Batman takes the fight to Lex Luthor in Part 2 of “Hardware!”
Fans of the full run of the DC Animated Universe will be pleased to see the in-continuity beginning of Lex Luthor’s obsession with a certain Superman rogue. In addition to filling in sections of the DCAU that we never knew existed, this miniseries is laying the groundwork for storylines that we know will pay off in later seasons of the shows this book spins off from. It’s basically the best-case scenario for a series like this, as well as a real love letter to DCAU fans.
On the downside, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett do try to pack in just a bit too much into this single issue’s plot. A lot happens in the space of 22 pages, which has the effect of leaving a few plot points a little undercooked. Batman rolls up with a new toy that appears with little to no explanation (though serves as a subtle nod to both The Dark Knight Returns and Batman Beyond). It looks cool, but feels like it comes out of nowhere.
Likewise, the final portion of Batman’s scuffle with Luthor seems like it’s settled a little too quickly. There’s a literal deus ex machina involved at the tail end of the fight that feels like it needed a bit more of an explanation.
Still, when the action is as fun as it is and the characters are trading witty banter, it can be a little difficult to find too much fault with the issue’s plotting. Some moments needed more room to breathe, but it’s still fun to see Batman sneer at Luthor as his plans go south in a big way.
Ty Templeton’s action sequences are appropriately fun and bombastic, with a real weight to each punch thrown and each wall busted through. However, the most effective moments in this issue come at the end, when we catch back up with a certain mystery man who has a bone to pick with Batman. These sequences are bathed in shadows, looking like the perfect synthesis between the design aesthetics of The New Batman Adventures and the first few seasons of Batman: The Animated Series.
It’s worth noting that we clearly know who this character is, but the story is still treating him as a credible mystery. It’s going to take some doing on the part of this creative team to avoid making the eventual “reveal” not feel like a letdown. However, knowing how this team has handled the emotional stakes of superheroics in the past, I have a feeling it’ll play out in an interesting way.