- Posted by Johanna on January 21, 2006 at 7:24 am
- Category: Superhero Reviews
- CREDITS: by Karl Kesel, Dave Taylor, and others
- PUBLISHER: DC Comics; $19.95 US
The high concept of this book — 10 successive annual meetings between Superman and Batman, showing how their relationship has changed over the years — sounds wonderful until one realizes how many stories about the two have been written, and forgotten, over the years.
Companies like DC have a habit of wanting to keep their characters ageless, which requires story erasures or history restarts every so often. As a result, no one knows how many adventures Superman has actually had, or whether a favorite Batman story officially happened, or how many years either of them have been adventuring. Thus, the impact of seeing the “first meeting” of these two heroes is lessened; it’s just another story that will later be overwritten by someone else’s attempt.
Dave Taylor draws a strangely skinny Superman in a generic world, missing the chance to better distinguish the characters’ homes of Metropolis and Gotham City. The key characters look like mannequins, and they’re given some truly odd poses that ruin dramatic moments.
Obvious parallels are drawn between the two heroes to make the similarities and distinctions stand out, even though the alert reader has already recognized most of them. Certainly, anyone drawn to this book for the premise is well familiar with the symbolism, not needing it spelled out in this clunky detail, and the in-jokes and revamped versions of obscure characters don’t make up for the writing.
The hostility between the two heroes is a slap in the face to anyone who remembers the much longer history of them working together and contrasts badly with the chapter that attempts to evoke the sillier aspects of the heroes’ histories. Light-hearted stories about magical imps from other dimensions need heroes with a sense of humor, not these grim sticks.
By the time all the stops are pulled out in the end, the reader’s likely to come away realizing the task was impossible (when they’re not wondering why Batman’s rogue’s gallery is so classic while Superman’s is so forgettable). The book works best as a record of how wrong DC has gone in trying to keep its flagship heroes relevant by using substitutes and spinoffs and having Superman kill and insisting people think Batman is an urban legend. It’s lost sight of the appeal of the world’s best known superheroes.