The following contains spoilers for Superman: Year One #3 by Frank Miller, John Romita Jr. and Alex Sinclair, available now.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one of the most controversial superhero films of the past decade, fostering almost as much love as it generates hate. Featuring many visual cues from the work of Frank Miller, the film depicts the fight between Superman and Batman as an even battle of titans.
That's what makes it so interesting to see Frank Miller tackle a similar concept in his Black Label prestige miniseries, Superman: Year One -- especially because he goes in a completely different direction with the fight sequence.
Superman: Year One has introduced a new take on many classic Superman elements. One of the most interesting has been Lex Luthor's early attempts to win over Superman to his side as a way of controlling him. After preventing a terrorist attack, Superman confronts Luthor. But Luthor deflects Superman's suspicions (at least temporarily) by pointing him in the direction of a new vigilante operating in Gotham: Batman.
Luthor makes a major show of his newfound "partnership" with Superman, holding a press event where he claims that Batman will be brought down in no time at all. When Luthor's scheme to introduce a new highly addictive drug is derailed by Batman, who destroys the building holding the merchandise, Luthor decides to pit Superman against Batman assuming they will destroy each other. Superman goes to find Batman, and discovers him atop the Gotham City Police headquarters, next to the Bat-Signal. The two men size each other up, and Batman begins throwing everything he has at Superman. But literally nothing works, and Batman only exhausts himself.
Clash Of The Titans
The beginning of the set-up is very similar to the events in Zack Snyder's 2016 movie, Batman v Superman. The film also pitted the two superheroes against one another. Both film and comic even feature Lex Luthor as the instigator of the conflict. However, instead of relying on the public to force Superman's hand like he does in the comic, in the film Luthor is revealed to have kidnapped Martha Kent and is threatening to kill her unless Superman brings down Batman.
In the movie, Batman (who has been preparing to battle Superman) also waits atop the Gotham Police Department building beside the Bat-Signal. But their fight is much more even. The Batman of the film wears an augmented mech-suit and deploys a number of kryptonite based weapons against the Man of Steel during the battle. In fact, Batman essentially wins. Despite his injuries, he has Superman weakened and under his boot.
However, just as Batman is about to kill Superman with a kryptonite spear, Lois Lane arrives and reveals the capture of Martha Kent, who Lois calls Superman's mother. Although the battle between the pair is halted and Batman saves Martha, Luthor unleashes a genetically created version of Doomsday and unleashes it onto Metropolis. Working together, Superman and Batman (and Wonder Woman, in a last-minute arrival) battle Doomsday and eventually stop it, although Superman is (temporarily) killed as a result.
While the result of the fight in Superman: Year One is far different from the film, the comic also includes a much more impactful introduction of Wonder Woman. She's the one who breaks up the fight, admonishing both men for letting their egos distract them from fighting genuine evil. The three heroes then pay a visit to Lex. Although Luthor initially believes he can defeat them, Wonder Woman ties him up with her lasso of truth and forces him to reveal a number of conspiracies and crimes he's taken part in.
Although the comic ends on an anti-climatic promise for potential future stories, the moment works significantly better than the trio's first encounter in Batman v. Superman. Instead of fighting and then instantly becoming a team, it makes Superman more reasonable, Batman more determined and Wonder Woman more effective. Having her be the one to call out both heroes reinforces her place within the DC trinity and establishes her as the peacemaker. It also allows the three heroes to form their alliance around the collective goal of justice, instead of the forced empathy portrayed in the infamous scene in Batman v. Superman that has Batman yelling "why did you say that name."
It's interesting to see Frank Miller, whose work in The Dark Knight Returns was such an inspiration for Batman v Superman, go in a completely different direction in Superman: Year One. There's actually a unity to the Trinity that was lacking in the film, and that's a major factor going forward for the three heroes.