Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

B+

Jeph Loeb’s 26-issue run on Superman/Batman was certainly divisive amongst comics fans — some consider it essential reading, while others would like nothing more than to forget it exists at all. I’m definitely in that latter group; in general I found a lot of Loeb’s writing to be uninspired and lazy (see: President Luthor impeached via giant robot battle). One of the high marks of Loeb’s run, though, was the stable of notable artists Jeph had in his pocket. Ed McGuinness was up first and set the tone for the series, and was later joined by the likes of Carlos Pacheco, Ian Churchill, and Pat Lee, as well as the late and legendary Michael Turner. If McGuinness has the signature Superman/Batman style (and I think he does) Turner is right behind him; it was his art that re-introduced the character of Supergirl to modern audiences in arguably the series’ second-most important story, and he’s one of only three series artists (besides McGuinness and Ethan Van Sciver) to have his style immortalized in toy form.

DC Entertainment’s latest direct-to-video feature, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, is an adaptation of the above-mentioned Loeb/Turner tale. As I said, I have no real love for the original comics, and it’s been so long since I read these particular issues (#8-13) that I can’t even comment on how this film works as an adapted script. If my local comic shop buzz is to be believed, though, that’s not really what people are interested in here anyway — they want to see if an animated film can accurately adapt Michael Turner’s signature style. Well, in my opinion, Apocalypse pulls off the Turner look pretty darn well. There are a few tweaks here and there, mostly to do with the characters being thickened out a tad so as to not appear wafer-thin (this applies to both men and women; fortunately the animated Turner Supergirl stops to eat a hot dog every now and again). The alterations aren’t drastic, though; I think the Turner aesthetic still comes through strongly in the film. This ought to please long-time fans, of which the artist has many. I must admit that even I, not really a fan of Turner’s style at all, enjoyed the look of the movie. In general these DC direct-to-video films are really sharp visually, and Apocalypse is no exception. It’s very well-drawn and animated and I feel that it’s definitely a success on the art front.

I think that the story mostly works, too. As I said, I don’t recall enough of the original Superman/Batman story to say how this functions as an adaptation, but I think the Apocalypse script does something that many of these animated DC movies don’t — it takes its time. These movies tend to rush through a check-list of things they need to get done in each scene, thereby not letting the story really develop in any meaningful way; this was the biggest problem of New Frontier, for instance. I feel like Apocalypse gives itself room to develop pretty well; although there are some strange time-lapses explained away by awkward dialog (“She learned English in a week!”, “Kara’s been on Paradise Island two months”), the scenes it does show are well-paced and let us get to know the characters and their world. There are also some really great character moments here, especially from Batman; the way he defeats Darkseid (SPOILER!) was top-notch. My only real problem with the story is a couple emotional beats that don’t seem to ring true — when Superman first meets Kara, for instance, it doesn’t seem as though he’s fazed at all by there being another Kryptonian on Earth, let alone his cousin. Similarly, there’s a scene about a third of the way through the film where Wonder Woman and Batman basically abduct Kara right from under Superman’s nose because they feel she’s too dangerous to be out in public, and it seems to me that Wonder Woman is such a good friend to Superman (and so loving, right?) that she would have chosen diplomacy over direct attack in that scenario. I mean, the movie kind of gives her and Batman motivation to be jerks to Superman, but I still don’t think, given these characters’ histories, it works that well.

I do have to give some serious props to the cast. You might have noticed in my review of Batman Beyond #4 that I have a lot of affection for Bruce Timm’s animation oeuvre, so any time these movies pull from that cast of actors, I’m a happy boy. It’s always great to have Kevin Conroy as Batman, and a real treat to hear Tim Daly back as Superman; his voice brings a certain kindness and distinction to a role that requires both. I’m very happy that Susan Eisenberg appears to have graduated to the role of “prime” Wonder Woman, since I was a big fan of her work with the character on Justice League. The last “old voice” carry-over is Ed Asner as Granny Goodness, and I don’t think enough can be said about how perfect that casting is. As far as new voices, veteran nerd-actress Summer Glau does a fantastic job as Kara/Supergirl; I didn’t even miss Nicholle Tom. I think the one serious casting misstep Apocalypse makes is in giving us Andre Braugher as Darkseid; Michael Ironside essentially personified that character for a decade, and there’s something in his cadence and tone that Braugher just doesn’t have in him.

Overall, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is a satisfying watch, a fair deal better than most of DC’s other direct-to-video releases. It’s well-cast and a pleasure to look at, and the story, while not perfect, has some really cool moments and in general flows quite well. I certainly recommend it for any fans of DC’s other animated movies, fans of Superman, Batman, or Supergirl, or fans of Michael Turner who want to see the man’s work come to life. Basically, it works.

tags: batman, dc comics, superman

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