Worlds' Finest #1 written by Paul Levitz with art by the super-team of George Perez and Kevin Maguire came out last week. The concept of the book was known before the release: the Huntress and Power Girl, the displaced Robin and Supergirl from Earth 2, try to find their way back to their world while living in the Earth 1 DCnU.
I had a lot of preconceived notions about the book before it's release. And I always say that preconceived notions are hard to overcome. From the creative point of view, I couldn't wait to see Perez and Maguire's work as I have been a long time fan of both. I would say I am a fan of Paul Levitz. But his Legion thus far has been lackluster and I wondered if he would have the chops for this book. His Huntress mini-series was solid work and he has a history with Helena Wayne ... but still I wondered.
From a character point of view I was also a bit on the fence. I have been a fan of all of the Huntresses, but I was most fond of Helena Bertinelli. Would I be able to embrace a non-Sicilian Huntress again? And while I have peripherally followed Power Girl throughout her history (sometimes more than peripheral as in the Palmiotti/Conner series), I wasn't sure if I was going to be ready to hear she was Supergirl in the past, even if it was on E2. I like that she is a separate character. Could I overcome my dislike of that issue?
The bottom line is I really really liked this issue. The art is stellar. Levitz seems to have a grasp of these two characters, especially their friendship. Their dialogue is easy going and natural, befit of two people who have been lifelong pals and comrades-in-arm. And while the Bertinelli bit will still be hard to swallow, I think I am going to be interested in reading about Helena and Karen, and their super-heroics on both worlds. As Supergirl on Earth-2, Karen seemed ready for action and beloved by the people. So far we haven't seen the edge that Power Girl has shown in the past. Maybe this is where a hint of a Silver Age Supergirl sensibility can be found. Yep ... I'm hooked.
The book actually opens on the most sour note. Helena Wayne had been impersonating Helena Bertinelli. The real Bertinelli has somehow died and this Helena became her. I suppose it explains the heavy Italian and mob overtones to the prior mini-series. This Helena wanted to shut down the human slavery ring happening in Italy and the best access was as Bertinelli.
Still ... an off-screen death for Helena Bertinelli seems cruel to her fans. We don't get details about her death, so who knows if this is the end of that Huntress' story.
But with the slavery ring shut down, there is no need for that Helena any more. Her passport (and her character) go up in smoke.
But we then pull back to see that this is dinner between Helena and Karen. And almost immediately we get a sense of their different personalities.
Karen has adopted a very open identity on Earth 1, a visible business mogul. And she believes that she and Helena will eventually get back home.
Helena is a pragmatist. Going home is a fairy tale. And she burns through identities and avoids any publicity.
It reads like the personalities of Batman and Superman, like a Worlds' Finest. And yet we are also reminded of their heroic past. I love that the reflections in the window are of smiling heroes striking an iconic pose. It shows that their pasts were happy times, that they aren't dark brooding heroes. And after the tragedy they have lived through to have them still shown like this was refreshing.
Their meal is interrupted by news that the latest R and D lab that Karen bought and turned into a Starr research facility is engulfed in flames.
The place is in ruins and it looks like it was definitely not an accident. Karen is upset because this place had a 'quantum tunneler' which sounds like an Earth attempt at a boom tube. Karen was hoping it would be a way home.
One thing that hasn't changed in the reboot is Power Girl's physique. Pulchritude? You betcha.
It seems that up until now Karen hasn't been a costumed hero, instead hiding her powers.
Again, the joking dialogue between the two as they needle and tease each other while handling business is very nicely done. It doesn't feel phony or scripted. In some ways it reminded me of the friendly banter we saw between Babs and Dinah in Gail Simone's Birds of Prey run.
It turns out these two have been on Earth 1 for 5 years ago. We get a snippet of the devastation of Earth 2 and their arrival here in the flashback pages by Maguire.
Just who is that person at the center of the Boom Tube. It isn't Steppenwolf. I suppose it could be Darkseid. But I wonder if there is another story there waiting to be explored.
Also, look at that fierce and determined E2 Supergirl! I love Maguire's art!
But flying into that Boom Tube only lands them on Earth 1, and in relatively tough shape.
The thing that stood out to me here was that Helena is already burning her Robin outfit. She has figured out this isn't their world. And she is snuffing that past persona out already. She strikes me as hard, the way Batman is hard. But I also get the feeling of a fun side of her, something we don't see in Batman. She seems happy to be doing what she is doing. I suppose that is what Robin should be like.
In another weird turn, Helena steals money from Wayne Tech to give the girls a new life on Earth 1. She seems to realize that Bruce Wayne is Batman here (she stole from Wayne and Batman won't miss it) but she says 'whoever the Batman is' making it sound like she doesn't know he Bruce Wayne.
My guess is she means she doesn't know who Batman is as a hero. Is he like her father? Or different? Still it read awkwardly.
With their new funds, Karen becomes a technology mogul, out in the open, famous enough to be on magazine covers.
Meanwhile Helena stays incognito, following in her father's footsteps, becoming an urban legend dealing with crime in one raid at a time.
This Huntress page, which I lavished praise on when I saw it in previews looks even better in color. Maguire is able to give the feel of a fast paced Huntress doling out punishment and disappearing. It is a fantastic way of showing how the artist can control the page, how this is a medium of words and pictures.
With the quick flashback over, and the stage set for the last five years of time, we flip back to the present and the lab on fire.
It turns out that Karen has been thinking about joining the costumed hero business after all. And inside this disaster scene is her new super-suit, which I think is another disaster.
Still, I like the smile on Karen's face as she embraces a new role for herself as Power Girl. And I like that she wants to become a hero team with Helena. Again, it is the chemistry between these two that I found most engaging.
I do hope at some point we explore why she didn't come out as Supergirl, why she didn't seek out the E-1 Superman, and what she thinks of her younger doppelganger who has just arrived on the planet.
Now in her fighting clothes, the two investigate the disaster scene a little more closely and come upon a radioactive bruiser who initially gets the upper hand on Power Girl. It leads to a conversation where Helena states that this villain doesn't sound like Karen's typical date.
What I loved here is that Power Girl says her last date chaperone was the E2 Superman. Just like that you know that the two super-cousins had a loving relationship, that the two super-cousins cared for each other and looked out for each other. We have yet to see anything like that with the E1 super-family. It also still makes me wonder why Power Girl hid from the E1 Kal all this time. I do hope that gets explored a little. Or that the Supergirl/Power Girl juxtaposition eventually gets looked at.
But this issue was just wonderful. I was surprised to see how easily Levitz was able to establish the rapport between these two, how I was able to tell that they have been long time friends and allies. The art just glittered. And we have a decent cliffhanger as the two square off against Hakkou the radioaxtive terrorist.