A strange force possesses Catwoman and sends her to Metropolis on a strange mission leading Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent to their first public meeting as Batman and Superman. What connection, if any, is there between this creature and the three mysterious deaths at Wayne Enterprises that Clark Kent is investigating as a reporter for the Daily Star, and just what is Bruce Wayne up to while hanging out in a dilapidated Gotham City park dressed like a "crazy vet" and smelling like a "strip club?" This and other mysterious goings on that aren't as easy to figure out permeate the first issue of The New 52's re-launch of Batman/Superman by Greg Pak, Jae Lee and Ben Oliver.
It appears that Superman fans, like myself, who still can't get on board with the rather dull and uninspiring version of The New 52 Superman might have found another current New 52 comic book starring him capable of joining Scott Snyder's Superman Unchained as the only New 52 Superman title worth reading. Like with Superman Unchained, Batman Superman is a solid read because of its writer's grasp of the character. Pak makes even the silly jeans and S-Shield T-Shirt Superman engaging. Pak is a comic book writer with a solid track record who has written some great takes on superheros and sci-fi properties in the past like Battlestar Galactica, World War Hulk, and Dr. Strange Season One. Here, Pak balances out the panel time between the two marquee heroes effectively. Each is given the necessary character developing and action packed scenes necessary to make each interesting. We've seen plenty of engaging storytelling in the recent Batman books written by Scott Snyder, but we haven't had much to latch onto as far as Superman has been concerned recently over his books. Pak's ability to craft a scene which deftly reveals and illuminates these two very different, yet strangely alike, superheroes' characters is great here. The opening scene where Clark and the "slumming" Bruce take different approaches towards a violent act of bullying by a bunch of middle America looking kids on some kids of obvious Arabic descent is brilliant. Also brilliant is the way that Pak appears to have Bruce come out on top of the argument...but does he really? These first few pages of Batman/Superman #1 are worthy of being brought into any class on creative writing and used as an example of how to build, execute, and add layers of thematic depth to any fictional scene, in any genre.
Speaking of genres, artist Jae Lee is a master of his and has proven this fact time and again over the years. Recently wrapping up the excellent Before Watchmen: Ozymandias miniseries for DC Comics, Pak brings his unique vision to Batman/Superman. While his art definitely falls on the dark and gothic side, he manages to bring some considerable light and joy to the scenes that flashback to Clark's youth. It is his portrayal of the twisted urban landscape of Gotham City that stands out though. It is a frightening place. The only complaint that readers will have concerning the look of Batman/Superman #1 is that Lee only produces the artwork for the first half of the issue. The also very talented Ben Oliver takes over the second half. While Oliver's art is unique and beautiful as well, the change in styles is unsettling to the flow of the storytelling. I personally would much rather have seen a full issue by Lee.
It sure has taken them long enough, but the powers that be at DC Comics are finally inching their weakest incarnation of their longest lived superhero towards being interesting. The New 52 Superman will most likely always struggle to garner a following, especially as long as he's in a relationship with Wonder Woman and not Lois Lane, but at least there will be a few current comic books starring him that will be worth checking out. Based upon the merits of issue #1, Greg Pak's Batman/Superman will be one of them.