The first arc of this title comes to an end, and whilst I did enjoy this issue, there are quite a few problems with it.
The first one is all of my own doing, and it’s one that applies to this whole arc really, I haven’t read Earth-2, so I have no connection to that universe and these alternate versions of Superman and Batman. I understand that they are killed by Darkseid in #1 of that book, and this issue sort of explains why, but this is retconning and explaining something I have no knowledge of, so I don’t really care about it. Again, this is my fault, but also, this book was not really advertised as involving Earth-2, so Greg Pak does have some responsibility to make me care.
The other problem is the reason given for why the Earth-2 characters were targeted by Darkseid in the first place. This whole plot from Kaiyo was a test, to see which version of Earth’s heroes was the best. It turns out that the New 52 Superman and Batman are the best, because they went after the weird crystal, and because they are ‘ruthless, raw and dangerous’. This is something that Pak mentioned in his Darkseid one-shot as well, that the New 52 Superman was dangerous, and it’s also shown in this issue by our Batman being a heck of a lot more paranoid than the Earth-2 Batman. I just find it odd that DC are being so up-front about how these new versions of the characters are, for the lack of a better word, extreme. It feels very 90s to just outright say that a character is dangerous, and it has me wondering just why I’m supposed to like these people as heroes. I’m not one of those people who thinks the New 52 made every character into a dick, but it does look like that’s what DC is trying to do here. Maybe I’m being old-fashioned in not wanting my Superman and Batman to be ‘ruthless’, but hey.
I also rolled my eyes pretty darn heavily at the ending, where Kaiyo erases everyone’s memories of what just happened. I suppose it needed to be done so as not to ruin stories that have already happened, but it’s so clichéd.
That said, there was good stuff in this issue, Pak continues to do a great job at contrasting not only Superman and Batman with each other, but also the Earth-2 versions with the New 52 versions. They are recognisably the same character, but the small differences are expressed very well. I also liked the small scene with Earth-2 Lois Lane and Catwoman, and man, the bit where Clark accidentally creates Zombie Ma and Pa Kent was really creepy, especially with Jae Lee’s artwork. He really has done fantastic stuff on this book, his Batman is of course great, but I’ve been really surprised by how much I like his Superman. You wouldn’t think they’d go together, but they do. I also appreciated how well Ben Oliver did on his few pages at keeping a lot of what Lee has done, and how they mirrored the opening few pages of #1.
So yeah, whilst I have problems with the way Pak is putting the tiresome edginess and grittiness of the New 52 right on the page, this book is still solid, and I look forward to future arcs that don’t involve all of this Earth-2 nonsense. Or I could just read Earth-2 and look at this story with new eyes. I dunno.