If you’ve read this when it originally came out, then this volume is a high quality collection of tales you already enjoy. The first set of stories from Generation 1, jumps decades from 1939 and contains breezy, light adventures featuring Batman and Superman working...
If you’ve read this when it originally came out, then this volume is a high quality collection of tales you already enjoy. The first set of stories from Generation 1, jumps decades from 1939 and contains breezy, light adventures featuring Batman and Superman working together, and getting along. Along the way, we see their families grow and develop and experience some tragedies that hit our heroes hard. There’s an annoyingly unexplained mystery about who Batman’s wife is, which is unnecessarily distracting, but otherwise the stories provide a light and satisfying peek into a universe in which the characters are assumed to have lived from the years of their debuts to modern times.
The rest of the stories include peeks into the wider DCU, so moves the focus beyond Batman and Superman, and at this point, the book only becomes more entertaining. In fact, it’s fair to say Generations only improves as it continues. If Generations 1 is fun and entertaining, Generations 2 cranks up the fun, nostalgia and intrigue, by several notches, and by Generations 3, we are in a full blown epic tale that feels like it combines the excitement of July 4 with the wonder of Christmas. The book ends with stories that are even more fun and entertaining than the ones with which it began, and that’s saying a lot.
There are a lot of robots in these stories, and if you look too closely, some of the plots frankly become repetitive. What makes these reoccurring motifs bearable though, is the way the stories posit the development of these characters lives over the years. They provide an interesting view of how the lives of “classic” Batman and Superman might have turned out, if they had been allowed to change within the confines of the books at the time. By the time we get to Generations 3, we see how those legacies impact the entirety of the DCU, and the series feels like a love letter to a type of comics storytelling that was at its purest.
Byrne does the majority of the work here, handling everything except the coloring and editing of course, but pretty much puts the book together by himself, which is impressive. The pencils lack the disciplined, controlled line of his earlier work, especially at his peak in the 80s when it was very polished, but remain distinctive and are a model of clarity in storytelling. Byrne is one of the most gifted pencillers in comics, and is arguably one of the best, if not the best, comic penciller ever, qua comic penciller. Of course, there are better, more talented artists. Others who came after him pushed the boundaries of the medium far more than he did. But as a comic book penciller, required to put out exciting pages with panel after panel of dialog and exposition on a monthly basis, without confusing the reader, few artists in comics can beat Byrne for sheer clarity, dynamism, and variety. His pages are always remarkably clear and efficient in storytelling. His drafting style is clean and attractive. He moves through various historical eras with an admirable command - his 1940s evoke the comic equivalent mood of the era - for example, and as a penciller, he is incredibly fast, knocking out the equivalent of two months work of pages in the time most artists take to produce a single book. His pages are a joy to read.
If DC Comics weren’t always run my muppets, they would have hired Byrne to do a running series about this DC universe of characters years ago. Alternatively, a series based on the DCU as it existed in the 70s or even the 80s, as written and drawn by Byrne, would have been a certifiable hit, but alas, DC comics isn’t known for its shrewdness or common sense. They’ve still to collect Paul Levitz’s entire legion run in an omnibus or two, but will do things like put out collections about obscure characters like the Blackhawks. As I said, not the brightest bulbs in the room. At least here, the quality of the book itself is excellent. The binding is glued but high quality, and the pages are crisp and white and the perfect size to showcase the art.
And at least, DC was smart enough to realize that this series by Byrne had huge potential when he came to them with it, and thank goodness that they did. We’re all the better for it. Buy and enjoy old fashioned comic storytelling at its best.