The next guy who tells me that superheroes are a modern myth, I'm going to sock him in the face. As far as I can tell, gods and other deities don't have trademarks that are jealously guarded by lawyers for entertainment corporations. It's important to note the modern myth factor, though, because it partially explains these two books: Editors at DC Comics assigned the most popular British authors of their respective times (the Superman volume by Alan Moore was originally published in the mid-1980s; the Batman story by Neil Gaiman was published earlier this year) to write the final stories—the all-important "the end"—for their most popular superheroes. Introductions to previous editions of Tomorrow stated that this was an important moment for Superman, because Norse gods have their Ragnarok and the Christian god has the Book of Revelation, so of course Superman would need to have an ending. This is, of course, self-important bullshit.

Support The Stranger

That said, I love a good superhero story, and these new releases from DC Comics are interesting examples of the genre. Moore's final chapter for Superman is the better of the two—all the bad guys finally team up to rip the world's greatest superhero to shreds, and Superman, who is always so busy passing moral judgment on the world, finally has to decide whether he's doing the right thing. But Gaiman turns in his best comic-book work in a very long time with his Batman story, a supernatural love letter to the way Batman can shift and become grimmer or lighter depending on the era, with an homage to Goodnight Moon thrown in for good measure.

Neither one of these volumes is for first-time comics readers or people who only know Superman and Batman from the movies or cartoons. They're dense explorations of decades of comics, a kind of dorky fan letter from authors who were themselves once rabid fans. Both books are way too thin—the title stories are around 50 pages long each. And both books feature backup stories written by their respective headlining author, but except for one exceptional, crazy Gaiman Batman story that plays a great riff on an old Warner Brothers cartoon, they can't make the books feel any fuller or more important than regular old superhero stories told well. It's not a religious experience or anything. recommended

Sponsored
Washington Ensemble Theatre presents amber, a sensory installation set in the disco era
In this 30-minute multimedia experience, lights & sounds guide groups as they explore a series of immersive spaces.