Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artists Trevor Hairsine, Scott Hanna, Jonathan Glapion, Rain Beredo, and Ben Templesmith do the unthinkable in Batman/Superman: Authority Special #1, which is make the Dark Multiverse compelling. This comic definitely spins out of the excellent Superman and the Authority miniseries, but no prior knowledge of any of the “Metal” comics are needed for this alternate universe romp as Batman teams up with Superman and his old team to do a first strike on a world where the Dark Knight has become corrupted by the League (Now, Empire) of Shadows and is the patriarch of the autocratic Al-Ghul dynasty. Templesmith handles the art duties for this “Shadow Earth”, and his slightly askew painterly style easily ups the quality of the book.
However, my favorite part of Batman/Superman: Authority Special was the constant trash talk between Midnighter and Batman with the lethal leather daddy taking the piss out of the Caped Crusader for much of the comic. Johnson leans into the metafictional connection between Batman and Midnighter and also that they’ve never met on panel, and their jawing and eventually teaming up gives the issue a strong undercurrent of humor beneath the grimdarkness. Philip Kennedy Johnson and Trevor Hairsine also expand on Apollo being a Superman fanboy in the previous miniseries and have him geek out a little bit over Batman too. These playful touches make this new iteration of the Authority endearing, and Johnson gives Batman and Superman a relationship of mutual respect. As evidenced by the sour facial expressions, Hairsine, Glapion, and Hanna give him, Batman isn’t impressed in the Authority as a unit, but he sees them and especially Enchantress’ interdimensional travel abilities as a way to protect Earth.
Although the rulers of Shadow Earth aren’t given much characterization beyond the League of Shadows on steroids and all related, Ben Templesmith puts his own spin on their realm and makes The Authority and Batman’s journey to their world that much more jarring as the art transitions from Trevor Hairsine, Jonathan Glapion, and Scott Hanna’s house style superheroes with a bit of Wildstorm widescreen edge to utter horror. The opening splash page with flames, skulls, darkness, and armor makes Batman/Superman: Authority Special feel more like the cover of a heavy metal album than a superhero team-up book. Interdimensional travel takes a toll on our protagonists as their figures warp and elongate against dark vistas featuring eye popping details like a Barbelith-esque red sun. It adds an air of atmosphere to what could just have been a punch-up against alternate universe Batmen, and Philip Kennedy Johnson and Templesmith show these doppelganger-type figures actually holding back against an icon that has inspired them to become tyrants.
Batman/Superman: The Authority Special shows that a creative team other than Grant Morrison and Mikel Janin can tell a compelling story with this cast characters, and I’m excited to see some of the character moments, such as Lightray going from being hero for fame to being in real action or Apollo and Midnighter working on the whole no-killing thing, expanded up on in future issues of Action Comics from Philip Kennedy Johnson. Paper-thin villain characterization aside, this book is a solid one-shot adventure with an eerie setting thanks to memorable art from Ben Templesmith plus loads of funny interactions between Batman and Midnighter.
Story: Philip Kennedy Johnson
Art: Trevor Hairsine with Jonathan Glapion and Scott Hanna, Ben Templesmith
Colors: Rain Beredo Letters: Tom Napolitano
Story: 8.0 Art:8.8 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review