Generally speaking, I’m a fan of Greg Pak’s writing, and I’ve enjoyed the majority of Brett Booth’s art for DC Comics the past few years. So why, then, is “Batman/Superman” #5 not that interesting? It’s the sort of comic that seems like it should succeed, even as it fails to fully come together.
Part of the problem is the basic story itself. The idea of a virtual reality bleeding into our world is one that we’ve seen before, so it’s something where the execution is what needs to make it work. There are some good bits in there, namely the idea that most of the people haven’t figured out that they’re part of a larger plan and that this fight isn’t happening just inside a server somewhere. But even then, there’s a real lack of energy in this story. The fights just sort of randomly happen, and Batman and Superman’s conversations are missing some sort of hook to make them interesting.
The closest thing the script has to something that makes readers sit up is the appearance of the surprise villain at the end of the comic. It’s got some potential, but a sudden cameo doesn’t make an entire comic fun. Still, it’s worth noting that his two pages are more interesting than the rest of the book combined, so that should give at least a little bit of hope for the remaining parts of the comic.
The other problem with “Batman/Superman” #5 is the decision for Booth to draw the entire comic in landscape format. When Marvel tried this a few years ago for some of their Annuals it was met with a resounding wave of apathy, and it’s easy to see why. There’s almost nothing in this comic (save for the first three pages where Booth can place Batman and Superman side-by-side easily) that warrants a “widescreen” look, and if anything it actually feels limiting in how the comic flows in a visual sense. There are lots of large, half-page panels to take up some of the space, and I think that might be part of the problem; there’s just not room as a result for things to actually happen. Booth’s pencils are squarely in the middle of his range; some panels feel energetic and dynamic, other feel a little stiff and posed. He’s also not great about having too much detail to draw on a page; when Batman and Nightwing crash through the window, all the shards of glass end up just being a visual version of static, a distraction to the main action that you should be focusing on.
“Batman/Superman” #5 is unfortunately the weakest issue in the series to date. It looks like the next issue holds some more promise, but for now this feels like a real fumble after a strong opening storyline with Jae Lee on board for the art. It’s not at a “call it quits” level of disappointment, but I’ll be a little more wary when “Batman/Superman” #6 hits stores next week.