World's Finest #4 came out last week, wrapping up a whirlwind mini-series which feels like it's over before it even began.
In this day and age in comics, a 4 issue mini-series seems to be rare. Everything seems to be 6 issues or more. Compound the shorter length of the mini-series with the format (different guest stars in each issue who need to first meet and then finish an adventure) and you have the most compressed storytelling I have read in a while. In many ways it's refreshing ... like having 4 delicious hors d'oeuvres rather than sitting down to a huge plate of pasta. In other ways it was sort of disappointing. I would have loved to see more of Supergirl/Batgirl ... more of Superman/Batman. So disappointing in a good way. It means the quality was high enough that I wanted to read more.
The issue opens up with a flashback splash page of Nightwing and Superman looking at the new uniform they are about to don.
Nightwing has decided to wear the cowl of Batman. Superman has decided to become Commander El. Without any words, you can completely sense the weight of these decisions. These aren't heroic poses ... more poses of resignation. This is something these heroes need to do ... even if they might not 100% want to.
We flash forward to the current adventure with the Toyman's giant Superman/Batman robot lumbering down Gotham's streets causing general mayhem.
I haven't really enjoyed the character of Damien Wayne in the past but in this issue, he has the best lines. I love it here when he looks at the absurd mecha and says 'that might be the stupidest thing I ever heard'.
Supergirl is removed from the equation pretty quickly, literally swallowed by the robot and put into a Kryptonite saturated environment. Batman is able free Batgirl from the robot's grip with a well placed missile. And then Dick jumps into the robot's maw to rescue Kara and try to solve the problem from the inside out.
Superman doesn't seem to be having as bad a problem with the Kryptonite as Supergirl did but neither is he uneffected. Here he is bathed in the K-rays and spun around in agony.
I laughed at loud at Damien's line here. Calling Batgirl 'Fatgirl' is awful and funny at the same time. It's obvious that Steph is fit and athletic so it is cringe-worthy. But it is completely within Damien's character to be such a jerk.
Seriously .... 'Fatgirl'? That's not right.
While Superman and Batman skirmish with the robot, Robin and Batgirl take the battle to the ground and lay into Toyman and Mr. Freeze. In the midst of the battle, the Toyman's remote control gets shattered.
It turns out that the robot's ultimate destination was supposed to be New Krypton! But the remote was destroyed before that navigation code could be entered. With no destination, the robot begins its self-destruct program.
Okay, so it seems to me that a lot of work was put into making this robot. Doesn't it seem a little silly that the destruction of something as fragile as the remote control would automatically lead this thing to blow itself up? Why would the Toyman do that?
Now if I was a evil genius, I would have programmed the robot to simply run amok causing massive property damage if the remote control was destroyed. I figure, if the remote is broken, I am probably captured .... may as well rain some mayhem down.
From a meta-textual point of view, I can understand the need for Sterling Gates to be able to finish this story within the constraints of 22 pages. So, in that way, such a easily implemented self-destruct mode makes sense.
Within the robot, Batman finds a feverish-appearing Supergirl. She's nearly incapacitated by the ambient K-radiation she is soaking in.
With time running out, Batman helps her up as she tries to guide them out. As they try to find an outer wall to smash through, the two stumble upon the Kryptonite Man, who is basically the engine of the mecha. The proximity to such concentrated Kryptonite waves sends Supergirl to the ground.
Superman luckily arrives and decides the most expedient way to stop the robot is to remove the Kryptonite Man. No engine means no travel. He has not had as prolonged an exposure to the Kryptonite radiation as Supergirl so he is able to do just that, hoisting the engine chamber up and out.
Batman programs the Batmobile/Batplane to catch the K-Man so he doesn't splatter on the ground.
The three heroes are then able to escape the robot before it self-destructs.
Nice splash by Noto here.
The three then head to Earth and help Steph and Robin finish off The Toyman and Mr. Freeze.
In an interesting twist, the Toyman turns out to be another robot, so cleverly constructed that no one, not even the Kryptonians, were able to deduce he was an automaton.
In the end, Superman tells Dick how proud he is of the new Batman, how proud he knows Bruce would be. I thought that was a nice touch.
I also like how Superman talks about the growing pains the New Krypton citizens are going through. The first panel is an absolute riot with Supergirl chastising Robin for calling Batgirl fat. I love Supergirl's expression there ... exasperated.
But I also appreciate the love thrown to Nightwing and Flamebird as they 'aspire to higher ideals'. It seems like a lifetime ago that there was speculation that they were Conner and Linda.
Nothing beats one last ending twist. It turns out that the Toyman was simply on a mad super-villain rage. He was being forced into work by General Lane. Man, that guy is busy. And he wants to know if Schott can create another robot that could infiltrate New Krypton. Interesting.
I thought this was another good issue in a very good mini-series. There was barely a moment to take a breath here as each issue rolls at a breakneck pace. Some things are rushed or glossed over so that the story reaches where it needed to get to. As I said above, it really is a refreshing and retro.
While Supergirl sort of took a back seat here, this really is supposed to be Superman and Batman's time in the spotlight so I didn't really mind.
And I am a big fan of Phil Noto's art but this issue he did not look as refined as I have seen his work in the past.
Still, overall, I liked this mini-series as it blended to Super- and Bat- families and hope we see more Supergirl/Batgirl team-ups in the future. And I thought Gates did a very good job with the first Superman/Batman team-up, especially Superman's proud reaction to Dick's wearing the cowl.