* Prices may differ from that shown
Discovering graphic novels was like discovering a whole new world to my son. We have always enjoyed books, but something about the visual nature of graphic novels completely captivated him. I've always felt it was difficult for books to compete with the array of entertainment choices children have today. Given a choice of 24 hour a day cartoon channels, a wealth of video games and dvd's to choose from, it is becoming less common for children to really read for pleasure, so I am delighted with any reading material that can compete with the electronic entertainment available. This book doesn't just compete though. More books like this would leave the X-box, DS, and Wiii sadly gathering dust on a shelf.
I chose this book after having read Superman Earth One with my son. He loved it, but I was duly impressed as well. This book has a different author, but the same illustrator, and I find myself at a loss for words to describe the man's talent. Shane Davis is the Michelangelo of the comic book world. His artwork in Earth One is almost alive. Being fairly new to graphic novels, I knew nothing about the author of this book, but a quick check on dooyoo revealed Swst's review with 5 stars for this book, so I felt quite confident this would be a winner. Although I do not think the art work in this matched that of Superman Earth One, I do still feel it is exceptional and better than anything I have ever seen in graphic novels except for Earth One. This would go a long way to make this book worth buying even with a very weak storyline. As it turns out though, the story matches the art work, making this overall, the best graphic novel I have come across to date.
The story in this book revolves around Superman's decision to rid the earth of kryptonite - thus reducing making himself very nearly immortal. The motive for this would seem selfish, and I'm certain part of it is, but the rational is that by removing the threat of kryptonite, Superman will be better able to protect the Earth and all its inhabitants. Batman is a steadfast friend in this series and agrees to help. This book reveals a darker side of Superman. Certainly not evil, but a far cry from the All American Boy Scout he usually is cast as. This is the first time I have seen Superman even approach ruthlessness, ( and I have to admit - I like him better like this) but this is cut short by a hilarious section, in which an artifact made from a new variant of Kryptonite seems to have an effect on Superman than can only be described as being wiped out of his head. The man of steel becomes a giggling, video game playing madman with a case of the munchies you wouldn't believe. Meanwhile Batman is left to sort everything out. But Superman's greatest challenge is yet to come, as he faces a a new enemy beyond anything he has ever battled before - and a betrayal of epic proportions.
I can't imagine I would have started reading Superman again at my age if it were not for my son. I'm afraid a horrible TV show had clouded my judgement on Batman, but in all honesty, I would consider superheroes as children's fare. But how lovely it is to be a child again for a short while and enjoy the magic of a story that is completely impossible - but just so much fun. I'm so glad my son got me started on these - I find myself enjoying them as much as he does now. I can not fault this book on anything - the artwork is superb, the story has suspense, but laughter as well. I was as reluctant to set this down as my son so we sat up terribly late at night to finish this is one go. I must say, Batman has certainly come a long way over the years as well from a comedic member of the dynamic duo to the Dark Knight. I much prefer the darker Batman.
My son loved this. He loved the story, and he was quite impressed by the monster in this book as well. He also found the part where Superman was under the influence of the strange kryptonite hilarious. Thankfully he doesn't really know anything about drugs so isn't going to connect Superman's behaviour with being stoned - but I can see some parents might strongly object to this bit. Personally, I'm not worried about it. At the moment he doesn't understand - when he is old enough to understand I can't see him wanting to do something because Superman did - and at any rate, Superman does not get into that state of his own free will. As far as I am concerned - it is just a good laugh.
What captivated my son the most with this book was the art work though. He keeps going over it and saying there is just something different about the pictures in this book. Even my 3 year old is drawn to this, and he has requested this a few times at bedtime, but can never stay awake until the end. But both children look at the paintings with a sort of awe, and I will certainly be looking for more books illustrated by Davis.
I would point out that while I have always thought of comics and superheroes as children's books, this has changed over the years. My son loves this book, and I feel many other children will as well, but these books are written for adults. There is far more graphic violence in this than in comics or books intended for a younger audience. Thankfully there are no scenes of a sexual nature in this book. I will note that the previous statement does not hold true for all the books in this series though, so if buying other volumes for young children - I advise parents to read the book themselves before giving it to their child. I don't mind violence for children but do not like certain adult themes. There is one scene in which Lois is pictured in a bra and underwear with a completely transparent slip, that I imagine some might find objectionable, but I didn't have any problem with it, and my sons did not appear to take any notice. You don't see anything you wouldn't with a swimsuit anyway, or any more than with Wonder Woman. Personally, I am happy enough with even my 3 year old carrying this book around, but if you find violence or partial nudity in children's books offensive, you might want to give this a miss. Additionally, my children do not take these things seriously, and clearly understand the difference between fact and fiction, but this is more intense than children's books and I expect it might frighten a few children.
Not everyone enjoys comic book characters, so this book is certainly not for everyone. But if you do enjoy a good super hero tale now and again - this really is unmissable. I do think most children who like superheroes will be captivated by the book as well, but I wouldn't buy it for someone else's child unless I was certain the parents would be comfortable with all the themes I have mentioned in this review. But if these issues don't bother you, by all means, add this to your child's library. The artwork alone will mesmerise them.
This book is 150 pages, printed on a good quality gloss paper and well bound. My edition is paperback, but hardback is available at a slightly higher price. Considering the amount of use this is getting - I do wish I had chosen hardback. If clicking through to Amazon, you will find copies at £17.98 used, including postage. But if you look in the box below, you will also see new copies from £6.87. This is currently less expensive than used, but if you watch Amazon for awhile, lower priced copies do drop up. I paid in the neighbourhood of £5.40 including postage for a used copy in as new condition.
Superman and Batman have had something of a chequered history both in their relationship and the quality of the comics where they have teamed up. The titles in the latest series have suffered the same fate: some have been excellent and some mediocre. This one is quite simply the best to date.
Any attempt at a plot summary for this title, actually makes it sound fairly bland. Fed up of being threatened by Kryptonite (the only substance which can harm him), Superman enlists the help of Batman to rid Earth of every last scrap of it. This seemingly simple mission becomes increasingly dangerous as they uncover some disturbing secrets that will rock The Man of Steel's view of the world.
The reason I thought this sounded bland is because Kryptonite is a much-overused plot device in Superman comics. After all, when it's the only substance that can kill him, stories have to feature it fairly frequently to introduce any sense of danger. The authors of this book find a slightly different angle. In this book, Kryptonite not only threatens his physical life, but also (through the revelations he discovers) his mental stability and his overly simplistic outlook of his adopted planet and its inhabitants.
This fresh look at the deadly material allows the authors to explore lots of new areas and The Search for Kryptonite is surprisingly deep. Many non-readers try to dismiss comics as "kid's stuff" and you would be hard pressed to do that with Search. In the course of its narrative, it considers political, corporate and moral issues. These aspects are not shoe-horned in, nor do they come across as thinly disguised personal rants by the authors; they are carefully worked into the plot and essential ingredients for the success of the overall story, adding a considerable amount of depth to the tale.
It's a credit to the writing, then, that the plot remains both straightforward to follow and entertaining. It doesn't get itself tied up in time travel/alternate world paradoxes, like previous books in this series; much of the action is Earth-bound and all the better for it. Equally, you don't have to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the DC Universe and all its characters, which some of the previous titles have relied upon. Whilst minor characters do appear, they are on the periphery of this story so that it can be picked up and read by anyone, even if they've never read a DC title before.
Green and his co-authors do an excellent job of capturing the respective characters of Batman and Superman. In fact, they achieved something which is pretty much unheard of for me - I actually liked Superman. For once, you actually genuinely believe that he is both vulnerable and, perhaps even frightened; characteristics not normally associated with the Big Blue Boy Scout and which serve to bring out a darker and more aggressive side to his character. There's a genuine sense of a character arc as he realises, perhaps for the first time, that the world is not quite as black and white as he makes out. It's a welcome transformation and one which I wish was permanent. A vulnerable, aggressive Superman is far more interesting and it gives his character an edge I have always felt was missing. I'm sure he's already back to do-gooding, though. Worse luck.
The characters capture Batman equally well, making him suitably dark and cynical. To throw this into contrast, however, and to stop the book becoming too dark, they give him a just a slight sense of humour. It may be a very bleak and black humour, but it is definitely there and some of his sarcastic asides will raise a smile. Again, this sarcastic, nihilistic humour adds a great deal to Batman, making him far more rounded than the totally dark, driven character we usually get. It's credit to Green and company that they take two well-known, well-established characters with over 100 years of comic book history between them and turn them into something which, yet still recognisable.
The balance between the "darker" Superman and the "lighter" Batman is well handled. Again, another weakness of this series has been that some of the books have clearly favoured one hero over the other. Here both are treated equally and have key roles to play in the story. Whichever is your favourite, you will be happy with the way they are treated and will even develop a renewed respect for the other guy.
I mentioned earlier that you don't need to have a detailed knowledge of DC characters to enjoy this tale and that is certainly true. Nevertheless, each of the characters (big and small) do bring along plenty of baggage and you will get more out of the book if you are aware of the complex web of past relationships between them all. Don't let that put you off, though. If you haven't read a DC comic for a long time, this is perfectly enjoyable as a stand-alone tale - you might just miss some of the nuance and subtleties.
Despite the overall dark tone, there are some wonderful lighter moments. There's a sly dig at the film industry and its determination to create fiction if there is an absence of fact, and a brilliantly funny section where a "tripping" Superman sees his JLA colleagues through fresh eyes. These never reduce the tale to farcical levels, but do help to provide a contrast with the darker elements of the tale and it's clear that both writers and artists had great fun with these parts in particular.
The artwork is uniformly excellent and clearly drawn by people with a genuine understanding of, and love for, the characters. They capture the familiar elements of each (Batman: dark and brooding; Superman: light and trusting) whilst at the same time reflecting the slightly different spin which the narrative gives them. The artwork always feels very down-to-earth and realistic, even when dealing with some of the slightly more exotic locations, such as the Justice League of America's Moon base. Everything seems plausible, within both the context of the story and our own experiences.
Just occasionally, the layout of panels can be a little confusing and it's not always clear whether you are supposed to read across a page from left to right (or even across a double-spread), down the page in rows or something else. It's often only when you hit a panel that doesn't follow on from what went before that you realise you've been reading the page in the wrong way. Similarly, panels can sometimes be a little busy, with multiple speech bubbles appearing for several different characters at once, making it tricky to follow the flow of the conversation correctly.
There have already been some pretty good titles in this Superman/Batman cross-over series, but the Search for Kryptonite is the best to date by a long, long way. It takes a tired, overdone aspect of the Superman story and gives it a new spin, whilst remaining faithful to the essential characteristics of both of DC's main cash cows.
Superman/Batman: The Search for Kryptonite
Michael Green, Mike Johnson et al
Titan Books, 2008
© Copyright SWSt 2009