The beauty of the comic book annual is twofold: first, you get an extra-sized issue, meaning more content. Second, it’s a one-shot, so anyone can dive in and enjoy it. This week, Josh Williamson, Dale Eaglesham, Clayton Henry, and Gleb Melnikov pit the magical god-like characters Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite against one another. Both of them have deep connections to Batman and Superman, respectively, but what happens when they come to blows over who could beat who?
It’s Batman vs. Superman this week, and in this annual issue, we get multiple fights. It all opens with two kids arguing over the age-old question of who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman. Soon, Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite are pulling them apart and setting the record straight with their reality-altering powers. We get Bat-Mite’s take — Batman would win, obviously — and then Mr. Mxyzptlk’s take — Superman would win, obviously — which have varying results. The narrative is self-reflective and breaks the fourth wall as needed.
The best part of this book is the idea itself, which allows the book to do anything. This leads to a natural third act that makes sense, though it takes ages to get there so much of the narrative seems pointless and untethered from continuity. Fans of “What If” will enjoy all the various ways Batman can beat on Superman, and there’s quite a clever idea involving the Fortress of Solitude.
Unfortunately, the book doesn’t do enough to make you care. Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite are rather ridiculous characters and this narrative dives into equally ridiculous scenarios that are fun from a creative standpoint, but don’t have much to stand on. Seeing Bat-Mite come up with ways he’d bash Superman to bits is fun from a novelty standpoint, but it’s hard to care knowing it’s all made-up and silly. Once Batman and Superman figure things out it’s interesting, but at that point, everything that came before really didn’t matter. The fact that the narrative ends on a fanciful imaginative ending further makes the book feel fun but pointless.
The art naturally changes as the artists change, but it’s done in a way that doesn’t feel jarring as each of the three artists tackle a different setting. It opens in the fifth dimension, gets very dark with the first matchup, and brightens up as the book goes on. When it gets bright it feels accurate to the series with its brightness and positivity.
Batman/Superman Annual #1 is fun, but doesn’t quite deliver. It has a few clever bits and ideas but doesn’t ever make you care for the situation these characters are in since much of it is alternate reality stuff. This is really more of a Bat-Mite/Mr. Mxyzptlk book than a Batman/Superman book, but that’ll likely please select fans.
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