Monday, August 25, 2014

Batman/Superman: Cross World (comics)

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Jae Lee, Ben Oliver
Collects: Batman/Superman #1-4, Justice League #23.1: Darkseid

A good writer paired with a fantastic, but slow, artist. Said team is put on a monthly. Guess what went wrong?

By now, Batman/Superman has a bit of a reputation. It's constantly late, with delay after delay marring its schedule. Prior to the relaunch, this kind of thing wasn't as big of a deal unless the delays got out of hand - see Superman: Last Son - but after a relaunch that's done a good job of reigning in a publishing line riddled with delays, a comic like this will stick out like a sore thumb.

But hey, do you know what people never remember after a book has hit collection? Yup. Delays. Lucky, then, that Batman/Superman is good enough that it will probably overcome its punctuality issues as years go by.

It never hurts to start from the beginning. Cross World is the story of the first meeting of Batman and Superman in the New 52. It may even be the first time their initial adventure as a duo has been told in decades. So already it has instant appeal. Throw in alternate Earths, doubles from said Earth, even the impending threat Darkseid and stir. Not a bad concoction.

Cross World is not nearly as earth shaking as I probably make it out to be, but it serves its purpose well as an introduction to the Worlds Finest Team. Pairing them with older, wiser versions of themselves on their first adventure - who are, in contrast to "our" Batman and Superman, long time best friends - is an inspired move that serves up a nice contrast. Nothing groundbreaking, but it doesn't need to be; you don't always have to reinvent the wheel.

One thing I particularly enjoy is that it has a place in the puzzle of the DCU's beginning. There are plenty of things to criticize when it comes to DC's approach to the New 52 initiative, but one thing they did right was to stagger the rollout of any origin stories, taking that task one piece at a time. The end result is a linear telling of the DCU's opening year, starting with Batman: Zero Year, feeding to Batman/Superman to Grant Morrisons Action Comics run to the Origin arc of Justice League.

Say what you will about some of those stories - you may recall that Origin is not my favorite comic - but we have a straight line through the big milestone moments. That may be a first for DC. Most attempts to tie things together in the past were wild and often contradictory, leaving plenty of questions as to what was canon and what wasn't; see the did-it-or-didn't-it-happen dance around JLA: Year One for just one example.

If anything bothered me, it's the ending. Essentially, the adventure is wiped from their minds, save the scenes in the park where they meet for the first time in their civilian identities. Obviously, that's not built to last - you just know they'll remember the events at some point - but it feels like a cheap out. That said, it doesn't ruin the book.

Jae Lee's artwork really elevates the material, in my eyes. This would be a perfectly readable arc without it, but Lee's style goes a long way toward making it a must read. Lee is minimalistic in regard to background, but coupled with his sense of design and panel composition, it works amazingly well. Your eye sticks to what it needs to. I'm sure this comic is maddening to read in single installments, given the mammoth delays, but as a collected edition it has none of those issues and holds together beautifully as a result.

I doubt Lee will be on the book for long - when you need six months worth of fill-in to keep a book going between arcs, even with a crossover, the writing is on the wall - but it's nice to have while it lasts, even if DC ought to have known better.

Also collected is the villains month issue for Darkseid - also written by Pak - which serves as something of an origin story for the New Gods. I'm not sure if it's all new material - I'm not well versed in the Kirby lore - but it's fairly compelling backstory. It may be the first concrete details we have regarding the New Gods in the New 52. I'm not entirely sure. Either way, it fits in well, given its ties to a character that played a major role in the events of Cross World.

One more thing to note. I don't know if it's just the copy I got from the library or it's a recurring issue, but several pages of the first issue collected were quite blurry. Production error? Whatever the case, it's distracting and can make the test difficult to read. I hope it's not a major problem.

All told, I don't have any major complaints with Cross World and I liked it enough that I'll be back for more.

My Opinion: Read It

1 comment:

  1. The bit about them forgetting the events that occurred was necessary because in the first arc of Justice League they claimed not to have met previously. So it's a little hokey but was there to clean up the continuity.

    But you're right - Pak has already revisited the idea.