Written by: Greg Pak
Art by: Ardian Syaf
Publisher: DC Comics
Greg Pak’s portion of the “Truth” storyline got off to a great start in last week’s Action Comics #41, I was therefore very excited for this week’s continuation in Batman/Superman #21. This issue continues everything great about Action Comics with some clever additions of the Batman mythos providing some great emotional moments, however a lot of the problems that plagued the beginning of this story continue here.
Starting with the good, Pak proves again how well he understands Superman, the issue opens with a scene that acts as a great introduction to the new Superman status quo for new readers as well as proving that he’s still Superman. It’s a touching opening that proves even though Clark has a grittier aesthetic, he’s still Superman at heart. The issue continues with some of Superman’s supporting cast reacting to the big changes, allowing further depth for those following the whole story, including some particular interesting wit battling with Lex Luthor. The real strength however lies in the use of the Batman section of the book; while the new Batman isn’t in the book very much, acting mostly as an antagonistic figure, we finally get to see Clark react to many of the changes going on in the recent Batman books. There are some very touching moments with Alfred revealing the truth to Clark, and the friendship between the two heroes is very clearly shown in this issue. It would be fair to say then that this book serves largely as a Superman book, however it’s clever use of the Batman mythos gives it an additional layer of strength. It feels like it’s very strongly linked with the goings on of the current DC landscape, so fans who like seeing continuity line up should be very happy with this book, there’s a very connected feel to this book.
Unfornately, the issue’s biggest problem is quite hard to overlook. I don’t know what’s going on with DC editorial, but a lot of the in-story circumstance for this status quo change still haven’t been revealed, and references are made to books that aren’t even out yet. The scene with Lois and Clark talking over the phone for example should act as tense and emotionally satisfying payoff to the reveal, however we still don’t know the circumstances of how or why Lois revealed Clark’s secret as that book hasn’t come out yet. It’s hard to overlook as it makes it feel you’ve come into the story late or are missing something. It’s not as abrupt as Action Comics however due to the previously mentioned quick introduction bringing readers up to speed, but it definitely affected my reading experience. Really these two books should have come out after Superman #41, due out later this month, but I don’t know the circumstances around it. It’ll surely read better soon, but right now it leaves an unfortunate negative experience.
Another strange thing I wasn’t expecting was the mixed quality of Syaf’s art. I’m a big fan of his work and think it’s a really good fit for DC’s style, but there’s a lot of weird stuff that occasionally pulled me out of the story. For example, there’s a weird continuity error at the start when Superman’s cape shred disappears for a panel and reappears which was pretty distracting. There are also a few panels where his face looks incredibly ugly, as if he’s melting into his own chin or something, my friends even claimed he looked like York from Deadly Premonition. I did quite like the art for the most part, like most of Syaf’s stuff it’s got a very DC house style to it and he renderings of the new Batman is very impressive, I even liked the new Lex Luthor design despite him looking a bit like a YMCA member, however the problems were noticeable enough to me that I feel they deserve to be pointed out as more than just nitpicks. It’s nothing that’ll discourage a purchase and it’s still very pleasing for the most part, but I hope these kinks can be improved on in future issues.
Overall, this is a very strong continuation to the truth storyline that Superman fans should definitely check out. People hoping for more insight into the Batman status quo may feel disappointed, however I feel the use of the Batman stuff is very clever in supporting the story but without dominating it. It is pretty unfortunate that there’s still huge gaps in the story, but when it’s all laid out it should make for one of the strongest Superman stories in the new 52.