twist has now worn off, yes. I needed a few pages to orient myself, but after that I found it pretty easy to get into this issue. As for where the story is going- that’s another matter. In a series that has already brought us four total Supermen and Batmen and a Wonder Woman on a Pegasus, I wouldn’t dare to guess what’s coming next. Kaiyo is capable of some pretty crazy stuff, and now she’s angry, so I’m expecting the unexpected.
Mikyzptlk, you mentioned the simplicity of the structure, but I also found it to be rather unorthodox. For starters, this issue featured hardly any interactions between Batmen and Supermen, and zero between the Earth-0 versions. Batman and Superman are both capable of carrying independent storylines, but for a series called Batman/Superman, the segregation came as a surprise. I expected the focus, at least at this early stage in the title’s run, to be on the development of the Bat/Supes relationship. Obviously, there will have to be a lot of development to come in future issues, because right now Batman-0 and Superman-0 have hilariously wrong impressions of one another.
Kaiyo remains a mystery, but I’m excited to see her inject a little chaos into Earth-2. Everything seems so perfect for Batman-2 and Superman-2, they really need to be shaken up a bit. I mean, they must get bored with their perfect marriages in their cleaned up cities with their solar arrays and inappropriately-themed amusement parks. You can’t tell me it’s not a little weird that Batman-2 and Catwoman-2 have a little sparring session to get in the mood. These characters just aren’t meant to live tame lives. They can’t wait for a new villain like Kaiyo to arrive and start causing some problems, just so they have something to do. Why else would they still be wearing their capes everywhere?
Pak has penned such an unconventional beginning to this title, it almost needs art like Lee’s to make it feel right. Lee’s smoky backgrounds, ghostly shadows and gothic-inspired designs create a very specific environment for Pak story to exist within, one that is very cold and creepy, yet somehow charming. Fortunately, it works very well. Lee’s infatuation with silhouettes is bordering on extreme, but I liked enough of them in this issue that I’ll let it slide. So far, Pak and Lee’s styles have fused into something unique, and it’s hard not to be at least interested in where this title is headed. I won’t claim to know where that is, exactly, but I’ll be along for the ride.
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