World’s Finest

July 3, 2010

I picked this book up for a terrible reason. It’s not even a reason; it’s a fixation. I have already reviewed the other Superman-Batman World’s Finest titles, and it seems that my plea for some originality has fallen on deaf ears. Dan DiDio and Jim Lee don’t read my blog — that’s as clear as Superman’s underwear now. So yet another volume calling itself World’s Finest, an increasingly cryptic name, has hit the shelves. This makes me look forward to my next time-wasting non-conversation with a comics geek that goes “You’re not talking about Karl Kesel’s series, the one he wrote? No, not the one he drew. No, that’s the deluxe Dave Gibbon one. The other one, not that one?…”

This doesn’t even read like the other World’s Finest books: there’s firstly no, gasp, Superman-Batman team-up. Let me qualify the claim: there is a guest appearance by Superman but not Supes in the familiar light-blue-and-red getup. Ignore the Phil Noto cover: that’s for suckers like me. These days, Superman only comes on emergency call, being on New Krypton where he helps his own people he never knew to settle in. And he dresses in Kryptonian workwear — which is a kind of fashion mix between old USSR and Babylon 5 uniforms. Then there’s Batman, who isn’t Bruce Wayne but ex-Nightwing Dick Grayson. Batman is still “dead”, remember? The current Nightwing is, in turn, someone else, one half of the Kandorian Flamebird and Nightwing, who is himself Dick’s original inspiration anyway. And Robin is not Tim Drake — who’s now Red Robin — but Damian Wayne, son of Bruce and Talia al Ghul. Talia makes an appearance too, so you need to know the connection. And the Guardian of Metropolis’s Science Police is not Jim Harper but a clone…

So, since this doesn’t technically involve the trying relationship between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne (and “finest” is debatable), why is it World’s Finest again? The simple answer is, it still involves the two by association, via encounters between their extended superhero families in Metropolis and Gotham City. So we begin with Kandorian Nightwing seeking Red Robin’s help to find his partner, captured by the Penguin and the Kryptonite Man. Why Nightwing goes all the way to Amsterdam to find someone whose assistance he doesn’t really need, in a collaboration that couldn’t have been over 5 minutes, I don’t understand. Never mind, then it’s clone Guardian with not-yet-worthy Robin going after Dr. Freeze in an uneasy partnership that also ends before you know it. Next comes Supergirl and Batgirl — not Barbara Gordon, of course, but Stephanie Brown, formerly Spoiler, ex-Robin #4 — going up against the Toyman. The series concludes with all three threads tying up together and solved by Superman and Batman! Well, not quite those two.

You’re seeing my problem yet? Even without the original relationship as its theme, this is too much of a touch-and-go between the different pairs. It reads like, and plots like, a mini The Brave and the Bold storyline, done best by Mark Waid. It reads like a companion to something, a combination of New Krypton or Batman Reborn perhaps, and it feels painfully unnecessary. No relationship changes as a result of any of these brief encounters; nothing deepens or is complicated. To be sure, I like writer Starling Gates — he’s great on Supergirl titles and particularly Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom. But this is simply not his cup of tea: it’s fun but forgettable, too fast, too cute, and too random. I comfort myself with the reminder that there are at least two extras: a Toyman story by Geoff Johns that reads like a Clayface story by Alan Moore. (How could you, Geoff!) The real treat here is a much older tale by Gerry Conway, combining Dick Grayson as Robin and Superman.

Gweek gives this collection of pointless encounters 6 seconds of blank stare.

4 Responses to “World’s Finest”

  1. ~autolycus Says:

    Have you read the Jonathan Lethem version of ‘Omega the Unknown’? It’s a very good remake, and I wish I had read it earlier!

  2. Gweek Says:

    I’ve been waiting tearfully for the paperback! what’s taking Marvel so long?

  3. ~autolycus Says:

    Go to Harris and get 25% off if you buy two or more GNs.

  4. Gweek Says:

    Harris is still alive?

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