BATMAN/SUPERMAN #5
Author: Bobby Barrett
November 15, 2013

SYNOPSIS: When the new Toymaster uses a secret, potentially deadly element in his new video game, the characters created by players manifest in real life! The ultimate fighting game results—and a world-wide network of players must team up to create the most powerful, skilled Super Heroes imaginable with one goal: To kill Batman. Can Superman come to the rescue before the game claims its victim?

BATMAN/SUPERMAN takes a leap forward as it begins its second story arc, taking us closer to the present day than where it began. Here, we get a look at Clark and Bruce's current relationship and the friction that accompanies their mutual respect – in short, Superman enjoys busting Batman's chops, and Batman is pissed that he lets Superman get under his skin.

The story opens with Superman flying out of Earth's atmosphere to combat an incoming asteroid field, as Batman battles Metal-Zero (The New 52 version of Metallo). Bruce's ability to outwit enemies that outmatch him physically gets a nice demonstration, but all is not what it seems: no sooner has The Dark Knight triumphed and the Man of Steel arrived to incarcerate Metal-Zero, but the villain just vanishes into thin air.

Cut to Jiro, an eccentric young visionary who has commissioned investors, developers and experts to help create a living video game, where all the players' minds become linked and they work together to control an artificial character (modeled after a real one). Their goal? Kill the Batman. Only problem is that Jiro and his mysterious developer are the only ones who realize that this "game" is more real than anyone knows, and that the Batman they're trying to kill isn't a virtual recreation, but The Caped Crusader himself.

This issue took a bit of getting used to with its horizontal format, making some of the dialogue placement somewhat unusual, but it gets easier as you get on with it. Assuming they're aiming for a "widescreen" effect, I'm interested to see what this will look like on paper when the trade comes out (currently reading the digital release).

The story is solid – not as character-driven as the series' first arc, but making some attempt to be. Seems like this is going to be more of a "popcorn" action story. Brett Booth steps in on art duties for this arc, and he is definitely more than capable of pulling off action like this. Fans of the artist's tragically short run on NIGHTWING will be delighted to see that character make an appearance here…kind of.

All in all, issue #5 makes another entertaining entry to this series, and after the reveal at the end, I'm curious to see where it goes from here. - Bobby Barrett

GRADE: B

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