Superman & Batman: Generations Omnibus
Published: March 2, 2021
Writer and Artist John Byrne
Reviewed by: Craig Boehmer
Being a huge fan of John Byrne’s run on Superman in the eighties, and loving Chip Zdarsky’s “Spider-Man: Life Story,” I was shocked and excited to learn about Byrne’s late 90s early 2000s trilogy, “Generations.” As I researched what it was, I saw a lot of passionate vitriol reviling the book as trash. I found the Omnibus collection deeply discounted on Instocktrades.com, where I buy 90% of my Omnibuses, and quickly purchased it. It was a fast paced read, broken up into three overarching stories aptly titled, Generations, Generations II, and Generations III. The premise of each is that the stories provide snapshots of where the titular characters are during different eras of their lives. Each story features a different decade, until Generations III where they jump a century each story, rather than a decade.
Story – 4: Generations
Be warned… SPOILERS!!! I really liked most of this story, until the last few issues, but I’ll get to that. The miniseries starts with Clark, Lois, and Bruce in the 30s, Superman and Batman meet and have to defeat the Ultrahumanite’s latest robot. We then follow the heroes through the 40s, 50s, 60s, etc. Each issue showcases the new status quo in each decade, but the stories aren’t given enough time to breathe and be explored. It follows Batman and Superman and their children. Superman and Lois have a son and a daughter, but due to supervillain machinations, their son has no powers while their daughter has powers. Batman and his wife have one son, Bruce Wayne Jr. who dates Superman’s daughter, Kara. But Luthor works to help Superman’s son, Joel, feel ostracized and unloved. This leads to my biggest complaint of this story, near the end it becomes incredibly dark. Luthor chokes Lois to death, Joel reveals his betrayal and kills Kara, and then Joel dies. Superman deserves a happier ending then this, and it didn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the story.
This story was the most forgettable of the collection. It follows the same pattern as Generations, but opens it up to more characters in the DCU. It mostly showcases different moments of the first stories characters. We have a bit more with Kara and Bruce Wayne Jr. with the Teen Titans, and the manipulation of Joel by Luthor. We also build on Superman’s search for Luthor after his murder of Lois, and the deaths of Joel and Kara. It’s entertaining, but reading after the revelations of the first Generations lessens its impact.
This was the longest of the three stories, comprising twelve issues. The basic gist of the story is that in the far future Desaad brings back Darkseid who hatches a plan to defeat all of his enemies. His plan involves evolving Parademons to be able to think for themselves then empowering them to attack earth and retreat back in time to attack a weaker opponent. This is told against the backdrop of the heroes aging and trying to figure out why every one hundred years, Parademons catastrophically attack earth. Meanwhile Luthor, not Ultrahumanite, is blowing up cities and destroying technology. This story provided Byrne with a chance to revisit Kirby’s creations, especially the New Gods and characters like Kamandi. It was more fun than the previous stories, even if some issues were confusing and crazy.
Art – 3: TI really wanted to give this a higher grade for art. I am a huge fan of Byrne’s artwork, but while this story is mostly serviceable, it never hits the highs of what I expect from him given his runs on X-Men and Superman. A big part of that is the changes in inkers, inkers have a tough job, but the ones on this book don’t mesh well with Byrne’s style. Plus, the designs are pretty simplistic and lack any pizazz. For example in “Generations III” we have Superman’s grandson donning a red and black suit, while his great granddaughters have black leotards with different coloured capes, boots, and gloves. It is very bland and doesn’t look cool. I also did not like Bruce Wayne Jr.’s Batman costume. Byrne gave himself a tall order when he chose to do a story evolving the characters, how do you routinely alter those classic costumes in ways that seem new, but maintain the elements that people loved about the originals. Byrne still nails his layouts, and most of the fight choreography, but the sadly the designs fall short.
Cover Art – 4: The cover art is fairly cool, dominated by an image of Superman and Batman standing back to back. Having the background split to depict Superman facing the Joker, and Batman facing the Ultra Humanite is an engaging tease of the book.