Worlds' Finest #9 came out this week and was another entertaining issue. In this current comics market, I guess I shouldn't take that for granted. While the long term plots of looking for a way home and dealing with Apokoliptian threats on Earth 1 have either dragged a bit or simply faded into the background, the character interaction and the artwork elevates this book. It isn't ground-breaking. It isn't high literature. But it is fun. And that goes a long way these days where I sometimes question why I am reading some of the books I collect.
We are still figuring out who these characters are and writer Paul Levitz has been doing a great job of slowly leaking out back stories and origins through flashbacks. In particular, last issue's flashbacks of Huntress' training and now this issue's flashbacks of Helena's first mission on Earth 1 have really added some depth to this version of Helena. There seems to be as much Selena as there is Bruce in this version of the Huntress and that makes her a little more intriguing, a little more flexible as a character.
And Karen? Well we only get a snippet of some back story for her but it is a somewhat perplexing statement worth my ruminating over. On top of that, we again see just how fierce Karen is when it comes to defending her friends. But she is still 'Supergirl' which means that she also is trying to support her friend emotionally as well.
Kevin Maguire is off this issue again. The George Perez pages are standard lovely if a little less fine-lined than I am used to from him. The remaining pages are split between CAFU and Yildray Cinar (with some help from Phil Jimenez giving those pages a Perez-like patina). CAFU has done a fantastic job these last 2 issues and I wouldn't mind if he gets named the official Worlds' Finest pinch hitter or even takes over should Perez or Maguire move on to other things.
The book starts with Helena still recovering from last issue, in the medical ward of the Starr Technology Island headquarters. With Power Girl off Island, the injured Huntress seemingly is the last line of defense when armed thugs break in, hoping to steal technological secrets.
One thing I like about this Huntress is just how ferocious and accomplished a hand-to-hand combatant she is. The scene in Italy where she takes out a gang without disturbing her ice cream cone. Here, while sporting a casted forearm and sling, she starts to work her way through the heavily armed invaders.
Turns out I was wrong that Helena was the last line. Karen's assistant also tries to defend the place. She actually shoots one of the invaders in the ear.
Unfortunately, her handgun is no match for the advanced weaponry they are packing. She is almost killed, saved at the last second by Helena who commandeers her pistol.
Two things about this scene.
One, I think it is interesting that Helena so easily will pick up a pistol and use it. Is this the Selena in her? Or is it more her willingness to do whatever it takes to win. But a 'Bat-family' member (even if one planet removed) wielding a gun always seems weird. Remember, Helena also killed the werewolves a couple of issues ago too.
Second, I am starting to get a whiff of obsession in this assistant, maybe something like the maid Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock's Rebecca (I suppose I have lost everybody here). She is always toweling down Karen, holding up the robe Karen steps into, now she is willing to kill? Maybe I am over-reading this.
We then flash back 4 years when these two are still trying to get settled on this world. These are the CAFU pages and they are beautiful.
I still don't quite understand exactly why Karen doesn't want to meet Superman. Is it that she isn't ready to face him knowing she is still grieving? Is it that she isn't impressed with this Superman? We have seen what a great relationship she had with the Superman of Earth 2. So ... why?
And then there is this odd statement. Karen is afraid to be in Metropolis because she is afraid Superman will spot her because 'they are different'.
I assume that it is because internal Kryptonian anatomy is different from Terran. But is it something more than that? Do Kryptonians radiate some easily seen aura? This stood out as just a bit odd.
The trip to Metropolis was arranged so Helena could buy her Huntress outfit and equipment to start her worldly missions. While Karen is establishing Starr Tech and buying the island headquarters, Huntress is out breaking up human trafficking and prostitution rings like here in Prague.
The Huntress mini-series had her breaking up a similar ring in Italy. It is clear that this issue is very important for Helena. She has a cause. But again, there is this sort of line, almost crossing a line, where she says she will kill if she needs to. Even Karen, who shows up later, has to question if she really would kill those criminals. Helena says no, but her face and follow-up quip makes me wonder.
Is she a bit darker than we thought?
Back in present time, this doesn't help squelch that worry. She blasts away and hopes to survive. But she also gives a lot of 'grim and gritty' dialogue, almost Rorschach-ian. "You thought you had what you wanted. But all you got is me."
Maybe she should have said 'I am not locked in here with you. You are locked in here with me!'
I am not against exploring this drive in Helena. But I would prefer she wasn't a murderer. Seems off for a daughter of Batman to be shooting people to death.
Luckily Power Girl shows up before things get really messy.
Look, it is another good rendition of the Power Girl costume! I do think the gold bracelets are just unnecessary and overkill.
Jimenez' inks on Cinar just smack of Perez.
Incredibly, the invaders are packing a rifle/cannon which actually slows Power Girl down. Maybe Apokoliptian?
Most of the intruders run off, with the tech they were looking for. Only one remains on the scene unconscious.
There is this wordless panel as the two heroes look at each other. What did you read out of this panel?
At first I thought this was a panel where Power Girl silently shows how scary it was to be hurt by the gun.
Then I thought it was Karen looking a bit accusingly at Helena, since she broke in with Helena shooting guns at these guys. Maybe Power Girl has the same worries I do.
But then I thought this was a silent look by Power Girl at Huntress saying that she knows what needs to be done with this remaining criminal, that she knows the line that might need to be crossed.
In the end, because it fits my internal narrative best, I opted for the middle read. I think Peeg is worried.
That said, Power Girl still lifts the guy off the ground and threatens him. He cracks and says this invasion was done to grab technology 'stolen' from Michael Holt ... Mr. Terrific. Nice little cliffhanger. Holt is on Earth 2 (I think). He had a relationship with Karen. Who is funding this raid?
So another decent issue where the high points are the characterization and interaction between Huntress and Power Girl. Hydra or A.I.M.rejects storming this place and being driven off wasn't what grabbed me. It is Helena's personality and what she is willing to do that is the real hook.
Hopefully all these crumbs that are being spread out by Levitz (Power Girl weakened by radiation, Huntress not effected, the Apokolips angle, etc) will be brought together soon.