Some Spoiler-filled Help to Make Sense of What You Saw in Batman v. Superman
Note: The Following Absolutely Contains Spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Ok, so $170 million dollars worth of us saw Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice this past weekend. Unfortunately, it would appear a big number of us didn’t love it.
I loved it, but I understand why many didn’t. The critics, I think, wanted a bright and happy Marvel film and this was not that. As for the casual fans, I think a lot of stuff went over their heads and that is unfortunate.
There is nothing I can do for the critics. They should have checked their expectations at the door. But for the casual folks…maybe I can help.
As a public service, I’m going to tell you what you should read so that all of this makes a bit more sense to you. I do realize that homework is rarely the answer to anything, but in this case, I think you”ll enjoy it.
For the second time, I’m gonna mention that this is about to get spoilery. So there you go.
First up, start with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Written in 1986, it follows the return of much older Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to re-assume the Batman cowl. In Dawn of Justice it is made clear both that Bruce Wayne has been at this for 20 years and that he is now older than his father was when his father was tragically murdered.
In addition to the idea of the older, seasoned Batman, The Dark Knight Returns also features an armor clad Batman going toe-to-toe with Superman near the end of the book. It’s good stuff.
At one point in the new film, Bruce Wayne is walking up steps in the batcave when he looks over at a dark bat suit covered in graffiti. My guess is that this is a reference to death of Jason Todd (the second Robin) at the hands of the Joker. This all took place during the Death in the Family story line and had a profound impact on the Dark Knight.
It is rumored that this story will be told in the upcoming standalone Bat-fleck film.
While decrypting Lex Luthor’s data in the batcave, Bruce Wayne falls asleep and has a really disturbing dream. We see Batman in the daylight, firing guns and dark soldiers bowing down to a very oppressive Superman. This took me back to the very amazing story, Superman: Red Son. Red Son attempted to answer the question of what would have happened had Superman arrived on Earth three hours later and landed in Siberia rather than Kansas.
It’s an amazing read and super cool that they included reference to it.
You’ll also notice during that scene an omega symbol and weird flying winged creatures. The omega is the symbol for the evil god, Darkseid who occupies the planet Apokolips and is one of the Justice League’s archenemies. He is basically the Thanos of the DC Comics Universe. The winged creatures are from his army of parademons.
Understand that Darkseid will be the villain in the Justice League films. He is a god. He rules the planet Apokolips which moves through all dimensions of space devouring worlds to sustain itself. He isn’t a nice guy.
There have been stories told where Superman is kidnapped by Darkseid, brainwashed by his minion, Granny Goodness and then sent back to conquer the Earth. One episode of the old Superman: The Animated Series covered this very well. Perhaps that is what they are going for here? Maybe Darkseid sends a minion to collect Superman’s corpse, they reanimate it and send it back evil? Could be a neat way to go.
I’m sure the death of Superman at the end surprised a lot of folks, but in the comics, this is what Doomsday does. Doomsday was created to kill the Superman and did so successfully in the 1992 comic, The Death of Superman.
Now in the comics, few characters stay dead forever and The Death of Superman was part of a larger story arc later named The Death and Return of Superman. If I recall corrected, Superman was revived when his crypt was struck by lightning. He then becomes electric-powered (rather than solar-powered) and his suit gets changed to a white and blue.
Justice League: Origin collects the first six issues of DC Comic’s New 52 Justice League relaunch (man, that was a mouthful). This tells the story of the first interactions of the league members (Batman doesn’t have any powers?) and how they come together in order to stop an invasion by Darkseid’s minions.
It’s a pretty good read and without question it’ll be similar to the plot of the upcoming Justice League films.
We are certain of this because of the rantings of Lex Luthor at the end of B v. S when he says that the bell has been rung and they are coming. We learned more from a deleted scene from the film that was released online and appears to show Darkseid’s general, Steppenwolf.
In Steppenwolf’s hands are devices called “Mother Boxes” which have all sorts of amazing powers. They are essentially sentient mini-supercomputers which can heal and teleport and do all sorts of amazing things. When Wonder Woman is clicking on Luther’s files for the other meta-humans, in one video we see a scientist, Dr. Stone, at S.T.A.R. Labs trying to save a horribly injured individual in the background. This individual is Victor Stone – AKA Cyborg – and in the third clip, the floating box that begins to recreate Cyborg’s body is a mother box.
Now Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman together form what DC Comics (and fans) call The Trinity. They are the three top-tier characters. They’ve even had their own series a few times – most recently a limited-release in 2003 by Matt Wagner.
Something I think the movie didn’t quite capture – probably saving it for the Wonder Woman standalone film next year – is that Wonder Woman is a bad ass. She is the daughter of Zeus. She is hundreds of years old and she she has spent those hundreds of years training as a warrior. She is nearly as strong as Superman, but with none of his weaknesses (Superman is susceptible to radiation, Kryptonite (which is radioactive) and magic).
There have been a number of stories which reveal that Batman has contingency plans in case any members of the Justice League turn villain. In many cases his Wonder Woman plan is to hope that Superman also doesn’t turn villain and can manage to stop her. The story line Tower of Babel handles this very well.
Newsarama has a nice list of must-read Wonder Woman stories. Worth checking out.
Also, it would be worth reading the Kingdom Come series by Mark Waid and beautifully illustrated by Alex Ross.
Identity Crisis was amazing and everyone should read that as well.
And for a great primer on Darkseid and his minions, I found the DC Comics New 52 Earth 2 series to be amazing.
At the end of the day, I loved the film, but I also got a lot of it (or I’m at least convinced I got a lot of it which ultimately serves the same purpose). I can understand the public reaction. Hopefully what I’ve shared (and I’m sure what many others are sharing online) will help you to appreciate the film more and get you excited for the upcoming installments.
(Images: DC comics)
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