Recently, writers at DC have attempted to redefine its characters in ways that make them new or fresh, which was one of the goals of the New 52 relaunch. With this in mind, the latest Batman Superman collaborates to distinctly define the roles and identities of Superman and Batman in this new universe. The creators meet with some success in Cross World, the first volume of this series.
Five years before the current timeline, Batman and Superman bump into each other for the first time in the new universe. They don’t know each other, don’t like each other, and their alter egos—Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne—are highly suspicious of one another. The fun begins when a trickster demon named Kaiyo begins to transport the heroes back and forth to meet their doppelgangers from Earth 2. On the second Earth, the two heroes have been friends for years, they live contented lives full of love, and they have created something of a paradise on their planet. Sadly, readers who follow the current Earth 2 title will know that this paradise has crumbled. Kaiyo creates a test to discover which set of heroes has the ruthlessness to survive Darkseid, a powerful overlord from another part of the galaxy. Though it’s disheartening to see the team that acts heroically as the losers of this challenge, that’s the way DC wants its new universe to be depicted: dark, gritty, and morally compromised.
While Cross World gave me a much better grasp on the new Batman and Superman, the real treat is the artwork. Jae Lee has returned to superhero comics after a long stint working on the Dark Tower series, and his work is fantastic. His use of shadows, silhouettes, and negative space creates a gothic mood better than nearly any other comic artist. Readers will immediately sense the dread and danger felt by the characters. Supported by a talented team of artists and colorists, Lee’s artwork makes this book special.
An additional feature includes the origin of Darkseid, as well as some scripts and pencil sketches that reveal how Jae Lee translates Greg Pak’s scripts into art. The collaborative process is always interesting to see in action and this is a great bonus. Unfortunately, any reader who is not well-versed in DC continuity will probably feel a bit lost, as this is a more complicated tale than most superhero comics. However, dedicated comics fans will enjoy Cross World‘s storytelling and art, whether they be teens or adults.
Batman Superman, vol. 1: Cross World
by Greg Pak
Art by Jae Lee, Ben Oliver
Publisher Age Rating: Teen