[Comic Review] A Secret Everyone Knows — Batman Superman #3

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Batman Superman #3 continues the series’ weird trip through an alternate world where older versions of Superman and Batman have become fast friends in an optimistic future.

With Wonder Woman joining the fray to figure out what’s going on, the captured trickster Kaiyo reveals an image of an impending catastrophe named Darkseid. Kaiyo sticks around long enough to plant some ideas in the heads of Wonder Woman, the Supermen, and Lois Lane before disappearing, and the issue zooms to distant Kansas where a weapon harnessing the power of kryptonite has been left behind by this world’s Batman.

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The Batmen finally make their appearance somewhere in the Arctic, attacking the other heroes in order to keep them from reaching the site of a secret weapon. A quick battle ends with the various superheroes choosing — or not choosing — to work together.

Discouraged by the optimism  and plans of this world’s Batman and Superman, Kaiyo reappears and lays it all out — Darkseid is coming, and the secret weapon is the only thing that can stop him. But who will claim the weapon and save their Earth?

Greg Pak continues to keep readers on their toes by steeping this series in mystery and questions, and the quick pacing  pushes the tempo only occasionally slowing down to lay down enough paving to continue the plot. Pak uses the abilities of his superheroes to great effect, zipping them cross-country and around the world for quick locale changes, leaving very little time for characters to wait around to discover Kaiyo’s various puzzle pieces.

The introduction of Darkseid to the story brings in the heavy with a sense of urgency. Readers familiar with Darkseid can expect big things, but I’m a little disappointed Pak didn’t go for something altogether new — a bigger, badder villain with a mysterious origin story to fit the gothic stylings of artist Jae Lee.

Lee puts together another fantastic issue with his distinct visual style. Some panels were a bit confusing to understand — Superman falling or being held back as Wonder Woman gets reeled in by Kaiyo being one example — but overall, Batman Superman #3 looks beautiful or grotesque depending on the preferences of the reader.

Credit for the colors and the texture of the comic goes to June Chung who balances Lee’s wispy and delicate lines with a soft palette that looks like a Renaissance painter was sent into the future and given the task of drawing a comic. The dreamlike colors have a soft-focus effect that doesn’t cross over the line to the glossy. There’s a certain amount of restraint and mastery over this kind of sheen, and Chung’s coloring is some of the best and vibrant.

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Lee isn’t the only artist this issue — he’s joined by Yildiray Cinar who covers art duties — and excellently at that — for a back story that showcases the first time this world’s Clark Kent met Bruce Wayne. Cinar’s art looks polished and sincere, and though it’s a little jarring to go from one style to one that’s radically different, Cinar’s artistic abilities scream for a book of his own.

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The first meeting of Wayne and Kent, as portrayed by Cinar, happened in Kansas sometime after Wayne’s parents were murdered. A blown tire forces a quick pit stop, and Clark asks a lonely Bruce if he wants to play ball. As the boys go through an accelerated friendship — boys play, fight, become best friends — their guardians, Alfred and Jonathan Kent, respectively, reveal to each other what the other already knows.

And that’s where Pak’s scripting is so precise — there’s a sensitivity here that considers opposing perspectives, the intents and emotions of others, and the psychology exhibited by would-be fathers and adopted sons. There’s also the incredible dynamic of two young superheroes who want nothing to do with each other meeting older versions of themselves in a world without crime. The light and dark, the old and new — Pak has set this first story arc up as a complicated discussion that deconstructs two of the most famous superheroes by putting them up against versions of themselves.

While readers have been divided by Lee’s art style, the fact is, Batman Superman is the kind of comic that pushes the boundaries. At the moment, the story revolves not around supervillains, immediate threats, or even what’s coming on the horizon. Right now, the main conflict is the sense of individual self — that idea of realized identity.

For Batman, the world is full of shadows and darkness. Faced with an older version of himself whose eyes have become accustomed to the light, he struggles with the reality of a future full of change and optimism.

For Superman, the young Clark Kent sees a version of himself that’s dated, weary, and prone to leaving conversations before they’re ended. Idealism has been replaced with a jaded dullness — there’s no more discovery of powers, no more potential.

I’d venture to say that Batman Superman is DC’s best book, and not because it stars the World’s Finest. The title takes nothing for granted, and it pokes at the myths that have seen their lusters shine, fade, and regain their shines. This is the origin story of two superpowers meeting, and it will define their relationships, at least, for the immediate future.


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Batman Superman #3 (2013)
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Words: Greg Pak
Art: Jae Lee and Yildiray Cinar
Colors: June Chung / Matt Yachey and John Hausz
Letters: Rob Leigh

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