Bakuman Vol. 1 [Part 1]

When you search titles from Shonen Jump, you’ll find yourself confronted with mainly battle series. The likes of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto, My Hero Academia by Kohei Hirokoshi, or Blue Exorcist by Kazue Kato. Beyond the obvious fighting series, you also have other forms of battle like food fighting in Yuto Tsukuda’s Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma, battles of sport such as volley ball in Haruichi Furudate’s Haiku!! and American football with Riichiro Inagaki’s Eyeshield 21. From just an overview, it’s easy to classify stories published under the Shonen Jump title as battle series, of one kind or another.

In 2003, the team of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata brought the series Death Note to Weekly Shonen Jump. A series that ones again could be called a battle series, but one of minds and ideologies. The series became massively popular to the point that it spawned an animated series, a series of Japanese live action films, spin-off novels, and an American film adaptation on Netflix. The series was strong throughout, to the point that it’s highly regarded the world over, and while it was artificially stretched out with a longer second act just to keep making money. The series ending had one massive question from fans. What would these two creators go on to do next?

Enter 2008 and the release of Bakuman. The return of Ohba and Obata. After such a dark and strange series such as Death Note, Bakuman could be anything. It could be just as messed up, it could be just as polarising in terms of ethics.

Instead, Bakuman is the story of two 14-year-old boys as they try to find their place in the world, and get a series published in Weekly Shonen Jump, while the series itself ran in Weekly Shonen Jump. The series in an intriguing and meta look at the inner workings of not only the magazine, but the lives of those that work week after week in order to have their work published.

Chapter 1: Dreams and Reality


The opening chapter introduces us to Moritaka Mashiro. A 14-year-old just entering the last year of compulsory education. Mashiro is a talented artist and strong-minded kid, but he knows what is expected of him, and resigns himself to an ordinary life.

“The normal path means getting into a good high school, a good college and a good company to work for. So I guess I’m just going to live a normal life. I don’t want to cause any problems for my parents. I don’t want to be called a shut-in. That’s why I go to school even though it’s so much easier to stay at home and sit in front of the computer or play video games. I don’t want to be called a freeloader in the future, so I’ll become a white-collar worker even though I don’t want to.”

Mashiro sits in his class, takes his notes, and quietly draws the girl he loves quietly. Since exams are going on, the class is allowed a half day to study. Upon getting home, he realises that he’s left his notebook in his desk and quietly walks back alone to get it. As he makes his way back to the classroom, he finds Akito Takagi sat at his desk. Akito Takagi, the smartest kid in school, and adored by all the teachers. Takagi reveals to Mashiro that he’s seen in his note book, he knows about the very detailed and well-drawn sketches of Mashiro’s crush, Azuki. Obata and Ohba even make a very casual nod to their previous series. When Takagi holds up the notebook, he notes the expression on Mashiro’s face and comments:

“Come on, don’t look so serious. It’s not like it’s a Death Note.”


Mashiro, already resigned to just living an ordinary life, assumes that Takagi will tell him to back off on his crush. Takagi even follows up by making a comment about how she’s reserved but probably the cutest girl in school. However, he takes Mashiro by surprise by saying that she probably likes him too. Flustered, Mashiro asks how he knows that, and Takagi’s only real response is that he sits in the back of the classroom, so he watches everyone. Mashiro finally asks for his notebook back, but Takagi has one condition.

“I want you to team up with me to create manga.”

Mashiro is surprised that Takagi, a smart kid, destined for a bright future, is so dedicated to something like creating manga. Mashiro even breaks down to him how unlikely it is to succeed in that world. How much it takes from a person, and how the only ones that truly succeed are born geniuses. Comparing those foolish enough to try to gamblers. Mashiro’s thoughts on the industry at this point are very much the harsh reality. Ohba, the series writer, uses this opportunity as a chance to explain to the audience how he feels about it all. Using Mashiro as his mouthpiece for the moment, having him state:

“You’re a manga artist if you create one mega hit or several ones successful enough to live off of. Otherwise, you’re just a gambler. Even the author of Death Note wrote somewhere that he’d probably starve to death in five years if he didn’t keep working.”

Takagi, surprised by how well and much Mashiro knows asks why he has this opinion. And Mashiro reveals that his uncle used to be a manga artist for jump, drawing a small gag comic known as Superhero Legend. An artist that passed away largely unknown to the world but was still a big source of inspiration to Mashiro.

It’s speculated that the series author, Tsugumi Ohba, has been using a pen name for years, and is actually Hiroshi Gamo. An artist and writer who worked on a similarly styled Tottemo! Luckyman, and that the commentary in Bakuman about Mashiro’s uncle, is Ohba talking about his own previous career, and how hard that was for him. The theory comes from the pages between chapters that show Ohba’s doodles and notes to artist Takeshi Obata for each chapter, and the similarity between Mashiro’s uncle’s characters, and Gamo’s Luckyman.

Mashiro tries to leave, and Takagi asks what exactly does he want from life. Is he happy with just being an ordinary business man? If he going to ever use his natural artistic talent, or just waste it? Mashiro comments on Takagi’s persistence, and tells him that he’ll think about it.

Home, Mashiro sits trying to study for the upcoming exam, but just can’t get into the right mindset. He takes a break and starts playing a game, but Takagi’s words are echoing in his mind. He thinks back to the times as a kid where he would sit in his uncle’s studio, watching him work himself to the bone, and a story of why he does what he does. That he was in love with a girl from middle school and wanted to become rich and famous, so he could give her the life she deserved. That they exchanged letters back and forth since they went their separate ways, but by the time Mashiro’s uncle had gotten a series published, and it was about to become a TV show. They were both in their 30s and she had gotten married. He carried on what he was doing, getting published as much as he could, because the more he had his name published, the more she would be able to see his success. Something he wouldn’t be able to do as a regular salary man.


Mashiro thinks about it all, still sat there, game system in hand. As his mother walks in and shouts at him for not studying. Asking if he even cares about his future. As she leaves, his frustration about everything is let out as he punches both his bed and the system. His phone begins to ring, as Takagi voice comes through, telling Mashiro that he’s going to Azuki’s house to confess. Mashiro is flustered, unsure of what he means, as Takagi asks him to come with. Reluctantly, Mashiro agrees and bikes to meet Takagi by Azuki’s house.


As they ring the door bell, and the pair panic. Azuki’s mother answer’s through the speakers. Later bringing Azuki herself to the phone. Takagi asks if she could come to the door, and she agrees. Now face to face, upon seeing each other Azuki and Mashiro blush before looking away. Takagi announces to her that the pair are going to become manga creators, and they came here to tell her that. Takagi reveals that he knows Azuki’s dream is to become a voice actress. A flustered and panicked Mashiro is dragged into better view, and blurts out that Takagi will be writing, while he draws it. Azuki is greatly happy to hear this, and even comments that if the pair get published, and if that series is made into a tv show, then maybe she can voice one of the characters.

Mashiro’s memories of his uncle’s story blair through his head, and in a moment of passion, he shouts:

“So if that dream ever comes true, will you marry me?”


Takagi and Azuki are shocked by his comment, and Mashiro suddenly realises what he had said. Azuki runs back into her house and closes the door. The pair are freaking out for a moment, before Azuki’s voice rings back through the speakers.

“Mashiro? Okay. I promise you.”


  • Death Note. (2006 – 2007) Directed by Tetsuro Araki. TV. [DVD] Studio Madhouse: JPN.
  • Death Note. (2006) Directed by Shusuke Kaneko. Film. [DVD] Warner Bros. Pictures: JPN.
  • Death Note. (2017) Directed by Adam Wingard. Film. [DVD] Vertigo Entertainment: USA.
  • Death Note 2: The Last Name. (2006) Directed by Shusuke Kaneko. Film. [DVD] Warner Bros. Pictures: JPN.
  • Furudate, H. (2012 – present) Haikyu!! Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Gamo, H. (1993 – 1997) Tottemo! Luckyman. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: JPN.
  • Horikoshi, K. (2014 – present) My Hero Academia. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Inagaki, R. (2002 – 2009) Eyeshield 21. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Isin, N. (2006) Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases. Shueisha, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Kishimoto, M. (1999 – 2014) Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • L: Change The World. (2008) Directed by Hideo Nakata. Film. [DVD] Warner Bros. Pictures: JPN.
  • Ohba, T. & Obata, T. (2003 – 2006) Death Note. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Ohba, T. & Obata, T. (2008 – 2012) Bakuman, Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Toriyama, A. (1984 – 1995) Dragon Ball. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Tsukuda, Y. (2012 – present) Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.

Clarissa by Jason Yungbluth

Independent comics are perhaps some of the most experimental you can find. With no publisher or financial backer to worry about, particularly in the age of the internet, an artist/writer can explore any themes or settings they wish without fear of loosing the ability to publish. The internet lets these creators express their ideas to the world openly and freely. This can range from slice of life type works where people chronicle their everyday worlds, to strange sci-fi and fantasy that’s simply too weird for a mainstream publisher to get in the first place. This freedom opens creators up to go as weird and nonsensical as they wish, or even to explore the darkest realms of humanity.

Enter Clarissa.

Created by Jason Yungbluth in 1999, Clarissa centres around a young girl and her almost anachronistic 50’s family. A seemingly perfect family, complete with 2.5 kids, a doting mother and head of the household father. Problem is, this is all just a cover up. Clarissa, the youngest of them all, is frequently the victim of sexual assault and rape at the hands of her father. The rest of the family is shown in fear of the father, and keeping up, above all else, the image of the perfect family.

The stories are mostly told from Clarissa’s point of view as we see the lengths she goes to at such a young age to avoid her pain, or even to get other people to understand what is going on in her life. Including her nursery school teacher or some of the kids around her. The series has this dark humour vibe running through it. Almost like it’s trying to make you awkwardly laugh while horror unfolds before you.

An example of this is the story Stuffed Friend. A five-page short story written and drawn in 2001.

The story begins with the mother calling Clarissa over saying that she’s brought her a brand new stuffed bunny. The mother’s appearance right before this exchanged shows her clearly drinking while she wears a coat and hat reminiscent of that of Jackie Kennedy the day J.F.K. was shot. The mother tells Clarissa not to lose THIS one. Implying that Clarissa’s toys have a habit of disappearing. Clarissa goes to bed, dragging the bunny behind her. At night, the bunny comes to life, jumping all around the room, trying to get Clarissa to play with him. Clarissa is unfazed throughout the entire event. The door begins to open, and the bunny comments that it will play possum till the coast is clear. The shadow of her father envelops the room and it’s implied that several hours pass. The father leaves, and Clarissa is shown with her clothes open, her frown now slightly shaken, and her hair out of place. The bunny comes back to life and comments “Holy Shit! That’s… Uh… That’s a little bit more than I signed on for”. The bunny jumps off the bed and towards the window, saying sorry to the young girl before jumping out of the window. The final shot shows a pile of stuffed animals all laying on the ground outside.


This is not a one-off incident. This is routine in Clarissa’s life. A later comic Bath Time Fun! shows Clarissa’s painful and self-deprecating bath routine as she tells herself about how Daddy never keeps his promises to stop doing the yucky things he does. How she locks the door and doesn’t open it no matter how much money Daddy slips under the door.

The stories of Clarissa are fictional and short. But these stories can be all two true for many people around the world. Which Clarissa is written and drawn as somewhat of a dark comedy, it can indeed be a daily horror in reality.

The full selection of Clarissa comics, as well as Jason Yungbluth’s other work is available on his website here:

Trying Something New – Doctor Strange: The Way of the Weird

In an effort to try something new, I searched through my books to find something I haven’t read before but have been curious of for a while. Today, that is Doctor Strange.

I’ve certainly come across him in other books, most noticeably Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars. Not to mention the Benedict Cumberbatch film for the MCU. But even with that familiarity, I was yet to dive into the Doctor Strange comics until now.

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Doctor Strange: The Way of the Weird is the first volume of Jason Aaron’s run and part of the second Marvel Now relaunch. Jason Aaron is also the writer of Marvel’s Star Wars series. Given my familiarity with the writer, and that the relaunches are intended to hook in new readers, this seemed like a decent starting point. I’ve heard before that a good starting place for Doctor Strange is The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan but given that the point of the ‘Trying Something New’ exercise is to read books I’ve collected but not read, my choices are limited.

As a relaunch, the first issue works incredibly well! The book opens with an explanation page, as told by Stephen himself. The explanation page, while not completely accurate, even resembles older comics to add weight to how long Stephen has been doing this. How battle worn and experienced he is. This jumps to seeing Stephen in action. Fighting interdimensional beings that have managed to infect the soul and body of a young boy. All the while, we are hearing Stephen describe and talk about how he feels about all this, and how activity seems to be increasing of late. This is a great way to hook in a new reader, as we are learning not only about Stephen, but his line of work, how he feels about it, how weird it all seems even to him. It’s refreshing. Especially mixed with such vibrant and intricate artwork.

“Just that one glimpse is all it takes to drive the average person to the brink of madness. If they only knew. If they could only see the world the way that I do. The human body is a breeding ground for microscopic monsters. Whether you know it or not, your flesh has been colonized by millions of bacteria. Right now there are mites living on your face and eating your dead skin. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Though you may regret you did. Your Soul attracts parasites as well. On a mystical level, instead of a microscopic one. Interdimensional Bacteria. They may look like monsters, but like those aforementioned face-mites, they’re relatively harmless. Some are even helpful. Some are spiritual burdens that are none of my business.”

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Through the first issue, we are introduced to not only Stephen, but other members of the Marvel Magical universe, such as Doctor Voodoo and the Scarlet Witch. We get some nice foreshadowing that will pay off later, and even begin to explore the Sanctum Sanctorum through the eyes of a none believer.

The Way of the Weird trade contains the first 5 issues, and while it works as a great introduction, it’s also a tremendous hook for a seemingly massive story arc. Though the first two issues, both in story and especially in the last pages. Were shown moments where magic is failing, or that Sorcerers from other dimensions are being hunted down and killed. That these things are starting to infect not just Stephen but this world. It’s built up slowly and alongside Stephen’s character in the eyes of new readers. Meaning that after we have spent some time in Stephen’s world and seeing how he works, we care about the magic dying. We can see the consequences of such a thing.

At key moments in the story, we are treated to lesson’s Stephen has learnt along the way. Most noticeably the price he pays for using magic. That he can no longer eat normal food, his body is host to its own magical parasites. That he may spend days ill because of over use. It’s phrased in a memory he experiences with the Ancient One. That when he was ordered to use his broken hands to punch the Ancient One, the punch hurts him just as much. That there is always a price for using force. It’s the same with magic. This ties in rather well to the final story threads of issue 5. That magic is disappearing, and it’s time to pay the price.

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As a first Doctor Strange book, this works great. It introduces the world and character. Gives you an understanding of how magic works and its cost. As well as making you want to explore more and keep reading. The second volume is now high on my list of things to read. A wonderful and gripping introduction to the world of Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme!


DC’s Action Comics #1000 Sneak Peak Animation

2018 marks the 80th anniversary of Superman! And while DC won’t be celebrating it properly until April with the release of Action Comics #1000. They released a lovely little sneak peak to the upcoming celebration in the form of a short animation.

It feels heavily reminiscent of the animation released for the 75th anniversary. Though the 75th anniversary animation pays tribute to multiple versions of Superman. Including George Reeves and Christopher Reeve’s interpretation, right down to Reeve’s flying scene over the Earth.

2018 already has a lot planned for the Man of Steel. Including the aforementioned Action Comics #1000, the return of the red trunks and the take over by Brian Michael Bendis (which I’m still on the fence about). Here’s hoping DC peppers the year with more of these lovely little added extras!


Time and Deconstruction

Deconstruction in media is something I find intensely fascinating. And while this video by Under the Scope is a great exploration of deconstruction in anime, particularly in the ‘magical girl’ (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and ‘giant mech’ (Neon Genesis Evangelion) genres (though it was strange to hear someone refer to the show School Days as a deconstruction of the ‘harem’ genre). What I find puzzling about the evidence he uses, is possibly my own experience with discussing deconstruction. Particularly, calling Neon Genesis Evangelion a deconstruction of the ‘mech’ genre.

A few months ago, I wrote an article discussing how the deconstruction aspect of a piece of work is waisted, when that piece of work is recommended or introduced above and before the thing being deconstructed. A deconstruction without reference. The two examples I used were Watchmen, which is often praised as one of the greatest comics ever written (personally, I think it’s just ok, but I didn’t read it at the time of creation), and often on the top of ‘comic you should read for beginners list. And I paired that with Neon Genesis Evangelion for an example in another medium that is also highly praised, and first to be recommended to newbies.

The two most common responses I got to the piece had nothing to do with the content, but argued that Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t a deconstruction, and no one reads Watchmen first. And that I’m an idiot for thinking so. I did a little research into the profiles of the people who commented, and concluded that a lot of them were either relatively new to anime, had read Watchmen recently, or were jumping on the band wagon of the first few commentator’s due to other posts they had made being contradictory to what they had later said.

This makes me wonder something else about the nature of deconstruction. With both works being creations of (arguably) a different generation. The mid 80s for Watchmen, and mid 90s for Evangelion. Has the passage of time, and the effect these works had, changed how we view the media enough for them to no longer be considered deconstructions?

In the case of anime, Evangelion’s release spear headed a dramatic shift in the medium. Particularly in the production of original television properties. This change also allowed writers such as Chiaki J. Konaka to bring works such as Serial Experiments Lain to the screen. The Youtuber Digibro describes this shift well in his video How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally. Concluding Evangelion’s full effect kicking in, with the series Now and Then, Here and There. Taking on the familiar trope of a young boy being transported to a magical new world. Something usually seen in a show aimed at young children. Only to be met with a dark dystopia, full of twisted characters, and plot devices including murder and rape.

In the realm of comics, Watchmen was part of a one-two punch, along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Eventually culminating in advertisements for comics presenting them as “Grime, Gritty, Grown up”. These kinds of stories lead to darker storytelling, particularly in the worlds of superhero comics. A genre created for a primary audience of children, and grew in the wake of the second world war, as a means of hopeful escapism. This darker tone has continued to reverberate through modern comics, particularly in DC. With the ‘Rebirth’ relaunch acting as a course correction, and the storyline ‘The Button’, and the current ‘Doomsday Clock’ actively blaming the darker tone on the Watchmen characters. Particularly Dr Manhattan.


But this all leads back to my initial question. Is something still a deconstruction, if the deconstruction has become part of the norm?

  • Digibro (2017) How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally. [Online] YouTube. August 3rd. Available from: [Last Accessed: 01.01.2018]
  • Johns, G. & Frank, G. (2017 – 2018) Doomsday Clock. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Miller, F. (1986) The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Moore, A. & Gibbons, D. (1986 – 1987) DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 – 1996) TV. Directed by Hideaki Anno. [DVD] Studio Gainax: Japan.
  • Now and Then, Here and There. (1999 – 2000) TV. Directed by Akitaro Daichi. Studio AIC: Japan.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011) TV. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo. [DVD] Studio Shaft: Japan.
  • School Days (2007) TV. Directed by Keitaro Motonaga. [DVD] Studio TNK: Japan.
  • Serial Experiments Lain (1998) TV. Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura. Studio Triangle Staff & Studio Pioneer LDC: Japan.
  • Under The Scope (2016) What Actually is A Deconstruction? [Online] YouTube. July 5th. Available from: [Last Accessed: 01.01.2018]
  • Williamson, J., King, T., Fabok, J. & Porter, H. (2017) The Button. DC Comics: Burbank.





Baby Groot Sketch.

Photo 07-02-2018, 11 19 02


Superman: Speeding Bullets (1993)

Time for a trip to the Elseworld titles! A series of stories set in the DC universe but out of continuity. A chance for writers to flex their creative muscles and ask ‘what if’ questions. Superman: Speeding Bullets was released in 1993 and written by J.M. Dematteis with art by Eduardo Barreto. The ‘what if’ in this case is a little bit strange but very fascinating. What if Superman was Batman?

The cover is just fantastic. Using the iconic image of Superman flying over the city that appeared on Superman #01 in 1939. Instead of a yellow background, the cover reflects Gotham’s aesthetics with a gradient of black to grey. Superman strikes the same pose within the oval, but his costume is replaced with a modified Bat suit. Noticeable, his face is covered with a full mask, similar to that of Spider-Man, rather than a cowl. The emblem on the chest is a perfect fusion of Superman’s shield and Batman’s yellow oval design with the overall shape being that of the shield, and the bat stretching out inside. The style, particularly in the cape, feels inspired by the work of Norm Breyfogle or Todd McFarlane. For this darker take and Superman’s Alien status, the style of cape works perfectly, as it gives it the feel of having a mind of its own. Even the books title box corrupts the original image. Taking the smooth curves at the edges and giving them a jagged horn like appearance.

Superman - Speeding Bullets (1993)asasfas

Throughout the book we have narration, asking what it would be like if things turned out differently. We see a rocked escaping a planet as it explodes, a green glow all around. The rocket travels through space and crash lands just outside of Gotham City, where it is discovered by Thomas and Martha Wayne along with their butler Alfred. Inside is a young boy, Kal-El of the planet Krypton. Through pages styled to look like a photo album, we see the young boy grow as Martha and Thomas decide to adopt him, naming him Bruce Wayne. Martha dotes on the child, stating to love him as though she had given birth do him. Thomas was intrigued by the boy’s ability to quickly take to his lessons. How the boy was so agile, never a bruise or broken bone. Thomas was compassionate and kind, concerned with testing his mental and physical limits. He imparts to Bruce:

“The cowards and bullies use violence. But you – of all who live – must aspire to something better. Something higher.”

They were a family. Happy, without worry, and with a bright future ahead.

However, the point of the book is ‘What if Superman was Batman’. And one constant in the mythology of Batman is the death of the Wayne’s. Leaving the Monarch Theatre, Bruce shouts about how he want’s to be Zorro. “Defender of the weak. Righter of Wrongs”! Martha jokingly mentions that last week he wanted to be John Carter, and before that Sherlock Holmes. As they round the corner, they are confronted by a mugger demanding their money and Martha’s pearls. During the struggle, both Martha and Thomas are shot and die in front of Bruce as he cries on the floor. The mugger turns to Bruce gun pointed, and as Bruce looks up to him, full of rage, Bruce’s powers activate, and he blasts the mugger with his heat vision. The mugger runs in fear, his face burnt and Bruce struggles to control what’s happening to him.

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The mugger is revealed to have been found the next morning, his body burned almost beyond recognition. But is identified as Joe Chill. Because of course. Young Bruce is found by the police, eyes wide, covered in his parent’s blood. After the funeral, Bruce is left in the care of his butler Alfred. Over time he grows and matures, but the guilt and shame still run deep through him, always at the forefront of his mind. At the age of 21, Bruce is bitter to the world, looking through the paper he sees nothing but blood and madness. Nothing but violence and death. As he tosses the paper aside, we see an article informing us that Lex Luther is coming to Gotham City. Because so far there has been far more Batman than Superman in this Superman story, apparently. Bruce unlocks a door to reveal hundreds of newspaper clippings tacked to walls, all relating to acts of senseless murder in his city. As he looks around, he begins to enter a panic attack, thinking about his parents and wanting it all to stop. He runs through the mansion before he realises that people have broken in and holding Alfred hostage. Pointing a gun at Bruce’s face. In a fit of rage, Bruce knocks them all side, even throwing one out the window. As one fires bullets right at him, they simply bounce off. Bruce crushes the gun in the criminal’s hand as his heat vision activates, terrifying the criminal. Alfred watches on, as Bruce breaks down remembering what he did to the man who killed his parents.

In a cave beneath Wayne Manor, Alfred and Bruce look through Thomas Wayne’s journals. As Bruce looks around, testing his super vision, He asks Alfred if he can see his ‘brothers’, referring to the bats in the cave. Testing his flight, Bruce flies among them.

“There’s so much I can do… That I’ve never let myself know I can do.”

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Cut to another location in the city, a man behind a desk telling his men just how disappointed he is in them. Based on his purple and green outfit, brief flashes and pale skin, as well as the maniacal laugh, it’s clear who he is supposed to be. Condiment King. Obviously. He’s chewing them out over their inability to break into a mansion even with the equipment they were given. One of the men starts ranting about how Wayne is crazy, that he put Charly through a window. In retaliation, they are both strangled on the spot, as the figure laughs to himself.

Two months later, the GCPD are after a man on the roof, Mick Johnson. He’s firing at them from up above when a shadowy figure descends upon him. The Batman has arrived! In a flurry of panic, Johnson fires several rounds at Batman only for them to rebound off. In a final moment of panic, Johnson throws a grenade straight at him, only for Batman to catch it and let it explode in his hands. Batman throws Johnson over the edge, letting him fall, before swooping down to grab him and throwing him into the arms of the GCPD.

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The next day, the media is having a field day over the appearance of a cloaked flying figure in the night. Luthor is looking over the paper during a meeting as he is attempting to take over Wayne Enterprises. Just as he’s about to sign the papers, Bruce walks into the meeting telling him that it’s not going to happen. Luthor doesn’t know who he is at first, meaning that Bruce is not very well known publicly, or doesn’t have much involvement with the company. Which leads me to wonder what exactly he has been doing over the years. Bruce puts an end to the deal, saying that he plans to be much more active in the company’s management and dismissing many of the people in the room. As Bruce leaves, it’s clear that Luthor is far from pleased.

Bruce stops off at the Gotham Gazette, the cities local paper and one he now owns, and meets the editor-in-chief Perry White, as well as running into the Gazette’s newest recruit, Lois Lane. Just arrived from the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Around Lois, Bruce becomes a bit a buffoon. Stumbling over his words and knocking into desks. It’s heavily reminiscent of a phrase from Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek. “If I sound smitten, don’t read too much into it – it’s because I am.”

At this point, it becomes clear that the narrator is Lois. Talking about how she expected Gotham’s famous recluse to be a lot of things, but not a shy, stuttering klutz, referring to him as charming, adorable, and disappointing all at the same time. Walking through the streets, Luthor’s car pulls up along side Lois, offering her a ride home. Lois accepts but Batman is watching from the rooftops. In the car, Lois and Luthor talk about how much things have changed, Luthor alludes to an accident that has changed him as he tries to slip his hand up Lois’s thigh. Lois slaps him across the face and is thrown out of his car. Fifty blocks from her apartment, Lois finds herself on the street with a group of men cat calling to her. They attempt to attack her just as Batman swoops in to save her. After knocking out the guys, he reaches out a hand to Lois asking if he can help. After the events of the night, Lois slaps his hand away and asks him to get away. Batman flies away just as the police arrive to help.

Back at the Gazette, late at night, Lois is typing up an article based on the man who saved her and the state of violence in the city. Bruce finds her there, and Lois instantly questions his appearance. Bruce says that he’s just getting some work done while it’s quiet and asks her what’s wrong. Lois tells him everything about her night, and describes Batman, saying that he has an “utter disregard for human life!” That he could do so much more for the world with those powers. She compares Batman to Bruce, his idealism and dedication, using his wealth to help others. The pair embrace and kiss in the middle of the office. Interestingly, this is a nice little twist on Lois preferring the meta-human to the bumbling co-worker. But even with the change of name and identity, Kal-El and Lois still feel like they are made for one another.

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A few weeks later, a man furiously enters the offices of the Gotham Gazette and demands to see Mr. Wayne. As he crashes his way through, we see his purple and green suit and as he bursts into Bruce’s office, we see that the man is Lex Luther. Removing his hat and prosthetic skin to reveal a bleached white face and thick red lipstick. A jokerised Lex Luthor! Who saw that coming… Bruce jumps up to confront him, only to be blasted back by an umbrellas gun. As Bruce falls out of the window behind him, Joker/Luthor kidnaps Lois and escapes into the night with a small flying machine strapped to his back. As they land on the top of a tall building, complete with devil horned gargoyles. Batman flies in and grabs Joker/Luthor. Flying him high into the sky as narration talks about how Luthor wants to use chaos and violence to take over the city. As Batman announces to Joker/Luthor that he sees him as an “Insufferable Maggot”, that he is going to kill him. Joker/Luthor begins to laugh telling him that he’s just as mad as he is, wouldn’t he agree. As Batman screams “YES!” he throws Luthor to the ground from high above the city, as Lois watches on with the saddest of expressions on her face. Batman looks down at Lois, seeing her face and flies back down and catches Luthor, telling him that he’s going to jail in order to save the city. Batman takes on the hordes of tanks and men working for Joker/Luthor that have been trying to tear apart the city during this whole ordeal. When he’s finished he flies back over to Lois making sure she’s ok.

Lois: “What you did tonight… it was different. Not hate… not vindictiveness… not wasting your gifts on terror and brutality. With your power – There’s so much more you can do. Instead of flexing your muscles… stooping to the level of the very people you’re trying to stop – you can rise above all that. Stand as an example. A symbol of hope.”

Lois reveals that she knows Batman is Bruce Wayne and the pair embrace once again and fly off into the night.

Superman - Speeding Bullets (1993)weryrteu

As the story comes to a close, Lois continues talking about how all of this could have come out so differently. How different the man she loves could have been if he had landed somewhere else. Even making reference to Superman: Red Son as well as the main continuity. As the words play out we see a brighter figure fly over the city of Gotham, and the final page reveals a bright new costume for Bruce, and the new name of SUPERMAN!

Superman - Speeding Bullets (1993)adfawet

In the end, the story is mainly about nature verses nurture. Not just for Superman but Batman as well. Superman is often called the most human of us all, despite his alien origins. This is largely contributed to his upbringing among salt of the earth people on a farm in Kansas. Batman is often the first to bring it up and often talks about what he would do if he had that kind of power. The book works as a good character study on these ideas. While certainly not the first story to do this for either Batman or Superman (and definitely not the last). Superman: Speeding Bullets is a fine addition to the Elseworld library.