The Toymaster Hiro Okamura has a new game, and it involves taking down superheroes.
But the game, an MMORPG built around beating Batman, has a critical flaw — it’s real. Designed on technology engineered from prominent scientists’ work, the video game has the ability to create avatars that form real-life threats to the heroes players are trying to beat.
The first time Batman notices something’s amiss happens when Metal-Zero, a Superman foe, comes to Gotham City for no apparent reason. Though Batman acknowledges he’s no physical match for Superman who could break Metal-Zero down with a flurry of punches, he also knows his strengths lie in his tactical advantages.
After the fight, Superman shows up, and there’s some playful banter — Superman goes so far as to call it trolling. The conversation doesn’t last long, but it sets both on edge as competitive tensions rise.
Meanwhile, Okamura’s recruited several new players to take part in a raid style battle to take down Batman. Playing as a Nightwing avatar, the players begin to bend the rules, giving Nightwing the ability to fly. The fight breaks into Hiro’s headquarters, and the gamesmaster realizes he needs to pull the plug immediately.
June sees two new titles from DC exploring two of its greatest characters. Superman Unchained released earlier this month, and it saw the formation of a dynamic-duo creative team made up of superstars Scott Snyder and Jim Lee. That series launched at an opportune time right before Man of Steel, DC’s Superman movie reboot, debuted in theaters. Today, readers can feast their eyes on Batman Superman #1, a series that pairs two of the most popular characters — comic and cultural — to explore the the duo’s first contact, team-ups, and conflicts. And fear not — the first issue is awesome. Batman Superman #1 puts writer Greg Pak and artist Jae Lee together for a series that gets it right — it’s beautiful to look at and the scripts are penned with polish. Much in the same vein as Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness’ 2003 Superman/Batman series that also saw Pat Lee and Michael Turner on pencil duties, DC’s newest title explores the perspectives of The World’s Finest — two contrasting chracters with different methods, thoughts, and motivations.
Issue #1 begins in Batman’s backyard, Gotham City, a place where “the strong just eat the weak.” Color-coded captions help readers discern between the viewpoints of Clark Kent/Superman and Bruce Wayne/Batman as they both watch a young boy being bullied.
While Wayne waits for the boy to fight back, Kent rushes in and orders the children away. It’s a scene that sets the tone for the book’s launch, and though it’s been done before, the difference here is Pak’s scripting which gets to the nitty-gritty by diving deep through the layers. While Superman — in his Kent disguise — tries to get information out of Wayne — playing the part of a civilian — readers get to see what the characters think of each other, how they play their individual roles, and what leads them on their journey to Metropolis to uncover the truth concerning the murder of Wayne Enterprises employees. Pak lays down a story that includes Catwoman, Wayne Enterprises tech — possible precursors to the Bat-robots of Kingdom Come — and a mysterious entity who can possess people. It’s a conglomeration of ideas, plot threads, and details that acknowledges the enormousness of these two characters.
Lee puts in work with gorgeous panels that embody the contrasting and conflicting schemas. Beautifully drawn and expression-laden characters exist over minimalist backgrounds, all colored by June Chung. The art is frame-worthy and ethereal. Artist Ben Oliver and colorist Daniel Brown take over for what seems to be a dream sequence, and the transition isn’t jarring at all. It isn’t altogether clear what’s happening here — young Superman and modern Batman duke it out in a field until Jonathan Kent appears — and the issue closes out with the appearance of the mysterious entity, likely responsible for the strange goings-on. It’s a setup for the story arc to be continued, and even with all the mystery and vagueness, there’s a sense things will be well because Batman Superman is in capable hands.
Superman and Batman have long been compared against each other. As the two faces of DC, they exist as two different faces of the same coin. There’s a back and forth within these pages, a chess game between two individuals fighting on the same side and sometimes against each other.
Either way, fans win.
Batman Superman #1 (2013)
Words: Greg Pak
Art: Jae Lee and Ben Oliver
Colors: June Chung and Daniel Brown
Letters Rob Leigh