Friday, June 8, 2012

Review: Worlds' Finest #2

Worlds' Finest #2 came out last week and showcased great characterization, stunning art, and the inherent difficulties that there is in trying to write a book like this.

One of the inherent problems with teaming up a Super with a Bat is the vast difference in power levels. Anything strong enough to threaten the Super would be able to squash the Bat like a fly. And anything tricky enough to a conundrum for the Bat would simply be rounded up by the Super. Heck, we saw it play out in Mike Maihack's Supergirl/Batgirl comics.

So it can't necessarily be the villain that stirs the drink of the story. Instead it has to be the interplay between the characters that is the big draw. Superman is powerful and an optimist. Batman is a perfect human specimen but a pessimist and paranoid. Seeing those two work together and be friends is what intrigues me.

Now Karen and Helena in this book seem like the best of friends and writer Paul Levitz has really had their scenes together feel natural and read wonderfully. I think that while they may have the optimism/pessimism of their mentors they aren't at the extremes that Superman and Batman are. I think there is more wiggle room, more accomodation, more willingness to sway towards the other. And as a result, the characterization of these two just read right. It also helps that Karen here is bright, sunny, hopeful ... reading more like the Silver Age Supergirl than the edgy Power Girl that I am used to.

But that power level problem rears it's ugly head in this issue, distracting from the pitch perfect interaction between Power Girl and Huntress.

As for the art, I'll try not to gush about the two masters splitting the book. Perez brings some great panel progression to this issue's fight scenes and includes one scary homage. And Kevin Maguire's stuff is just so clean and stupefyingly beautiful.

The issue picks up right where last issue left off, with radioactive terror Hakkou gobbling up radiation at the Starr Lab in Japan. I loved this sequence showing Power Girl closing in on Hakkou, fist ready to strike, getting literally eye to eye with her foe. It brought a kineticism to this opening blow.

Unfortunately, Hakkou not only shrugs of the punch but unleashes his energy and burns Karen. He is pouring off radiation and somehow that is able to hurt Karen. It isn't 'normal' radiation ... that doesn't hurt her.

But despite the raw power to hurt a Kryptonian and leaking lethal radiation, Huntress is able to get close enough to temporarily blind him with her cape. And despite being able to take a right hook from Power Girl, Hakkou is vulnerable to a crossbow bolt to the ear.  Injured, he runs off.

So this is that conundrum. Huntress should either be burned to a crisp or useless against Hakkou given how easily he took out Power Girl. So this was tough to reconcile.

Still, Huntress' stern words that no one hurts her friend, punctuated by the 'down the barrel' last panel, was dramatic.

When Power Girl awakens, it reminds her of their arrival on Earth when she was also knocked out and awoke in Helena's arms. And that segue leads to Maguire's flashback pages.

These pages fill in the gaps of the last five years but also serve to show how these two different people react to their places in this new world. We saw last issue that Karen decided to boldly be a public figure while Helena skulked in the shadows burning through identities.

Here we learn that Karen's Supergirl suit won't burn and (therefore) is still around somewhere. And she holds out hope to return home while Helena has already burned that bridge. They are hope and reality.

But does this mean we will see Karen don the E2 Supergirl togs in the future?

And then, after a little seed money stolen from Wayne tech, they start to assess their situation. Helena begins cataloging the differences in the world (man ... that just sounds Batman-like). Karen decides to move forward in trying to get them home.

But there is an interesting twist to this. Remember there was a figure in the center of the boom tube that brought the two here. Is that being on Earth as well? This black belt came through with the heroes and is indestructible to boot. Hmmm ... maybe it's a lash from Lashina?

Nearer to 'now' we see that Karen has been successful in creating her tech company and is buying up 'parallel Earth' research information and is super-stockpiling 'rare' Earths.

Maguire is given ample opportunity to show off the old Power Girl physique in all his pages showing her in half-sweaters, business skirts with high slits, and deep sea diving in a bikini. I think it shows that this Karen is as much a free spirit and as comfortable of who she is as the last Power Girl was.

I also wonder if there is some sort of mandate to have scenes like this.

And there seems to be a sort of 'Alfred the Butler' administrative assistant named Somya. She clearly is in on the secrets of this Worlds' Finest. This scene brings us right up to the last scene in the Huntress mini-series.

The two track Hakkou to the Fukushima nuclear reactor where he is 'snacking' on the energy of the spent fuel. The plan is relatively simple ... Huntress will lure him out, letting Power Girl mop him up.

Huntress, earlier denying any connection to their arrival, starts to be reminded of something. Could it be he looks very Parademon-like?

And Karen jumps in, fist pummeling, until a huge blast knocks her down.

You know what I saw when I read this page?


I don't know if Levitz/Perez were doing it intentionally. I don't know if I have PTSD and am looking for these things. Plus, this Karen is really being written like Supergirl from the pre-Crisis DCU so she has the feel of Kara.

But the fist, the close up face, the big beam ... even the Anti-Monitor look of Hakkou on the cover ... it all smacked a bit of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. At least for me.

Am I the only one who saw this?

And so, Huntress has to defend the unconscious Power Girl with her crossbow. Doesn't look good.

So this issue had great characterization between Helena and Karen. Their philosophical differences lead to some great interactions. Their fierce loyalty to each other is refreshing. Plus Karen is written like pre-Crisis Supergirl ... and I loved that character. And the art work is just mind-numbingly fantastic. These parts of the book are really great. Levitz' strength has always been his character work. But unlike Legion with it's huge cast, he really shines here, concentrating on just these two.

But these fight scenes are going to need to be tightened up a bit. Huntress, realistically, shouldn't be in the same room as this guy let alone threaten him or hurt him. And I hope  the answer isn't to have Power Girl get knocked out every issue.

Still, this was a fun entertaining read.

And I still wonder just when/if these two are going to confide in Batman and Superman about their origins. Wouldn't it be terrible if Superman had a better relationship with an alternate Supergirl than the one from his universe?

Overall grade: B+/B


Dave Mullen said...

It wasn't the notion of Huntress being able to stand near Hakkou that was the issue for me as this is par for the course for heroes versus such villains, but the sight of PG flying Huntress to the vicinity then right into, the Fukushima plant despite the obvious collosall radiation risks broke all credulity. I can't believe no one flagged up that scenes utter absurdity before going to print.

Nontheless a great old fashioned superhero romp this. The art from Perez was simply stunning (shout out to the colorist Hi-Fi too) and no, I'm sure the Crisis #7 echo was fully intentional... I'm pondering the identity of the Apokalips refugee and while Lashina is a possibility I think we're looking more towards Kanto or Granny Goodness considering the context. I'm assuming it's someone we're familiar with or there wouldn't be this secrecy and deliberate effort at mystery so while we can rule out Steppenwolf the list of likely candidates is actually extremely small. Kanto fits the bill for me.

To anyone interested, a review I did yesterday expanding on the overall plot of the issue:

Martin Gray said...

Excellent review, Anj! You're right about the radiation business, the second time they confronted Hakkou, Karen should have provided Helena with hi-tech protection, a nanotech mesh or something.

Well, you know I agree with you on the Crisis business ...

It's interesting that Paul is writing Karen a lot like the original Supergirl, given that he was denied the chance to let her live on in his Legion book, while Karen took her spot as Earth's super-female.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

Great write up Dave. Kanto is an interesting idea as he would be a better 'solo' agent whereas Lashina would probably mean the whole Furies gang was on Earth.

And it is interesting about the Crisis bit. I wonder why they decided to homage it. Maybe you are right Mart. Maybe Levitz wanted to recreate that scene but his Supergirl survives it?

Gene said...

Anj wrote:

"But does this mean we will see Karen don the E2 Supergirl togs in the future?"

Gee I hope so since her current costume is unimaginative and uninspiring.

"Wouldn't it be terrible if Superman had a better relationship with an alternate Supergirl than the one from his universe?"

I find it interesting that the personality of the Silver Age Supergirl is still held in higher regard than her post-COIE incarnations by writers and fans.

Anj said...

Thanks for the post Gene.

There are parts of the Silver Age Supergirl that I think are timeless to the character. Her hope, her trying to do what was best and right no matter what, and her being on the journey not done with it.

I have seen those elements in some Matrix stories, the PAD Supergirl, and in Sterling Gates (and what came after) run on the last book. It is those elements I hold in high regard, things not seen in Loeb/Kelly. Things we are seeing emerge in this new Supergirl.

I guess my bigger question is, what do Power Girl fans think? Is this WF Power Girl true to the Karen they know and love?