There are so many different places to take a Batman/Superman team-up book. Lucky for us, writer Gene Luen Yang and penciler Ivan Reis seem to have settled on the conceit of “wild, dimension-hopping hi-jinks.” Consider me a fan!
Last issue — the first one by this creative team — introduced two parallel realities, each a facsimile of DC’s Golden Age, but with a crucial difference: Batman and Superman do not know each other.
Once the Lois Lane from Superman’s world manages to cross realities to meet Batman and Robin, the story begins to crack at the seams. Spider-Lady, a creation of the 1940s Superman serials, who Yang positions as a villain to Batman, ends up assuming a much more important role in this issue thanks to a fun reveal that Yang foreshadowed in the previous issue. “’All my life, I’ve been haunted by the feeling that my existence has been edited,” Spider-Lady muses. “That pieces were left on the cutting room floor.”
Reis literalizes this approach by framing each panel as part of a running strip of film. Characters hopping from one reality to another lead to burn-marks on the film reel. Who is manipulating reality to mess with Batman and Superman? Why are they doing this?
The answer involves a mysterious alien archivist and its mission to “create the greatest world to ever exist.” All other worlds — the “rough cut,” as our sneering villain puts it — “will be burned away.” Yikes.
The first issue of Yang and Reis’ run on this book was visually stunning, especially from a design standpoint. The way Reis, working with inker Danny Miki and colorist Sabine Rich, framed the parallel film reels was unlike anything I had seen in superhero comics. This issue follows in a similar format, but with a more meta-textual edge. An especially representative two-page spread shows the nefarious archivist, acting as a filmmaker of sorts, pulling an object out of one of the film reels.
Right now, the archivist is just a maniacal villain in the classic Golden Age mold, but I’ll be interested to see how Yang positions him going forward. I love how the archivist fills a similar role to the comic’s creative team — moving around people and places as he sees fit to create a better story. We have all read a few too many comics about comics at this point for the approach to seem novel, but Yang seems more interested in stories and how two of the most iconic fictional characters in history can be molded to tell a good one. It’s still too early in his run to know where he plans to take that idea, but I’ll be excited to find out.
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