Originally posted at Fantasy Literature review site for the Comic Book Review column.
Batman/Superman (Vol. 1): Cross World (New 52) by Greg Pak
Greg Pak's Batman/Superman: Cross World is one of the better books in the DC New 52: This first collection of monthly issues tells the story of a young Batman and Superman meeting an older Batman and Superman from an alternate reality. Best of all for fans of Jack Kirby is that the storyline features Darkseid, the late Kirby's great villain (who also inspired Jim Starlin's Thanos, the evil Marvel character who will soon start making appearances in the Marvel films). The artwork by Jae Lee is dark and haunting, and the overall story is equally dark, but there is much humor to Pak's writing.
One of my favorite lines is when the young Superman is transported to another reality and meets Wonder Woman. Apparently he doesn't know Wonder Woman yet in his reality, because he tries to save her from Kaiyo, an evil demon-like goddess. As he pushes her aside, he says gallantly, "Stand Back, Ma'am!" Wonder Woman is so stunned, she just stands there and asks rhetorically, "Ma'am?"
There are other funny moments, particularly when a young Kent shows up in Gotham. While Bruce watches from a park bench, Kent stops some kids from beating up a young boy. Bruce shakes his head at how stunned Kent is when the little boy shows his appreciation by shooting the bird at Kent, who seems completely unable to comprehend why his help wasn't appreciated. Pak writes this scene well, and best yet, he returns to the setting again later in the story to show what has changed between Bruce, Kent, and even the little boy. These two scenes display Pak's economical writing that conveys much information in very few panels and pages.
My favorite part of the story, however, is toward the end of the book when we get the history of Kaiyo, the Chaos-Bringer, and her relationship to Darkseid. I like the images of Darkseid, I like the storyline behind the two characters, and I love one image in particular that I refuse to describe for you because of spoilers. You'll know it when you see it: This one image explains clearly what Darkseid's goals are and how they relate to Superman AND another character hanging in front of Darkseid. This character has his back to us.
We also get Darkseid's origin story, the development of the New Gods (and why they are called NEW Gods), the background behind Darkseid’s home world Apokolips, and Darkseid's relationship with his brother. Once again, all of this information is conveyed with economy, both verbally and visually. There are plenty of very satisfying splash-pages (which I don't always like), but the artwork tells us quite a bit of extra information that isn't told in the text.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. The only problem I had was perhaps my own: I couldn't tell the difference between the two sets of Batmans and Supermans at times, particularly in some of the fight scenes. Other than that, the artwork is a major part of why I recommend this book. Particularly in the first half of the book, because the art is unique and does not look at all like a typical superhero comic. Toward the second half it does, but I don't mind, because the characters being depicted — Darkseid and Kaiyo — are so different looking from Batman and Superman and other typical superheroes that the comic book still doesn't look like you might expect. And the colors throughout aid in making this volume stand out as a unique one in a market inundated with identical-looking superhero comics from the Big Two, DC and Marvel. As a final plus, you don't need to know anything about the history of DC characters to enjoy it. So, I highly recommend this book for both comic book fans and those new to the art form.