REVIEW: ‘Batman/Superman 2021 Annual,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Batman/Superman Annual

After the conclusion of the Archive of Worlds saga, the Batman and Superman of alternate worlds have agreed to temporarily trade places to challenge themselves and further their heroic skills, with Batman and Robin having to face threats in the World of Tomorrow and Superman in the World of the Knight.  Batman/Superman Annual 2021 #1 is written by Gene Luen Yang, with art and colors by Francesco Francavilla, letters by ALW’s Troy Peteri, pencils by Paul Pelletier, inks by Mick Gray, HI-FI for colors, Bryan Hitch and Alejandro Sánchez doing the cover, and Francavilla doing the variant cover.

Yang does a fantastic job of setting up these distinct worlds and each hero’s journey through them. The World of Knight is Batman’s domain that has never had a Superman, while The World of Tomorrow has never had a Batman. There’s an essential quality of either grimness or vivacity to them aligning with their respective resident heroes. And they’re not exactly what you’d expect either. Yang wrinkles these dimensions with new takes on characters and the cities that uniquely challenge Batman and Superman as they adjust to these worlds where they’ve never existed as heroes.

Yang shows his deep understanding of the core of Clark and Bruce in these worlds he’s created. Superman is so much more than his various powers. His force of will to do what’s right, even in the face of Kryptonite, is always there in this new, strangely harrowing world. Bruce is emotionally challenged in the world where he never became Batman, particularly in the face of his still-alive mother, Martha. The loss of both his parents is what always drives Batman, so what happens to his focus when part of that loss is still there? It’s a fascinating look at this otherwise stoically mythic hero.

While the overall characters and worlds presented are excellent, there’s one area where Yang could have done better in writing Batman. When discussing the antagonist of his adventure in the utopic World of Tomorrow, Batman says that his enemy’s “broken mind” could destroy the world’s “sense of safety.” Unfortunately, the writing comes off as ableist, implying that mentally ill or neurodivergent people could be inherently dangerous, while we know that’s not the case. Of course, DC has a particular history involving this problematic depiction, particularly with Batman’s rogues’ gallery, but, at least from my viewpoint, it has improved overall recently with more focus on specific malicious intent by villains (such as the Joker) rather than a focus so explicitly on their mental state. Even though I certainly don’t believe Yang intended to add to the stigma, this line of writing seemed to stumble into that, and I hope that in future issues, he writes on this more carefully.

Francavilla’s art depicting the World of the Knight is haunting, as one should expect. His penciling gives the setting fantastic textures as it casts the bright and optimistic Man of Steel in this strange new world. Even as the setting is dark, Francavilla’s colors pop out in some great ways, giving it fantastic neo-noir vibes. Pelletier and Gray likewise do a great job at depicting the World of Tomorrow in starkly different ways. Superman’s world is bright, vivacious, and full of color and action. With both distinct art styles, the reader is even more immersed in these worlds.

Troy Peteri does a great job lettering both stories. Even when there’s a lot of information being given in the dialogue, he manages to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the action. Additionally, the monologue boxes for both Batman and Superman are done really well, with good coloring on their boxes to distinct their monologues from the other dialogue. It’s the finishing touch on making Batman/Superman Annual 2021 #1 a fantastic read.

Batman/Superman Annual 2021 #1 is a tremendous and fascinating look at what happens when you mix and change key things to the worlds of Batman and Superman. Yang is masterful at creating and depicting these variations of the DC Universe while putting its most iconic heroes through new and unique challenges. The art by Francavilla, Pelletier, and Gray enriches these issues and the worlds they depict tremendously, immersing readers even further into Yang’s stories. Capped off by Peteri’s excellent lettering, this is one issue of a Batman/Superman adventure you don’t want to miss.

Batman/Superman Annual 2021 #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.


Batman/Superman 2021 Annual #1
4.5

TL;DR

Batman/Superman Annual 2021 #1 is a tremendous and fascinating look at what happens when you mix and change key things to the worlds of Batman and Superman. Yang is masterful at creating and depicting these variations of the DC Universe while putting its most iconic heroes through new and unique challenges. The art by Francavilla, Pelletier, and Gray enriches these issues and the worlds they depict tremendously, immersing readers even further into Yang’s stories. Capped off by Peteri’s excellent lettering, this is one issue of a Batman/Superman adventure you don’t want to miss.