Darkness seems to have well and truly set in at the moment, as the DC Universe finds itself currently caught within the throes of the ‘Year of the Villain’.
Now even though Batman / Superman #2 isn’t a ‘Year of the Villain’ tie-in, darkness and evil prevailing is certainly a prominent theme captured on the regular cover by interior artist David Marquez. The gloomy tone and muted colours of this cover speaks volumes as a triumphant Shazam Who Laughs stands victorious over a fallen Batman and Superman. I love how the lightening bolts in the background rip open the sky and really highlight Shazam’s ripped upper torso. This only adds to the intimidation factor this savage new iteration of the character carries with him. Shazam’s posture and redesign on this cover are totally on point as earth’s mightiest nightmare feels more primordial and savage in nature with warlord style trappings adorning his torso.
The variant cover by Jerome Opena is just majestic! The colour scale perfectly captures the theme of each character, light and hopeful at the top of the image for Superman, and dark and brooding for Batman. It truly is a work of art. Opena has brought us an iconic image of The Man Of Steel and The Dark Knight together.
Straight off the bat it has to be said that I absolutely adore this issue. I’m a huge fan of action and combat be it in the cinema or of a sporting kind, and most certainly when presented within the pages of a comic book. And oh boy does this comic deliver as the entire first half of the issue chronicles Batman and Superman facing off against Shazam who has been infected by The Batman who Laughs toxin.
This half of the issue is present in the most cinematic of ways as artist David Marquez uses a number of dynamic panel layouts and splash pages to convey the action and allows it to breath and evolve unhindered. The action and combat itself is incredible. Destruction, powers, brawling and emotion are all prominently featured. I love the fact that Shazam is utilized in this issue. Shazam is a character who has been often under utilized in recent history and to see him in this issue even a corrupt version is a sight to behold. Seeing Shazam confidently use his vast array of powers unhindered is honestly awe-inspiring. It truly is a great reminder of just how powerful and potentially devastating Shazam can be.
Of course Superman is the obvious choice to go toe-to-toe with a character of Shazam’s power set, and my goodness does it look epic. The power and strength combined with the pairs awe-inspiring special abilities makes every page look and feel like a spectacle. Considering this, Marquez never allows Superman to forget he is essentially facing off against a child as the the dialogue and facial expressions always feel full of guilt and remorse. Batman is also showcased utilizing all of his strengths and abilities to full effectiveness especially his tactical superiority. I love the contrast between Superman’s power and Batman’s guile when taking down an opponent.
Marquez along with colourist Alejanoro Sanchez have created the most dynamic of backgrounds during these scenes. As a member of the audience you can automatically feel the motion and movements of our beloved characters, as well as feel the speed of the Batplane, and sheer force of objects colliding with one another other. This really is an impressive feat as this half of the issue is full throttle and thrill ride all the way through to its conclusion.
As the issue progresses the story becomes more cerebral as the pair come up with a plan to confront the imprisoned Batman Who Laughs and uncover just what exactly his endgame is. I love how Clark confides in Bruce and conveys his fears during these scenes. Clark’s innocence and honesty, his trust in Bruce is so heartwarming. Clark doesn’t allow Bruce’s mask to put him off from being the only way he can be towards someone he regards as a friend and that is to give them his all. His hopes and his fears alike.
Like I said the artwork absolutely stunning. Due to the artwork and layouts being of a panoramic nature, every page feels like a big budget hollywood blockbuster on an IMAX screen. I love how Marquez captures the whole torso of our characters be it in combat or in more contemplative scenarios. Due to this artistic choice the environments feel that much bigger and epic in scope. I love how gentle the detail is in this issue. Marquez uses gentle crosshatching a lot of the time especially when creating facial expressions, which allows colourist Alejandro Sanchez to add real texture and realism to the artwork.
Considering how deeply entrenched The Batman who Laughs has been in recent continuity, Joshua Williamson has created an extremely well paced and easy to follow story that continues on from the last issue seamlessly. Shazam is a perfect foil for the world finest as the characters childish language and essence brings out different aspects of Batman and Superman. Batman showcases his more confident and even playful side while the Man of Steel himself lets his anger and frustration get the better of him all while being filled with remorse. I love how Williamson uses this foe as a way to mine further into these characters personality. I cannot wait to pick up the next issue!