Unfortunately, the first “Just Imagine...” story is also the worst. Despite solid late-period Joe Kubert art, “Just Imagine Stan Lee’s Batman” (by Stan Lee and Joe Kubert) is a slog; a generic street-level hero tale that reads like Spider-Man’s origin without the pesky lesson about power and responsibility.

After being framed for robbery by Handz, the same criminal who killed his father, Wayne Williams spends his time in jail pumping iron and befriending a bat that visits him. After his release, he dons a suit inspired by the animal and becomes a successful professional wrestler known as the Batman. Using his newfound fortune to add working wings and a few other gadgets to the suit, he gets revenge against Handz.

While other Elseworlds tales have twisted and stretched the concept of Batman into fantastic new shapes, Lee delivers a perfunctory take on Batman that doesn’t feel compellingly different from anything that’s been done before. His attempts to write street-level dialogue come across as clumsy and dated, and do little to define one-note characters. Kubert’s art looks fine, but Lee’s script just feels disappointing. A lot of the hype for the “Just Imagine...” project rested on this first book, and the squandered potential here casts a shadow over the rest of the line.

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