I’m coming into the new Batman/Superman series relatively fresh. While I have a broad idea of what happened in the Batman Who Laughs mini-series I have yet to read that series. So coming into Batman/Superman the only thing I know is that this series will involve The World’s Finest finding out who in the DC Universe have been corrupted by the Dark Multiverse. Some of that mystery has been spoiled by DC Comics marketing of this series. But even with major plot points spoiled there is still a lot the team of Joshua Williamson and David Marquez can accomplish as Batman/Superman looks to set up the next big event in the DC Universe. Let’s find how everything kicks off with Batman/Superman #1.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: David Marquez
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At the Daily Planet Clark Kent has written an article on how Batman has saved Gotham City. Perry White and Cat Grant both ask Jimmy Olsen how he got the picture of Batman but he won’t reveal his secret.
Batman calls Clark to let him know there is a situation at the Justice League Satellite.
Superman flies over right away. As he flies over Superman notices that Batman’s voice sounds different. Batman starts talking oddly, mentioning that Superman must think of him as a small, foolish rich boy. Superman calls Batman a great partner.
When Superman finally arrives at the Justice League Satellite he is shocked to find Flash, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, Martian Manhunter and Red Tornado brutally murdered. Superman suddenly starts coughing green blood.
Batman shows up from the shadows to reveal that the air is filled with kryptonite gas that has already entered Superman’s system. Superman weakly asks why Batman did this. Batman responds by saying that he started thinking what would happen if Superman became like him so he decided to plan ahead.
He then shows himself in his true Batman Who Laughs form. Batman Who Laughs then proceeds to slaughter every superhero and villain while swallowing his Earth in an abyss of fire.
On Earth-0 Batman meets with Commissioner Gordon atop the Gotham City Police Department. Batman wraps up telling Commissioner Gordon about Batman Who Laughs’ backstory by mentioning that last year he tried to turn him and change Gotham City. While he has now gone into hiding Batman fears that others have been infected by Batman Who Laughs’ as he left a serum behind.
Commissioner Gordon says he remembers all of this but Batman reveals he wasn’t talking to him.
Superman suddenly shows up, carrying a knocked out Killer Croc and a Blackgate bus, and tells Batman he could hear the whole story about Batman Who Laughs from Metropolis. Superman then quickly goes to drop Killer Croc at Arkham and returns before Batman and Commissioner Gordon can say anything.
Commissioner Gordon then talks about how a kid named Danny Mills was kidnapped from his bedroom by someone his older brother said looked like Superman. Commissioner Gordon goes on to say that the mysterious Superman was said to be laughing.
Batman says they need to find where Batman Who Laughs hideout is. Commissioner Gordon mentions that when he was kidnapped the Batman Who Laughed made sure to keep him on the move. But even though he was blindfolded he could occasionally make out the scent of rotten popcorn and a loud buzzing noise from a place in Chicago he took Barbara too when she was small.
Batman disappears but Superman is still on the roof when Commissioner Gordon turns around. Superman assures Commissioner Gordon they will find Danny and flies away.
After shutting off the Bat-Signal Commissioner Gordon starts making a familiar laugh.
Elsewhere in Gotham City, Superman catches up to Batman. Superman questions Batman on why he actually recruited him for this case. Batman responds by asking Superman how he would stop him. Superman says he doesn’t think like that, which Batman knows he is saying he doesn’t think like him.
They eventually get to Crime Alley where Batman says was likely the place Commissioner Gordon talked about. Batman tells Superman to punch a whole into the ground as the noise is likely coming from underground. Superman is hesitant to do so but Batman tells him to just do it.
As they head underground Batman pushes Superman to tell him how he would stop him. Superman knows that the reason Batman is pushing this subject is because he is testing to see if he has become the Superman Who Laughs.
Before they can continue Batman Who Laughs’ drones attack Batman and Superman. Superman makes quick work of the drones with his heat vision that also creates a hole in the wall.
Batman and Superman go through the hole and find Batman Who Laughs’ Batcave. Superman asks Batman how he knows so much about the Batman Who Laughs. Batman says that Batman Who Laughs told him.
While searching the cave they are unable to find clues to where Danny is. Superman mentions that he remembers thinking how when he first went to Batman’s Batcave he thought it was a look into Bruce’s mind. He gets those same thoughts looking at all the torture weapons Batman Who Laughs has.
Batman eventually finds a case that previously held batarangs that were made with Nth Metal. Superman and Batman realize that Batman Who Laughs is hiding his plans in plain sight when they discover a chess board.
Superman moves one of the chess pieces which activates a hologram of all the heroes in the DC Universe in Jokerized forms. Batman and Superman realize that those infected by Batman Who Laughs could be any hero. Batman is quick to say that this just means they have no idea who they can trust anymore.
Suddenly one of Batman Who Laughs’ Robins attacks Batman. Batman quickly throws the infected Robin off him. The infected Robin reveals that Batman Who Laughs took him from his family and hit him with a batarang. Superman and Batman realize that this infected Robin may be “Danny Mills.” Superman tries to reason with “Danny.” “Danny” reveals he is happy to have become one of Batman Who Laughs’ Robins.
“Danny” then reveals that he is actually Billy Batson. Billy yells out “Shazam” to call upon a violent lightning bolt to transform him. The lightning bolt sends Batman and Superman flying. Another lightning bolt then suddenly hits Superman.
Batman recovers and is shocked to see the infected Shazam holding Superman by his neck in one hand while holding one of Batman Who Laughs’ Nth Metal batarang in the other. The infected Shazam laughs as he states “I always wondered if I could kick your ass, Superman.” End of issue.
The Good: Batman/Superman #1 does exactly what it needed to do to get over the grander concept this series was created to explore. Joshua Williamson makes it clear what the story will be about and starts to develop around that to build out the ongoing mystery of the infected within the DC Universe. A lot of the things introduced by Williamson work very well. Though there are a few story structure aspects that keep Batman/Superman #1 from being a complete success.
Opening Batman/Superman #1 with a quick origin story for Batman Who Laughs’ was a smart choice. Batman Who Laughs’ is still a relatively new character that was introduced during Dark Nights: Metal. Since then he has played a role in the early parts of Snyder’s Justice League run before getting a mini-series this year. Even with those appearances not all fans picking up Batman/Superman will have read those appearances. The Batman/Superman series is a comic book that sells on its name alone so having this recap of Batman Who Laughs’ origin was important to have.
Additionally the first four pages of Batman/Superman #1 that recapped Batman Who Laughs’ origin was the perfect way to set the tone for this series. Specifically, his origin story got over how Batman Who Laughs is one of the most dangerous villains in the DC Universe. Seeing how he brutally murdered the entire Justice League of his Dark Multiverse Earth was chilling. The way he explained his actions to his world’s Superman as just him having a plan for everything. The wicked way he implements this core aspect of Batman makes him possibly the most dangerous villain that currently exists.
With the main DCU Batman knows the most about the Batman Who Laughs Joshua Williamson makes you understand why he acts the way he does around Superman. Even without reading the Batman Who Laughs mini-series, it is clear that the experience in that series left a massive impression on Batman. He now is even less trusting of those around him as he knows Batman Who Laughs could’ve potentially infected any hero or villain in the DCU. The hologram image of all of Batman and Superman’s Justice League, Teen Titans, Titans and other allies will likely further push that paranoia for at least several issues.
That is where having Superman involved in the investigation of Batman Who Laughs’ infect balance things out. Both Batman and Superman are peers on the same level. Even when Batman is heavily questioning him about how he would defeat Batman we never see Superman shake from who he is. That leads to Superman calling Batman out on edging into the realm of paranoia with this investigation.
In the process of this, Williamson is able to explore one of the fundamental differences between Batman and Superman. When it comes to how they approach being superhero implementing some theatrics is an important part of Batman being who he is. On the other hand, Superman never feels like he has to add to who he is as a superhero. Superman is just himself at all times and does not deviate from the “Boy Scout” title that Batman has given him in the past.
As part of this we do see hints of how Batman and Superman are a bit jealous of each other. There are parts of each other that they wish they could be more like. At the same time, they know that at their core they can never be the other person.
What’ll be interesting from here is how far Williamson will push Batman not fully trusting Superman. That is part of Batman’s arc in this series that he will need to get over in order for them to successfully investigate who Batman Who Laughs infected. On Superman’s side of things, it’ll be interesting to see if he begins to question their allies like Batman has done with him. Because right now it’s been made clear that they can trust anyone at the moment in the fear of those around them being secretly infected.
Speaking of the infected, Williamson does a good job in establishing the levels of infected characters. With the first two infected that Williamson shows we see that Commissioner Gordon and King Shazam act very different. With Commissioner Gordon the character is able to maintain his normal self while interacting with Batman and Superman. We only get a hint of him being infected when he makes the Batman Who Laughs-like laugh after Superman leaves. Establishing this opens up the possible numbers of infected to go beyond the Justice League-like roster Batman Who Laughs’ is aiming to create with the Secret Six.
Which brings us to King Shazam. With both Batman and Superman finding the case of Nth Metal batarangs and King Shazam holding one of them, it is now established the Secret Six will be made up of those that hold one of those special batarangs are going to be in the Secret Six. This is an important thing to define as it puts an added level of importance to those that Batman Who Laughs chooses to be in his Secret Six.
Incorporating the Nth Metal that was a big part of Dark Nights: Metal was a nice call back to the event that introduced Batman Who Laughs. This once again highlights how the special metals that exist play an important part to the DC Universe. Establishing that Batman Who Laughs is using Nth Metal for his infected has also unintentionally given Batman and Superman a way to combat this threat. As we saw in Dark Nights: Metal, other special metals can combat each other. So it is likely that Nth Metal won’t be the only special DCU metal that we see come into play for this major story arc.
As for the King Shazam character, it was honestly good to see him be brought into Batman/Superman to play such a big role. Due to the massive delays in his series the Shazam character has been MIA within the DCU, even after having a successful blockbuster movie come out earlier this year. Even though being turned into one of Batman Who Laughs’ Secret Six members isn’t likely the role fans may have hoped for him, this role instantly elevates Shazam’s importance. Especially considering he is the first member of the Secret Six as it furthers the idea that he will be the Superman of Batman Who Laughs’ team.
The introduction of King Shazam also worked very well. Using the Billy Batson character first as one of Batman Who Laughs’ Robin was a great move. This reminded readers that King Shazam is still going to be Billy, a wicked version of that. In going with this direction Williamson also establishes how Batman Who Laughs’ views King Shazam more like a sidekick rather than an equal. That is an important difference to establish as we are likely to see Batman and Superman fight with Batman Who Laughs and King Shazam a lot moving forward.
For his part in Batman/Superman #1, David Marquez does a great job giving a big event feel to everything that is going on in this issue. The opening origin story of Batman Who Laughs fully got over how dangerous of a villain the character is. In particular, the visual of all the murdered Justice League members was absolutely chilling. It sets the tone for the rest of the issue to have an uneasy feeling. That is furthered with the design of Batman Who Laughs’ Batcave that, as Superman perfectly sums up, is a look into the head of the villain.
The Bad: One of the biggest drawbacks for Batman/Superman #1 is that Williamson could not make the King Shazam reveal a big surprise. The reveal was already spoiled by DC Comics marketing for this series months ago. There was just no way for Williamson to make this the punch in the gut reveal to the reader. Which is such a shame because this should’ve been a bigger deal than it was. But unfortunately knowing the King Shazam reveals for months now just hurt the hook ending for Batman/Superman #1.
That is not something I fault Williamson or this issue at all as that was a decision completely on DC Comics editorial and marketing departments. What did not completely work from a story standpoint was how heavy in prior continuity Batman/Superman #1 is drowned in. Williamson does his best to explain everything that led up to this issue. But there are a lot of key plot points from Dark Nights: Metal and Batman Who Laughs’ series that will fly over the head of fans who did not read either comic. As this series continues Williamson will need to take the time to explain some of the aspects from those comics more in order to fully put over the event Batman/Superman is driving towards.
As great as Marquez’s artwork is it looked like he paid more attention to his design of Batman than he did for Superman. There were several pages where Batman’s design is much more detailed than Superman. It makes this issue feel like we are reading about two characters from different universes. This does not break this issue momentum but it is noticeable at several points.
Overall: Joshua Williamson and David Marquez delivered a strongly paced debut issue with Batman/Superman #1. This issue does a good job explaining why Batman Who Laughs is one of the biggest threats in the DC Universe. In the process Williamson and Marquez give Batman and Superman a reason to secretly team-up away from their Justice League adventures. With one of Batman Who Laughs’ Secret Six members revealed in the form of Shazam it’ll be interesting to see where Williamson and Marquez go from here with Batman/Superman.
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