Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: Worlds' Finest #5

Worlds' Finest #5 came out this week and was the weakest of the series so far.

The title as a whole initially had a bit of a throwback feel to it what with the heroes fighting a giant radioactive monster stomping through Tokyo. But the draw for the book was the characterization of these two lost heroes, influenced by their legacies, and finding their way in this new world. And yes, the mysteries of how they got to Earth 1 and how will they get back and why their powers are altered enhanced the big back story. Add to that luscious art by Perez and Maguire and this was a breezy comic which was entertaining.

Now after the conclusion of the Hakkou arc and the powerful zero issue last month, I was ready for something a bit meatier, as we moved forward in the book. Instead, we got what felt like a rest issue with the two heroes recalling recent solo adventures to the other around a framework story. There isn't anything spectacular about these side stories that would make them too important. I understand that the purpose was again to showcase the differences in these two and how they work well together despite those differences, it just felt like the series paused.

And, for the first time I felt the characterization fell short feeling a bit forced at times.

The art is done by a trio of artists. George Perez does the framework story. Jerry Ordway does the Power Girl story. And Wes Craig does the Huntress portion. Craig's style is different enough from Perez and Ordway to make the transition a bit wobbly. But otherwise, solid stuff there.

The issue starts at Starr labs in Cambridge Mass and the heroes trying to test the limits of Power Girl's abilities. Part of those experiments includes blasting her with a laser cannon which ... gasp ... nearly vaporizes Kara's costume. Barely covered and tattered, Helena has to give Kara her cape to cover up.

Okay ... I get it ... Karen is a free spirit who is comfortable with her body. But it seems like we are simply making up ways to put her in nearly nothing in almost every issue. I don't think the draw for this book should be cheesecake. If this is a way to appease the 'boob window' crew then just bring back a costume with a boob window. But this is starting to feel a little forced.

A much better way to show the lengths they are going to test Kara's powers is a shot showing a workout room with smashed heavy equipment. It shows the audience that Kara is still on the high end of power even here.

I do like that Kara's optimism, her hope of returning home is unwavering. Here she thinks it doesn't matter why their powers are off (Helena comments about how she shrugged off radiation), they are going home soon.

This sequence opens up the door for Kara to talk about another experiment she was part of. The CERN collider (dubbed Gigantor here) is going to fire up in hopes of investigating new dimensions. With the possibility of heading home high, Karen Starr drops by.

Now in comes a Rico Suave German scientist who starts to talk about 'immediate satisfaction' while snapping his fingers. I cannot imagine even a comic book world where that sort of come-on would actually work in wooing a woman. But ....

It works! Despite the fact that this is an experiment that might bring her home, despite literally being feet away from an atom smasher, Karen decides to have some amorous clutches with Fritz.

Now I get it, Karen is a free spirit, comfortable with her body, and with a healthy sexual appetite. And that's fine. But really ... here? When she might be on the cusp of getting back to her world she decides to smooch a scientist she has known for minutes, freeing up some of his and her buttons? It again felt a bit forced. You want to have her flirt? Show her in some passionate embrace after the experiment ... fine. But here??

The experiment sort of works, opening up a Boom Tube and bringing some Apokaliptian-looking robot drone onto Earth. As a result, Fritz gets kayoed by Karen so he can't see her fighting (although she basically tells him she has super-vision earlier.)

And after a brawl in which .... gasp ... Karen's business suit gets vaporized ... the drone self-destructs.

Now I get it, Karen is a free spirit comfortable with her body. But here it has nothing to do with her comfort and everything to do with creative choices. So once again we see Karen in next to nothing. When these happen over and over it becomes almost routine. It feels lazy, or pandering. And it certainly distracts from Karen's character, implying I should be more concerned about her appearance than her feelings.

I am not against this stuff per se. I just think it has to be done in moderation and when it makes sense. Or we are devolving into a Dejah Thoris comic.

The CERN experiment won't be done again for a year so this Boom Tube event won't be seen again any time soon. So this also feels a bit too convenient. Wasn't this a massive breakthrough for Karen, opening a portal to somewhere? Would she just shrug it off and be satisfied waiting another year??

And her consolation is bringing Fritz to the US so she can have a boytoy nearby? She even calls him a souvenir. I don't want Karen to be a one-note character. So I get it ...  Karen is a free spirit, comfortable with her body, and with a healthy sexual appetite. But is there more to her? Or is this going to be the only part of her we see?

As for Helena, she tells her own story, attending a 'Take Back the Night' walk in Boston.

As I said, Wes Craig's art, a bit murky and less defined, works well in this nighttime street level story. But is so different from Ordway and Perez that it felt a little jarring.

Walking in the crowd, she tells a young woman that she was home schooled by 'experts'. While Karen is thinking big picture, Helena is trying to save the world one person at a time. Helena talks about that being a lesson from her mother. One thing I like about Helena is how she seems to mention her mother or father when thinking about what she should do or what she is thinking. I hope Karen has the same respect for lessons from Clark and Lois.

But she is grim avenger of the night as well. When she spies a sniper above the protest, she gets into action. I love her determination and confidence. 'Who's today's loser?' Nice.

But there is also some of that intimidation of her father in her. When the shooter tries to spew his rationalizations, she cuts him off. She has no interest in hearing his psychopathology. She cows him with her mere presence, all the more powerful given the event he was trying to disrupt.

Helena just seems like a more fully-formed character.

As I said, the two stories at least skirt the different between the characters' approaches. And despite those differences, they clearly care for each other and work well together.

But did this issue add anything? I don't mind rest issues like this if they tell a compelling story or add to the depth of the characters they cover. But I don't think we learned anything new here. And I don't think these stories were so fantastic to merit their own issue.

So nothing egregiously wrong with this issue. But nothing substantive either.

And I get it ...Karen is a free spirit, comfortable with her body, and with a healthy sexual appetite. But please stop clubbing it over my head incessantly. There should be more to the Earth 2 Supergirl than that.

Overall grade: C+


Anonymous said...

I read that issue, too and came away thinking "Is that all there is?" Maybe the next issue will be better. Speaking of family ties, if Helena runs into Damian, maybe she can distract him by saying that she is his half-sister (it's plausible until you realize she is from a different Earth).

Benwahbob said...

I don't like the implication, starting with the Mr. terrific series launch, that Karen's basically been whoring around the DC Universe, to any scientist who might be able to get Helena and herself back to Earth 2. it's creepy and disturbing. If she has ahealthy sexual appetit, that's fine, but she's sleeping with these guys to get closer to their tech, then she knocks them out or abandones them?
Uncool DC.

Anj said...

Bob, I agree that if it solely for tech it is odd. The 'souvenir' comment also seemed off.

Hopefully, Power Girl will be a deeper character than this one aspect.