Steven Reviews: Batman/Sup
erman, Superman/W onder Woman, and Wonder Woman
One thing all stories need to have is a theme. Some of the best stories with the richest tapestry of writing are the ones that are consistent with a thorough, running theme. As we are one week away from the last week of DC Comics “Futures End” one-shot month, it must be said that a true highlight of the books they released have all been consistent. Last week, as seen in “Batman”, “New Suicide Squad”, “Birds of Prey”, and “Batgirl” we saw the idea of taking something that works and rethinking it as something better, out with the old and in with the new, and at what cost “building a better mousetrap” comes at. Readers saw Harley Quinn pumped up with Bane’s super steroid venom, along with Batgirl becoming The Black Beast (her own version of Bane), and Bruce Wayne rethinking his approach to maintaining the everlasting symbol of Batman that Gotham will always need. This week, featuring prominently in “Superman/ Wonder Woman”, “Wonder Woman”, and “Batman/ Superman” we are given the theme of no man is an island, and the need for others in our lives. We are given hope.
The New 52: Futures End has been unwavering in each week’s presentation of a dark, bleak world filled with lost heroes, saviors, and a missing Superman. In the second to last week of this month of one-shot titles, all set five years from now (in current canon and continuity), we start to finally see that light at the end of the tunnel. The highlight, and absolute must read book of the week, goes to Greg Pak’s “Batman/ Superman.” They present us with a society that has just survived the end of the world. A world very reminiscent of our own in the days after tragedy. In “Batman/ Superman” we open with a ceremony being held in Metropolis for all the thousand of people who died and are still missing during events that we could surmise took place during the DC’s other major storyline, “Doomed.” While the names are being read, we are given a Bruce Wayne who has been broken physically and mentally. Having suffered “fourteen broken bones, [a]punctured lung, vertebral compression fracture, [and]thirteen hundred and twelve stitches” he is shown contemplating the very question I have been for the past 19 weeks “where the hell are you, Clark?”
Clark Kent has been absent for most of the events of Futures End. Up until Constantine found him in Ethiopia helping the community, we have not known his whereabouts and his current standing within the Futures End presentation of The New 52 universe. Until more recently, and more revelatory, Greg Pak finally has written a Futures End story that has slowly peeled back the curtain on one of comics bigger (and possibly better) mysteries. We learn that the world was invaded by another world, and that Clark “ditched us” in Bruce Wayne’s own words. As to why the Man of Steel left us, we are still uncertain. But we do know there was a falling out of sorts between him and The Dark Knight, they fought, and then Superman walked away.
Harkening back to the theme of no man is an island, there is possibly no better character to illustrate that than Batman. Batman, sometimes at his very best, operates alone. And other times, he needs a partner in the likes of an alien from the planet Krypton. Greg Pak beautifully paints a portrait of a man that isn’t afraid to ask for help. A portrait of a man who can’t do it alone and won’t back down just yet. His brush stroke is masterful and he continues to shepherd “Batman/ Superman” into essential monthly reading territory. One of the most pivotal of moments in this title isn’t so much when Bruce Wayne fights Metallo with every bit of vigor he has left, but when after his battle with Metallo is over and we learn that he has been in the hospital for weeks. Alfred informs him (SPOILER) that his “back is broken for good this time” and while left alone in his hospital room, looks out the window and calls out “Clark?” He knows he’s watching, even if he “could be two thousand miles away” and finally calls to his friend, at Alfred’s suggestion. What makes Bruce Wayne such an important character and such a beloved icon is his resilience. He won’t give up and he won’t stop until everyone is safe. Even when the cost is his own well-being, and life, Bruce understands that we need Batman just as much as he needs Batman.
Some of the best visual interpretations of Batman were seen in Frank Miller’s classic, “The Dark Knight Returns” and in Christian Bale’s performance in “The Dark Knight Rises.” We love seeing Bruce Wayne put on the cape and cowl one last time to save the day. It’s almost as quintessential to the mythology of a hero’s journey as is the cowboy strapping on his guns for one last time. Guest artists, Cliff Richards, Jack Herbert, and Vicente Cifuentes capture the somber tone of this story, yet create a unique tone that grounds all the action – ranging from realistic to fantasy – in a believable way. And Cliff Richards draws a great bat suit and cave that definitely is a nice tip of the hat to the past and future cinematic installments in the long and storied career of the Batman.
“Batman/ Superman” gets five out of five space monkeys. Somber? Yes, however it is a story not without hope. While Superman may not be present for a book in which he co-shares the title, we are given a world that is not completely devoid of its heroes. We are promised a future that will have Batman. A not so futures end, and more so a future beginning – a future that will have to settle for the undying spirit of Batman.
“Wonder Woman” and “Superman/ Wonder Woman” are both written by Charles Soule. They are both connected in telling the story of the God of War, Wonder Woman battling Nemesis five years from now. On the fields of Korondor, Wonder Woman is battling the herds of Nemesis’ soldiers with help from “Old Soldiers.” “Old Soldiers” is a perfect title for this on-shot since it features soldiers throughout our history, having returned from the dead, in order to help Wonder Woman defeat Nemesis. It also perfectly depicts the courage and hope Wonder Woman inspires in others and others find in her. Charles Soule has found an excellent beat with writing Wonder Woman as a powerful, heroic, goddess who embodies everything a hero should be. Even when faced with the fact that even gods can die, and her own mortality Wonder Woman finds a way to embrace life and everything that makes it worth living. In the story “War and Peace” featured in “Superman/ Wonder Woman”, Charles Soule continues the momentum from “Wonder Woman” in which she is confronted by SPOILER Superman, in an other wordly form. Throughout the story of “War and Peace”, Superman and Wonder Woman trek through Tartarus, and Superman helps Wonder Woman rediscover her passion and reignite her unyielding spirit for peace! It’s an excellent two-part story that Mr. Soule has described himself as “the [Five Years Later] issues are basically a two-part else worlds dealing with Diana as the God of War.”
At the conclusion of “Superman/ Wonder Woman” it will be sad to see Charles Soule depart writing duties (after issue 12) on this title as it has been great seeing him overcome all the initial worries fans had over a Superman and Wonder Woman title. However, it will be very interesting to see what his contract at Marvel leads to.
“Wonder Woman” gets five out of five space monkeys because it excels at everything a one-shot should be. This New 52 Futures End story is not only an enlightening read and another great addition to this month’s tie-in stories, but also one of the best Wonder Woman stories that hasn’t been written by Brian Azarello. Rags Morales’s artwork also is a stand out. The overall presentation and look of the book is nice. Wonder Woman comes across majestic in every panel and Morales’s captures, no pun intended, the wonder of Wonder Woman.
“Superman/ Wonder Woman” gets four out of five stars because, while Charles Soule’s writing duties are top-notch, Bart Sears’s art work doesn’t fit the story. This particular issue, heavily dealing with Greek mythology seems as if it would have been better suited to Cliff Chiang’s artistic styling. With that being said, the final page of this issue, is a highlight of the whole book. Bart Sears’s splash page brings to mind some of the late Michael Turner’s work to mind. And that is never a bad thing.