With all of that Earth-2 silliness over and done with, this book moves into the present-day DCU, and into a pretty fun story that somehow manages to use both Toymaster and Mongul and have it make sense.
The issue begins with Batman fighting Metallo, because Superman is busy stopping a meteor from crashing into the Earth. Both characters easily dispatch these threats, but the real meat is once again Pak’s inner narration for both characters, and how that fleshes out their relationship, which is very good stuff, and shows how well Pak can make these icons feel human and relatable. Although I’m sure some fans will dislike Superman saying he enjoys ‘trolling’ Batman. Batman leaves Superman to deal with Metallo, but before he can do anything, Metallo just vanishes. It turns out this wasn’t the real Metallo, just a virtual copy created by the Toymaster’s new video game system. Even he doesn’t seem aware that this video game is actually happening in the real world, and he’s being tricked by Agnes, the game-designer.
The thing I was most confused by in this issue was the scene where the dust from the Meteor falls to Earth and seems to infect people, including Batman, by raising everyone’s heartbeat. Was this Mongul’s doing as well?
Because yep, the evil ‘video game’ is a ploy by Mongul to take over the world. Toymaster does another test, where he and 3 others (including Jimmy Olsen) control a duplicate of Nightwing that fights the real Batman. Batman manages to bust in and confront Toymaster, who realises what’s gone wrong, but then, Mongul shows up. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea that Mongul saw that so many Earth-people spend so much time playing war-based video games. On the one hand, it’s pretty clever, but we have seen it before and it does seem a bit beneath Mongul. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if next issue revealed that Mongul wasn’t real either, and that Agnes is the real villain. Mongul’s laser beams certainly have real impact though, as the issue ends with him blasting them at Batman, who at the last minute, requests for help from Superman.
The art for this book was pretty strange actually. I’m not a huge fan of Brett Booth, and while he’s no Jae Lee, he is decent, however, I really don’t get why this issue was told in landscape format. There was no real reason to do it, so it just seems unnecessary. It was only on the first 3 pages, which split down the middle, that it really worked for me. When you do a gimmick like this, it has to serve a greater purpose I think, and here, it just made holding the comic a bit of a hassle. But apart from that, this was a decent comic, I really like how Pak writes both characters, and now that it’s set in a Universe I know, it’s even better.