Review by Ian Keogh
An opening sequence features Killer Croc stealing an item from Lex Luthor later revealed to have Kryptonian origins. Credit to writer Alan Burnett, though, as in between taking a skim around some of Superman’s supporting cast, he introduces the remaining villains, who’re imposing and intriguing, and well ranked on the power scale. That opening chapter ends with a surprise, and the first hint that all is not well.
A TV writer ought to know better than to resort to the button-pushing drama of a chapter-ending situation that turns out to have been a dream. It’s a dream with a larger purpose, but it still transmits as a cheap shock. That, however, is the only prominent mistake in otherwise clever story. Burnett conceals identities well, plays with audience expectations well, and introduces concepts that Batman never usually encounters outside the Justice League. What that brings to Torment is others seeing him as he usually views any associate, as an impediment and hindrance.
Dustin Nguyen’s art is a mixed blessing. In places it’s spectacular, every bit the reputation-fulfilling triumph of design and detail, but for an acclaimed artist with a dynamic sense of big scale his people are all too often peculiar looking, even accounting for the boundaries of style. It’s especially noticeable on faces, and well known character who comes to prominence in the later chapters is so stiffly drawn in places that he could be the Lego version.
Torment is creative, intelligent, and unfolded professionally, but it also drives home how much of Superman/Batman is the former dropping down into the latter’s world. For all that Batman has so many secrets, Superman can live another life on another planet where even with all his skills Batman would be inconsequential. Torment places him in that situation. Actually, there’s very little Superman and Batman together, we see either one or the other, although there are solid reasons for that, and both are in some way broken down and reconstituted, which is clever.
We’re presented with a couple of endings, one neatly handled, the other enigmatic and presumably tying into some crossover story DC had going at the time, and here out of place and annoying. It still leaves Torment as a Superman/Batman story unlike any other you’ll read, and that’s welcome.
This is combined with the content of The Search for Kryptonite and several stories that weren’t previously included in trades as Superman/Batman Vol. 4.