Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: Worlds' Finest #3

Worlds' Finest #3 was released this week and the book continued to be a fun sort of read. Now 'fun sort of read' sounds like I am damning with faint praise but the truth is fun reads seem to be in short supply these days. And 'sort of' because I think that the high points of this book outshine the problems that I have with some of it. The book's set-up of current super-adventures and flashback reactions to their arrival on this Earth and that also works.

Writer Paul Levitz continues to shine in his characterization of Huntress and Power Girl, showing how these two different women could be such great friends. In particular, the flashback scenes of Helena and Karen adjusting to this Earth are the best parts of this book. Those scenes really sparkle.

And the art by the two masters, George Perez and Kevin Maguire, is fantastic. Perez does his best to infuse the action sequences with his sensibilities and detailed nuances. And Maguire, showcasing the civilian personalities of the two heroes, really shines as his art reflects the differences between Karen and Helena.

In fact, my one concern about this book is the fact that I am relatively underwhelmed with the present-day story of Huntress and Power Girl fighting the radioactive Hakkou. While I am sure he will be linked to Apokalips in some way, it reads like a standard 'punch em up' plot which doesn't compare to the more interesting story of how these two became acclimated to Earth One. How long can this approach of present day/flashbacks continue? At some point won't we learn all we need to know about the past?

One more point before we move on to the review proper. One of the things that grabbed me about the early issues was that Power Girl read a bit more like a Silver Age Supergirl, bright and optimistic. I wondered if Power Girl fans might think this version was too sunny. This issue we saw much more of a Power Girl like Karen, right down to an homage panel of her old self.

The issue opens up with Huntress trying to defend a downed Power Girl from the hulking and radioactive Hakkou. During the battle, Hakkou hints that he knows about the heroes' E2 origins.

While it isn't easily spelled out, she uses some battle know-how to move Hakkou into and area where a well-placed crossbow bolt shatters the coolant tank and floods him. Unfortunately, the coolant water is just as radioactive. So rather than weaken him, Hakkou becomes engorged on even more energy. He doesn't sound happy about this feast forcing him to flee before he becomes oversaturated.

While I thought Helena's tactics where solid, I still don't like the idea that Power Girl was so easily vanquished by this villain while the Huntress is able to stay and fight in this environment.

And I don't know if the glib explanation for Helena's resilience helps either. Her Batman said they had a 'hereditary immunity' to poisons? So that alone is odd but using it to explain her ability to shake off radiation? Seems dodgy. And I wonder if we will eventually get an answer why Karen is so susceptible to Hakkou's emanations.

Of course, we don't really know what the transition from one Earth to another does to people. Is Power Girl at the power level of E1 Kryptonians? Or less? Is Huntress sturdier than your standard E1 human? She didn't show it in her mini-series.

With concerns that Hakkou may have traveled with them from Earth 2 and might be trying to stop them from getting home (since he destroyed the quantum tunneler in issue 1), we switch to the flashback portion of the book with Karen and Helena discussing this new Earth they are on. This conversation is from 4 years ago.

One of my big questions has been why these two wouldn't seek out the help of their Earth 1 father figures. Here we get to see their reaction to the Earth 1 heroes. First off, they are shocked to find out that there is already a Robin on this earth ... and not a blood relative. I wonder if this means Helena would approve of Damien more than Dick or Tim.

And Karen doesn't even want to meet the Superman of Earth 1. 'Not my Earth. Not my family. Not my problem.'

Seems a bit curt ... or even surly ... from the otherwise upbeat Karen. I think this is probably just a defense mechanism. She probably wants to avoid the pain of meeting this Superman since she is still mourning her cousin.

And the mystery belt that came through with them continues to stymie Helena's analysis.

While Helena seems to be all business, Karen seems to have a lusher social life on Earth 1. She jokes about how she doesn't worry about parademons hiding under every bed she has been on.

And then she jokes about how the she is 'checking comparative anatomy' when joking presumably about the men she has had dalliances with on this Earth. She certainly isn't hiding who she is here, comfortable in her own skin and basically stopping traffic as every man on the street stops to look at her. And she doesn't seem to mind even if Helena's pinched expression shows she might disapprove.

This felt more like Power Girl to me.

Moreover, we get a pure Power Girl moment ... even a Conner-esque Power Girl look ... when Karen decides she needs to meet Mister Terrific so she can hear about his scientific theories. All in the hopes of getting home of course ...  It was fun to see this Power Girl again, clearly inspired by Amanda Conner.

It is important to note that she isn't flighty or silly or simply a party girl. Levitz evens out this fun-loving side with pages of her working out E1's technology, starting up her company, and realizing she will need to have the brightest minds working for her to create a way to get back to Earth 2.

Again, these pages read much more like the edgier, confident Power Girl that I knew from the old DCU.

And boy, Maguire seems to be having a fun time with these sequences.

Back in current time, it looks like Hakkou's binge has made him huge and chaotic. A giant radioactive monster trampling through Japan?

I talked about Hakkou's eerie resemblance to the Anti-Monitor in my last review. Here he looks like the de-armored Ant-Monitor from Crisis #12 or maybe the merged Shadow demons from Crisis #3.

So I don't know what Huntress will be able to do in this fight.

But Power Girl does have something to offer. She grabs a radio tower and uses it as a cudgel to bash Hakkou out of the city and into the ocean. But that seems more of a delay tactic than a win. Neither hero knows what to do from there. Nice splash here by Perez.

So overall, as I said above, a fun issue. I found the flashbacks to be the best section of the book, answering a couple of questions I had (why not seek out the E1 Batman/Superman), adding some great interaction between these characters, and definitely showcasing Karen and her feisty attitude. Very nice.

But I will need some great hook to make this Hakkou portion be something more than pedestrian.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Why is Power Girl v.4.0 being jobbed out to Hakkou?
ANd if Hakkou is such dangerous radioactive beastie how come unpowered, unarmored Huntress can slap him around like a street punk?
This is a glaring plot defect and coming from Paul Levitz (the most pro-Kara writer at DC hands down be she Supergirl Powergirl or whatevergirl) this is all the more surprising.


Anonymous said...

The effect caused by soaking Hakkou in radioactive coolant reminds me of a children's book where a goldfish grows huge after a boy overfeeds it. And the scene of a giant Hakkou rampaging through Tokyo, being attacked by the Japanese Self-Defense Force, seems an homage to the many Japanese monster movies and King Kong as well.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

The way I see it--Huntress's comment about what her dad said about immunities--is that H is more powerful and PG is LESS powerful on nuEarth. Levitz could telegraph it better, and it would certainly explain future fight scenes. For example, Huntress pulling PG from the water, could that have happened back on New Earth?

I can say I'm enjoying the book. I'm certainly buying more of the "Second Wave" than the first.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I meant NEVER MIND the dumb comment about immunities. That doesn't even make sense.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

On rereading the book, I do wonder if Huntress has indeed been given extra powers. Her crossbow quills seem to have an unnatural 'Kirby crackle' appearance to them. And wading into a highly radioactive place without a scratch seems to imply it.

And yes, the radioactive monster stomping through Tokyo did invoke memories of Godzilla and Rodan.