I'm a Superman guy, not a Batman guy. Batman's fine — I've read plenty of Batman comics over the years — but ultimately Batman is about arrested development: any Batman story is basically a story of an emotionally stunted rich dude. There's only so much emotional wallowing you can do before you fall into parody. (I feel similarly about Trent Reznor: you can do a couple albums about the hurt in your soul, but after you make a couple critically acclaimed best-selling records, maybe you can afford a little therapy?) Will Arnett's portrayal of Batman from the 2014 Lego Movie spectacularly identified the character's ridiculousness, especially in this song:
Superman, on the other hand, is all about being an adult. I've written about what makes Superman an interesting character: internal conflict over complicated moral choices. Batman often can't withstand that kind of complexity.
But DC Comics recently released paperback collections of the first six or so issues of the 2016 Batman and Superman series, and I'll be damned if these two characters haven't flipped in my estimation: Batman is the more interesting, more adult character and Superman is caught in a tar pit of adolescent melodrama.
Let's be clear: Batman Vol 1: I Am Gotham isn't a transcendant superhero comic. Hell, it's not even the best superhero comic from writer Tom King to be released in the last year (that would be King's amazing Vision series, which added layers of depth to a weird tertiary Marvel Comics character.) But it is a hell of a lot of fun, with Batman facing down a pirate, a crashing 747, and a pair of superpowered heroes who want to make Gotham City a better place.
I Am Gotham deals directly with Batman's perennial Superman envy by introducing a team of heroes with Superman's power set but very little real-world experience. Most of the book consists of Batman trying to figure out if he can trust them, and whether he's been outclassed as hero of the city. King's Batman seems to be growing and changing: he's aware of his own flaws and he's actively trying to overcome them.
David Finch's art is not my favorite: everything looks a little too pinched, and heroes look a little too constipated. But here, Finch allows for more depth, introducing characters with different body types. His facial expressions could still use some work — so much grimacing! — but it's nice to see an established fan-favorite artist take on greater depth and range.
Speaking of depth and range, Superman Vol 1: Son of Superman delivers none. What a mess this comic is. It's unclear how much of this problem is due to writer Peter Tomasi and how much of it has to do with corporate edict. I can't even fully understand what's going on here.
So it seems that Superman is dead. But another Superman from a different timeline is seeking refuge in the dead Superman's timeline. This other Superman is married to Lois Lane (the one from his own timeline, not the one in the dead Superman's timeline) and has a child. This version of Superman is living in hiding, waiting for the dead Superman to come back to life. But eventually...
...oh, who cares? This book is just a bunch of flying and screaming and punching and angst, all signifying exactly nothing. It's too bad, too, because artist Doug Mahnke is one of the better Superman artists of our time: he can draw pretty much anything well: super-fights and morose graveside scenes and optimistic faces. But this story is all over the place, and not even Mahnke's remarkably solid art can provide a sense of consistency.
The one thing that Son of Superman does right is that it provides a great vision of Superman as a parent. His son with Lois, Jonathan, is basically a carbon copy of himself, only more reckless and more uncertain. This new character adds a new twist to the Superman formula: not only does he have to save the world, he has to raise a son while he's doing it. Being a parent makes Superman even more interesting. Too bad everything else about this Superman comic is so damn boring.