Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: World's Finest #169

Earlier this week I reviewed Batgirl Annual #1, the first true meeting of the New 52/Rebirth incarnations of these characters. It was a fast friendship and a true 'World's Finest', right down to the title of the story.

With that in mind, I thought I would head into the long box to review one of the older Supergirl/Batgirl team-ups and what better book to review than World's Finest #169. There is actually another decent reason to review this issue which will be obvious at the end. But the primary reason is to look at the Dominoed Daredoll and the Maid of Might teaming up.

I will say up front this is an incredibly bizarre story. It could be a primer on the Silver Age and just how wacky that time in DC Comics was. So settle in for a bumpy ride with many twists and turns.

I'll also remind folks that while there was always a sense that the pre-Crisis Supergirl and Batgirl were close friends (perhaps cemented by their scene in Crisis on Infinite Earths #4), there weren't that many stories with them partnering with each other. Over the years, I have reviewed a bunch of them for those who want to browse. My hope in this new universe is that we will see these two as friends in stories and crossovers. Maybe an annual event?

On to the book. Hope every one is ready for the zaniness.

The Supergirl-Batgirl Plot was written by Cary Bates (very early on in his career) with art by the legendary Superman team of Curt Swan and George Klein.

Just as the cover hinted, the opening splash has the two junior heroes laughing as they discuss how they will destroy Superman and Batman.

This is such a wonderfully perfect Silver Age page. Superman is sporting whiskers and hitchhiking! Batman looks downright dejected as he stands next to a broken down Batmobile.

Meanwhile Supergirl and Batgirl yuk it up on the phone, laying out their plan. I just love Supergirl, smiling widely, legs crossed, hand in the air like she just doesn't care.

Just perfect. I almost want to make this into a t-shirt.

The story starts with Supergirl innocently flying home when a strange ethereal hand manifests itself, grabbing her. Shockingly, she cannot break free from its grip.

As luck would happen (hey comics!), Batgirl happens to be driving by the same area on her scooter. She does her best to help Supergirl but she also becomes ensnared by the hand.

Luckily, the chemicals from Batgirl's grenade can be ignited by Supergirl's x-ray vision. The resulting explosion evaporates the hand, freeing the heroes. Freed, they can go on their way.

Nice opening action sequence filled with mystery.

Later that night, we see Linda and Babs seeing news reports where Superman and Batman are bring heaped with praise. Both seem rather irked by the proceedings and decide to take some matters into their own hands to both destroy their mentors as well as advance their own standings.

I love Babs 'Leia buns before Leia existed' hairstyle.

But we are going to come back to this scene later on. In fact, this is one of many scenes that will stop making sense once we get to the end.

But the two weren't kidding around.

A skyscraper in Metropolis begins to topple. As Superman flies in to save the day, his powers disappear. He is literally grounded with no idea how to stop disaster. Luckily, Supergirl just happens to be there to save the day, lifting the building and stabilizing it.

Amazingly, right after the episode, Superman's powers return.

It is then we learn that Supergirl both demolished the building and sabotaged Superman's powers. Soon she will be the top crime-buster.

Okay, tuck this dialogue away for later too.

Meanwhile, things aren't any better for Batman. A common crook grabs Robin as a hostage. And rather than disarming the crook, Batman drops to his knees and begs the thug to spare The Boy Wonder's life. It is an embarrassing move for the Dark Knight, a stalwart and brave hero.

This time, Batgirl is nearby to speed in and rescue Robin. Furthermore, she was responsible for Batman's cowardly turn. The Caped Crusader's troubles are just beginning.

Hmmm ... what could be motivating Batgirl and Supergirl to act this way?

But things get even goofier.

Batman and Robin head to the Batcave only to find it completely cleaned out. It becomes clear that Batgirl is behind it. And she must have had some super-help. Otherwise how could she remove everything?

The Bat-Plane wasn't in the cave so the Dynamic Duo head to the Arctic to see if Superman can help.

When they arrive, the Fortress is gone. Earlier we had seen Supergirl literally fly off with it. At the same time, Superman once again loses his powers.

Things are getting wild. Batgirl and Supergirl are robbing Batman and Superman not only of their reputation but also their stuff!

The three jet to civilization.

The Bat-Plane and Robin end up disappearing, grabbed by Batgirl. At least that is what we are lead to believe, given the bat-shadow near the plane.

The two main heroes are still flummoxed. Batman finds the Batmobile and drives back to Gotham. He just happens to be on the road where Superman is hitch hiking back to Metropolis. The Man of Steel still has no powers.

But things continue to warp away from reality. Superman begins to sprout whiskers. Without powers, his beard grows just like a regular guy. And then, weirdly, Batman removes his mask only to find another man's face underneath the cowl.

All right, this is getting downright nuts.

The Batmobile ends up blowing out a couple of tires right by the fence where Supergirl and Batgirl are hiding. Another amazing coincidence!

They come out and demand a showdown. Supergirl gives Superman his powers back and somehow even wipes away his five o'clock shadow. The two streak into space where Supergirl begins throwing meteors at Superman, even one with Kryptonite! She isn't effected. Eventually, Superman does defeat her.

And Batman ends up skirmishing with Batgirl and ends up defeating her as well.

Then we get the first of a couple of reveals.

Supergirl and Batgirl turn out to be Supergirl's old enemy Black Flame (a personal favorite) and Catwoman respectively. Black Flame had a mind control ring making Superman think he lost his powers. Catwoman had special catnip which made Batman cowardly. Together they hoped to defeat the World's Finest team.

This is an odd team-up to be sure and doesn't necessarily explain how everything has happened. Nor does it explain some of the thought balloons we read earlier. And what about that earlier scene of the women in their secret identities stewing over Batman and Superman. Makes no sense now.

But Batman isn't sure who these people are because they don't have the right eye colors for Black Flame and Catwoman. They are still unknowns.

The heroes are lead to a cave near Gotham where Black Flame and Catwoman say they have the real Supergirl and Batgirl tied up. Sure enough, there they are, tied in Kryptonite chains.

Batman agrees he'll have to free them since he is immune to Green K. But before he can get there, the two captured heroes are evaporated by heat vision. The real Supergirl and Batgirl come streaking out of a wormhole.

They were replaced way back in the earliest scene with the ghostly hand. Remember that? So much has happened since that unexplained threat!

And then one more turnabout!

The area where the phony heroes were tied with Green K is an interdimensional trap. The villains hoped to lure Batman into it. And then Black Flame and Catwoman shed those disguises to reveal they are Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite. They had a bet to see if Batman would be tricked into that end trap.

So all that other stuff ... stealing the fortress, changing Batman's face, making Superman lose his powers ... was just to try to get Superman and Batman into this cave. Seems like a lot of work!  Then again, who can understand the ravings of omnipotent imps!

Batmite uses the oldest trick in the book to trick Mxy away. And then, being the Bat-fan he is, Bat-Mite fixes everything.

Everything except my mind ...

What a bizarre issue.

Given the recent Batgirl/Supergirl team-up and the recent Supergirl/Mxy episode on television, I thought this was the right time to review this.

Either you love the Silver Age or you don't. I embrace this issue for the LSD comic experience it is. Definitely a nice little issue to have in a Supergirl collection.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

"I will say up front this is an incredibly bizarre story. It could be a primer on the Silver Age and just how wacky that time in DC Comics was."

Yes. And it is GLORIOUS!

Cary Bates is a legendary Superman writer but honestly his Supergirl stories often sucked because they were filled with awful romance. See: Adventure Comics 388, the entirety of Supergirl's first solo book, Superman 415...

"there weren't that many stories with them partnering with each other."

Well, Wolfman obviously knew nothing about Kara, so maybe he didn't know much about Barbara either, and he assumed they were very close friends because in his mind they're SM and BM with boobs. Throughout the years he has made known clear his contempt for female counterparts:

I find funny he doesn't even mention a certain female character he personally and deliberately fridged...

Anyway, I believe both girls/young women must be friends, and COIE 4 and 7 cemented the perception that they were best friends, even though they seldom teamed up, so I'll give him credit for that, at least.

This guide comes in handy to check out when Pre-Crisis Supergirl met other characters or made an appearance in other books:

"Both seem rather irked by the proceedings"

Well, considering they're watching people to shower praise upon Mr. "I'll dump my only family in an orphanage" and Mr. "Stay in the kitchen, woman!", I cannot blame them.

But yes, given what is revealed later, their inner thoughts make no much sense.

"And rather than disarming the crook, Batman drops to his knees and begs the thug to spare The Boy Wonder's life."

Batman's current books need more scenes like this. :D

"The real Supergirl and Batgirl come streaking out of a wormhole."

So... Both heroines freed themselves AND saved their male counterparts. Hah! Take that, World's Finest and everyone who think derivative characters are worthless!

"Seems like a lot of work! Then again, who can understand the ravings of omnipotent imps!"

Honestly, it looks completely in-character. Mxy pulls the weirdest stunts to fight off boredom or because doesn't like being ignored...

I was going to say maybe SG and BG's inner monologue makes sense after all given what happened in Superman Reborn... but not.

"I embrace this issue for the LSD comic experience it is."

And so I do. This issue was whacky and very funny. Kara and Babs teaming up for first time, paying their mentors back for their Superdickery, Mxy and Bat-Mite messing with the World's Finest and warping the fabric of reality only because they bored, the female World's Finest saving their male counterparts, Black Flame... and Curt Swan's art.

I miss that kind of wackiness. Nowadays, everything has to be super-serious, supposedly realistic, dark and gritty...

I was dying for seeing you reviewing this particular issue. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Let not forget the double dose of Silver Age Super Transvestism as the nominally if marginally male BatMite and Mxyztplk both blithely impersonate young women to resolve a fifth dimensional bet....

Supergirl had been a sporadic team up prospect prior to this she more or less met Batman and Robin in passing back in 1962 or so, she teamed up with Wonder Woman in "The Brave and the Bold"(a pretty sexist romp as I recall), for better or worse this is the beginning of the "Supergirl-Batgirl Team" which might have anchored its own team book if DC had more common sense in the 1970's.
Curt Swan BTW can do no wrong IMHO, he always makes Kara look pretty but also intelligent and thoughtful as well....


Anonymous said...

"Let not forget the double dose of Silver Age Super Transvestism"

I hadn't thought of this... and now I can't unsee it!

"(a pretty sexist romp as I recall),"

Yes, that issue was stupid, and not in a good (read: funny) way. At least in the present team-up, both heroines triumphed over their enemies and proved they were reliable and resourceful.

" for better or worse this is the beginning of the "Supergirl-Batgirl Team" which might have anchored its own team book if DC had more common sense in the 1970's."

Unfortunately, in the 70's DC struggled to catch up with Marvel's growing success. They failed, and the better idea a group of writers and editors was able to come up with was torching their universe. And then they spent thirty years trying vainly to fix the subsequent mess.

I've just realized one thing: in their first adventure together, Kara and Babs were imprisoned in a parallel dimension. In the upcoming Supergirl story arc, they are trapped in the Phantom Zone. Is this deliberate?

Anonymous said...

Now can you do "Elseworlds Finest: Supergirl and Batgirl"?

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments!

Wacky issue no doubt!

And yes, I need to do that Elseworlds!

Martin Gray said...

I've never read this wond, doubtless I'd have as a kid... mind, that looks more like Master than Mr Mxyzptlk, what with the ginger hair. Still, it's not like that young artist Curt Swan had any experience with the Superman Family!

Nobile said...

Superman hitchyking, powerless, with whiskers... And then, Mr. Mxyzptlk! I've already seen this, but to say the TRUTH, I can't remember where...

(I always knew that the new 52 stuff was silver age weirdness gone dark!)