As much as I have read many solo adventures featuring Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, with the exception of them being founding members of the Justice League, there aren’t many stories working as a threesome, let alone many good ones (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). As one of the most prominent artists for DC in the last ten years, Francis Manapul reunites the holy trinity in a world that is different yet familiar with the characters and their readers.
Writer: Francis Manapul
Artist: Francis Manapul, Emanuela Lupacchino, Clay Mann
Publisher: DC Comics
Living the farmer’s life with his wife Lois and son Jonathan in Hamilton County, Superman gets a surprise visit from Batman and Wonder Woman who try to bond with this older, wiser Superman taking the mantle of the brash young hero they once knew. From the initial issue, this sounds like a good premise with these three heroes interacting with each other as they discuss their complicated history, albeit in the simple setting of a farm.
However, when the trinity is suddenly transported to numerous settings of what they assume is the past, the characters face their inner demons by reliving their origin stories. Throughout this six-issue arc, Manapul is constantly looking back at DC’s history, which is a recurring problem with DC Rebirth–looking back as opposed to crafting new stories. Surely everyone by now is aware of who these heroes and their motivations as they have been around for seventy-plus years.
Although he nails the visual iconography of the three leads, Manapul never quite captures their voices as they never quite function as a team due to the story’s re-visitation of their origins, and I would frankly prefer to be in the company of Clark’s family, but that’s what Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Superman run is there for. As a Bat-fan, I found Manapul’s Batman to be a jerk as he rarely shows any compassion and will even shout at a child, albeit one made out of a dream.
Potential spoilers follow here: despite Manapul’s lack of skill towards characterization, his plotting is even worse as through this dreamscape that the characters go on, the transition from one setting to another never feels organic and once we get to the revelations, things get really convoluted. Perhaps the biggest crime Manapul commits here as by acknowledging DC’s history, the story is a sort-of sequel to one of the greatest Superman stories of all time: For the Man Who Has Everything, and fails to add anything to a story that was uniquely dark to the Silver Age in a way that only Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons can offer.
As an artist first and foremost, this is where Francis Manapul’s strength lies as for most of this volume–it is a visual treat with his bold page designs and incredibly vivid colors. Sadly, he doesn’t draw all of the book, as Emanuela Lupacchino and Clay Mann step in for some issues, but manage to provide enough quality to rival Manapul’s.
Despite the impressive artwork, this reunion of DC’s holy trinity is lacking in thrills and originality due to constantly looking back at the publisher’s history. It’s not at all interested in progressing these heroes into exciting, new adventures.