Superman and Batman: World’s Finest

December 22, 2008

superman-batman-3The fact is, I’m writing about this World’s Finest only because I want to write about the other World’s Finest. This entry makes a necessary clarification. I need to make plain how I feel about this famous volume in contrast to the other less well-known (or virtually forgotten) but far more rewarding take on the Superman-Batman partnership. It’s not hard to guess where I’m going with this…

But you may already be thinking: surely this is the classic? It looks every bit like one and doesn’t feel like anything else done in the early 1990s even if it does try to borrow the aura of Alan Moore’s Killing Joke. This book also now gets the DC deluxe treatment (ie. hardcover, new cover picture, big page size), which is always a sign that DC itself considers it a classic.

Well, I will go as far as to admit that the art of Steve Rude and Karl Kesel is indeed remarkable: they competently capture the general 1950s style for both Superman and Batman comics. But Steve Oliff’s colours are the singular thing to look out for as they are put on brilliantly and yet subtly.You find your eyes constantly pleasured from having beheld something old and yet retouched with modern sensibilities.

The glaring problem here is Dave Gibbons’s story, which has the two superheroes face a trying chaos caused by Lex Luthor in Gotham and the Joker in Metropolis. It’s at best an average team-up story that stretches way too long and seems rather undecided about whether to play it simple or sophisticated. This book frankly reads uneven and messy even if the pictures want to reach for a far grander status. It confirms my suspicion that Gibbons is always good when he draws someone else’s stories (eg. Watchmen, The Killing Joke, Give Me Liberty) and even his own (eg. The Originals) but should be kept from collaborating in the capacity of writer.

 Gweek gives this volume the world’s finest 7 ho-hums.

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