BATMAN/SUPERMAN #11 (Greg Pak, Tom Derenick, Karl Kerschl, Daniel Sampere) is Part 4 of the SUPERMAN: DOOMED Crossover.
The fact that this book exists as it does is basically what says more about it than anything I could write. Supermans’ character has had a wealth of trouble from the inception of The New 52. Grant Morrison gave us a young Superman who was pretty thoroughly above the law in ACTION COMICS. Elsewhere we had the main title SUPERMAN book where he’s this kind of wishy-washy cape icon who tends to brood so much they might as well start drawing him to look like Henry Cavill. Pretty much regardless of where Superman’s been featured as a character in The New 52, the characterization has been ‘off’ the mark, at least compared to what’s expected.
If you’re just coming into this crossover now, SUPERMAN DOOMED #1 see’s superman going toe-to-toe in a rematch battle against DOOMSDAY. This is intended as an homage to the battle that kicked off THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN in the 90’s with this story looking to emulate some of the same themes, but doing them in the strangest way imaginable. Coming into BATMAN/SUPERMAN with issue #11 here paints the biggest picture of what the crossover entails, while also being the weakest book in the crossover so far.
Make no mistake: BATMAN/SUPERMAN is just meant to move plot forward in a larger crossover arc and nothing else.
Tom Derenick’s art in this issue is serviceable but also makes me realize how much Jae Lee’s almost gothic Alex Ross-inspired art made BATMAN/SUPERMAN one of the early standouts in the New 52. Highlights include Steel’s new look being off model in some of the panels where he’s in the background. Wonder Woman’s insane facial expression when she’s dashing through the Phantom Zone at one of the villains in the book. Really, Tom’s art is fine with his team of inkers and colorists as long as he’s not drawing anyone that’s not a dude or any action pieces. You get a feel that as an artist he understands how to make characters look natural standing around, and we get some nice body language from the trio as they head into The Fortress of Solitude, but it breaks down any time action is involved.
This books focal point is the appearance from Xa-Du, The Phantom King who’s a new and underutilized villain created by Grant Morrison in the early days of the New 52. I mean – we’re definitely at a time where there’s an “early” New 52 now and events like Superman Doomed are showing what the tone of the post Flashpoint universe is going for. BATMAN/SUPERMAN #11 is a big part of that kind of tone, where everyone is busy reflecting on what kind of man Superman is while trying to play the same part part. Grek Pak is smart enough to have Batman lead most of the narration in the book, and we get a good look at the wary-respect Batman has for the alien from another planet. I wish this book had more going for it then some decent narration and getting to see more of a creepy-looking villain, but that’s about all it has going for it.
Oh boy, I could go on about this crossover for hours. BATMAN/SUPERMAN #11 is the absolute weakest part of Superman: Doomed so far. Even with the events in the book showcasing Xa-Du, Mongul and Ghost Soldier seeming liek a big set up for our main group of batman, Wonder-Woman and Steel, Xa-Du shows up and the book just kind of….moves away from the rest of them. I especially like how lame Ghost Soldier’s costume looks anytime he’s on panel with Xa-Du, who’s mummy appearance fits the Phantom Zone more than guy-with a mohawk and knife. I mean, Ghost Soldier’s outfit is a ponytail and katana away from being downright Liefieldian.
Under the POSITIVES section I mention that the Art team’s work is mostly serviceable, and by that I mean that there are pictures meant to acompany the words. This makes me really understand how much I wish there was a selection of artists that could bring more diversity to the books in the New 52. With a jaunt through a place that should come off incredibly creepy like the Phantom Zone does, the art team on this book just isn’t up to realizing it as anything more than a monochrome plateau filled with a lot of really tall rock formations.
Bonus points to a background splash page that looks like it should have been inserted into an issue of HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE instead of BATMAN/SUPERMAN.
I miss Jae Lee’s art the most when villains like Xa-Du, The Phantom King and his outright strange costume get the spotlight of the book. This is a story where writing issues aside, a solid artist could have partially redeemed the story. Instead, we have to take a treck through the Phantom Zone seems like a setup just meant to enable them getting Xa-Du out so he can be important in another book much later for being exactly what it is.
BATMAN/SUPERMAN #11 even gives us a good set of analogues in the villains showcased that would be a great setup for a fight with out heroes, but nothing comes of it and sooner or later revelations and plot twists are dropped before any of it actually has a chance to sink in. What could have been a great time to let other character shine is instead dropped in favor of focusing on the current drama going on in the life of Superman. I know the crossover is ultimately about him – but we don’t see his decisions affect the rest of the cast too much.
BATMAN/SUPERMAN #11 is like watching people who only read comics in the 90’s pitch a TV show featuring their favorite characters. This is a crossover book and almost nothing else – entirely meant to ferry along plot points introduced in the rest of the books it ties too. What I hate most of all about this book is that someone is going to actually have to read it if they want to know how Xa-Du is going to be important to this crossover, tying it into the ongoing narrative a lot closer than a book of this quality should have been. My recommendation to anyone that picks this issue up is to flip to the end of it where Xa-Du gloats about Doomsday and be done with it.