The cover of "Batman/Superman" #2 has two Batmans fighting two Supermans, and it's not an image just made up to grab attention. Greg Pak, Jae Lee and June Chung's work on "Batman/Superman" #2 goes into some familiar territory, but it's a lovely experience travelling through it. The ideas might have been heard before, but after all, the execution is in many ways what's more relevant.
I appreciate that Pak keeps his eyes on the fact that this story is told in a serial medium; the opening page of "Batman/Superman" #2 instantly sets up what's going on (and clarifies for anyone who wasn't clear from before) and then move forward instantly, as a young Batman and Superman are each plunged into -- well, somewhere else. Pak keeps it slightly vague on where exactly they've gone. Is this a parallel universe? A mental landscape they're trapped in? Some mixture of the two? While one can lean in one direction or the other, it's never 100% clear, but here's the thing: it doesn't matter.
What does matter -- and it's what Pak keeps his target fixed upon -- is that it's a world where Batman and Superman's lives took some interesting turns. Not everything comes up roses, but it's fun to see the alternate/future world where so many of their ideas have not only come to fruition, but done so in ways that the young version of these heroes couldn't have possibly imagined. At the same time it also feels almost like a little bonus gift to long-time comics readers; "Batman/Superman" #2 harkens back to some of the multiple-Earths setup of the pre-"Crisis on Infinite Earths" DC Universe, but in a comfortable, pulling-on-a-pair-of-slippers sort of way.
While Pak's story is fun if familiar, there's also no denying that Lee's art and Chung's colors steal the show. Lee's art isn't as showy in this issue when it comes to layouts, but the little touch on the first page (with the interlocking panels formed out of a Superman shield and a Batman cowl) is a fun way to kick off the issue. Even with standard layouts for the rest of the issue, Lee and Chung excel. The page of Batman versus Batman is impressive. Having two perfectly matched and in-sync characters fighting one another should look exactly like this, with each punching and ducking in a graceful ballet of movements. That opening panel matches Pak's double narration perfectly, with one-two movement of punch and avoidance, as they maneuver around each other perfectly. Lee isn't afraid to switch to silhouettes as the viewpoint pulls back, and then gradually bring back in details as readers get closer once more; it not only brings home the idea of Batman being little more than a shadow to most onlookers, and it meshes well with the more complex attacks that each is aiming at the other.
Chung's colors are soft and delicate here; the clouds of condensation surrounding the two Batmans cloak just the right amount of detail while letting the rest come through. Chung understands that a soft ink line like Lee's needs an equally gentle color palette; even in the scenes set in daylight, the yellow of the sun is slightly muted in a way that accentuates rather than distracts. When readers get to the blue skies over Gotham City -- a sight that is wonderfully and deliberately out of place compared to the one they're used to seeing -- they're so beautiful and cheery that it instantly alerts the ideas that Pak's about to present in the writing.
"Batman/Superman" #2 is a fun sophomore issue, and it bodes well for the Pak, Lee and Chung creative team. This isn't a ground-breaking story, but it's such well-done material that it still succeeds impressively. With this creative team in place, I'm definitely in for the long haul.