Worlds' Finest #18 came out this week and wrapped up the storyline with the tattoed super-powered arsonist while continuing to delve deeper into the storyline of Power Girl's unpredictable power lapses. Like most Worlds' Finest issues, this was a decent book with some nice moments. If you are wondering if I am damning with faint praise, it felt that way when I typed it. I feel like this could be an incredible book, a book that wows me. The characters have interesting backgrounds and play off each other well. And the art on the book has for the most part been very good. I suppose I should be happy that the book is entertaining.
My initial concern with the book was the never-ending 'escape back to Earth 2' plot that seemed to never go anywhere. So I am glad that writer Paul Levitz has seemed to move farther away from that. This last arc was definitely set on Prime Earth without a whiff of Apokolips or boom tubes. And the characterization of the two leads continues to be the high point of this book, even if they feel different from prior Huntresses and Power Girls. Even this issue, Levitz answers another of my critiques ... that it is hard to find an opponent that suits the different power levels of the heroes. But,as usual, my overall feel was 'not bad' rather than 'fantastic'. It comes so close!
The art is by RB Silva and I just don't think his current style works for this book. There is some nice work on panel shape, layout, and construction. But the overall looks seems too jagged and rough for the material. The cover by Emanuela Lupacchino is stunning and stood out nicely on the racks.
Last issue ended with Power Girl saturated with yellow sun energy and out of control. So the title 'Control Issues' is appropriate.
Here Karen is bleeding energy, blasting heat vision, and damaging the Brooklyn Bridge.
While we are concentrating on Power Girl's issues, I also have to wonder if we are going to hear about Huntress' power levels as well. Earlier in the title she is able to withstand withering radiation. Here she is reaching out to the glowing star that is Power Girl. Is Huntress going to end up a little tougher than typical humans while Power Girl ends up weaker than typical Kryptonians?
I also wonder if Levitz will answer why all this happening now? The pair have been here for years. In fact, the timing of their being on this Earth is one of the things that I have to reconcile in some places each month.
In what seems to be a simple answer, Power Girl's overload is extinguished by a quick dunk in the East River. Again, how is Helena able to withstand being in Power Girl's proximity here? Did the water boil as Karen was doused?
What I like is the interplay between the characters. Karen complaining about the dunk in the polluted waters. Helena's sly half smile for getting the job done in this disgusting way.
And I appreciated the continuity check of Power Girl saying maybe Supergirl would have been a better hero to crash near. And Huntress saying that wasn't a good interaction was funny as well. While I think that Power Girl/Supergirl story in Supergirl was great fun, it did include Karen being attacked by Sanctuary. Maybe that wasn't a good interaction.
As I review this issue, I am realizing that I really should probably grade it better. Levitz answers a lot of the concerns that I have had in the past including this pet peeve.
One of the things that I dislike about storylines where a character has power outages is that they never seem to blip out at a truly bad time. Here (and coming up) Levitz shows that he isn't going to make this mistake. After repairing the damages to the bridge, Power Girl again depowers, crashing into the river again. As a huge coffee addict, I loved Karen's quip.
And Helena in the background having to dive into the bilge and saying Karen will owe her is also on target.
We cut away to our tattoed villain and learn a bit of her origin. I really hope we learn more about her because she seems complex and complicated and has more stories inside her.
What we learn is that she approached this man, a priest of some demon called Xazdi. She was angry and she wanted to fight the superficiality and vanity of the world around her. And this guy infused her with some of Xazdi's power via tattoos and sent her out.
What I like about her is that she seems to regret the decision. She wants to return to her former self. But this priest isn't ready to take away an agent of chaos. To make things worse, if she doesn't use the power it will burn her up from the inside. She is basically forced to release this chaos energy.
Now what I want to know is who she was before this. Why was she so angry? What led her there? And could she release this power in a more constructive way?
But is her name really Tats?
What I find fascinating is that we go from the pleading innocent face asking to be stripped of her power to this slit-eyed angry woman bleeding dark magic. She seems so torn.
What I thought was a throwaway character might have some potential.
Back in their apartment, Helena and Karen have a conversation which wanders from stopping Tats to weightier matters about living on this new Earth. Karen wonders if all the people they knew on their world are somehow here ... not only Superman and Batman but friends and teachers and (sigh) boys (that last one from Karen).
It sounds like Karen is ready to reach out while Helena seems to be shuttered in even more. She doesn't want her heart ripped out again.
So this is one of those conversations that is hard to wrap my head around at this time in the characters' lives. They have been living on this Earth for several years. Don't you think they would have talked about this before?
I really like what Silva does here, putting Karen in a tube top shirt that seems to mimic the Bronze Age Supergirl shirt. And Helena wearing a Batman/Batgirl shirt is cool as well. Outside of the iconography, the styles talk about the characters as well. Helena, covered up, oversized, long sleeved, dark. Karen in snug, more open, bright clothes.
And then more characterization.
You can tell these two love each other deeply but recognize their differences. This staccato fire of labels is great, letting us know what the two think of each other.
The two split up and Helena is able to track down Tats to this Xazdi temple.
Arriving first, Huntress is able to defeat Tats and the priest we saw earlier. That is a good fight and an even match for her.
But then the Xazdi statue comes to life and isn't happy about his acolytes being trashed.
And so that opens the door for a Power Girl level fight. Karen had been tailing Helena and so arrives in time to battle Xazdi. I think Levitz succeeds in making sure that both characters have someone on par for to battle. I didn't think Huntress should be fighting Hakkou. I don't want Power Girl fighting evil priests.
But then Levitz also answers the bell as well having Power Girl lose her powers at the worst time, mid-fight!
I very much like Silva's page layout here, the angled panels tipping down as Power Girl goes down for the count.
But then the issue ends almost too easily with Power Girl firing an explosive bolt from Huntress' crossbow, destroying the animated statue.
I suppose I should like that Karen was able to think quickly and use her wits to win. But one arrow destroys this god's effigy? Maybe he was more a Huntress level enemy after all.
This story needed to wrap up given that next issue starts the crossover with Superman and Batman. The conversation about finding this Earth's doppelgangers was a foreshadow for this new arc. As someone who tired pretty quickly of the 'on again off again powers' Supergirl arc way back in Adventure Comics, I hope this Power Girl plot ends with the crossover.
Still, I suppose I should give Levitz and Silva credit for moving this book forward, dealing with what I have thought have been some of the problems with the book so far, and continuing the characterization I enjoy so much.