Friday, July 22, 2022

Review: World's Finest #5

Allow me a little space for some personal reflection. 

When I was a kid, I read comics for escapism and education and ethics. I learned a lot by what heroes did and didn't do. It was a fantastical land they lived in. And I learned a lot of new and interesting words. Hey there 'ablution'!

When I was a teenager and in college, I was a bit angsty. So while super-hero comics were still present, I read much more of the grim and gritty, the weird and Vertiginous, the inspection of the human condition and it's mores.

When I was in medical school and afterwards and when adult life was suddenly thrust on the eternal student, I looked to comics for escapism and ethics again. I was already beaten down by the real world's grimness.  I basically wanted to become 12 year old Anj again, even if it was for the brief time I was reading comics. I wanted to head back into a fantastical world where heroes did what they were supposed to do.

Alas, that niche isn't popular now. Most comics are explorations of gray, a duller world where villains have sympathetic back stories and heroes have feet of clay. It isn't always pretty.

So why this rambling?

Because the current World's Finest book, and this current issue World's Finest #5, is that perfect book. I read what Mark Waid and Dan Mora are doing and suddenly I am that kid again, sitting under a tree in the back yard of the beach house we went to, pulling a folded comic out of my back pocket and losing myself. I can give no higher praise.

I will add that this is probably the best Supergirl book on the rack in the last 3 years or so. Mark Waid just gets Kara. This books sing to me for that reason too.

Add to that Mora's near perfect art as he flies us through the DCU and you have a winner. 

Everyone should be reading this book. Everyone. Because this is what comics are supposed to be.

Okay, we start out with what seems to be a gaffe. 

Supergirl talks about an enchanted talisman given to her by the Warriors of Ji, a sort of spell to lock the sigil-laden cage for Devil Nezha from the inside.

Now I don't think they gave her that last issue when she and Robin visited them. They gave her the information about someone needing to lock the cage from the inside but no sigil. I think that's why we get the editor's comment about how she got this on *another* time travel adventure. 

The truth is, we didn't need this talisman for the story necessarily. But I guess if the art was done you need to explain it away.

This usually would irk me. Isn't this an editor's job? But the rest of the book is so dang good, I just rolled on. 

Remember, whoever goes into the cage with Nezha is stuck there for eternity. 

I talked about ethics above. Every hero nominates themselves for the job. Superman says it is obviously him. Batman says a skilled fighter will need to be in there. The Doom Patrol feel they are expendable. Everyone will, in essence, die to save the world. 

I also talked about how great Supergirl's character has been portrayed here. Waid captures that perfect mix of determined and confident young hero with the new and still learning confidence side. Here, she feels so guilty for Robin being lost in the time stream, she says she deserves to be the one.

It shows how she is still new to this super-hero game. She tells Batman and Superman about how Robin is lost. Love this panel. You see the anger and self-loathing on her face.
Nezha finally recovers from the pounding Supergirl gave him last issue and thanks to the power of magic is able to take over Superman. 

Nezha plus Superman would be a tough combo to beat.

But here is that determined, confident Supergirl again. Before Superman can even enter the fray, Supergirl takes him off the board. I love the 'Nope.' line. She isn't going to let that happen. 

And then Waid gets right into it, having Superman voice a very negative opinion about Supergirl that I bet many casual comic readers agree with. 

Superman calls her a faded echo of him, that without him she is nothing. 

It is just so perfect. You might remember that DC thought she was expendable in COIE because she was just 'Superman with boobs'. But she is so much more. She is her own person, bringing a different sort of view of heroism, a fierceness in fighting injustice. But with a passion that is oft restrained in Superman.

Also, it is okay she wants to wear the S-shield and colors. Superman should be an inspiration to her. It is their family crest. Why is it okay for Batgirl and Kid Flash to sport versions of their hero family leaders without having this 'copy' tag?

Waid just gets it. 

Somehow Robotman is able to clock Nezha one. Then Supergirl recalls the Warriors of Ji information. Nezha is prepared to fight all 'known' science and forces. Anything he hasn't seen before (like Robotman's tech) he is vulnerable to. 

Okay, nice callback to last issue's exposition. Perhaps I should have read it closer to anticipate this.

You know what tech he hasn't seen? The Phantom Zone projector.

I have seen the projector be used a bit too frequently recently as a sort of easy answer to a bad problem. Whether it be Rogol Zaar or Synmar Utopica, a villain created too big to defeat always seems to just get shipped away. 

At this rate, Superman should just have it in a holster on his belt.

Thankfully, it isn't the end. Nezha rips his way out of the Zone. 

It is going to have to be the cage. 

Mora is just so great on art. This page, a sort of splash, shows his expressive work as Superman, Supergirl, and Batman all see the talisman and it becomes a sort of race to see who can grab it and Nezha. Striking.

I love how Supergirl is just in the mix here, as big a deal as the title heroes.

Of course, it is Superman who grabs the talisman and Nezha and slams the cage door shut from the inside.

The DCU has just lost the greatest hero there is. 

I love how Waid has the usually controlled heroes temporarily lose it. Even Batman loses it. Supergirl and Batman yell at each other. Both clearly love Superman and feel his loss.

How great Robotman is a sort of voice of reason here. He understands loss.

But Superman had an idea. He zapped himself with the phantom zone projector once inside the cage, destroyed the projector as he was being sent into the Zone, and is able to be pulled out of the Zone through the rift that Nezha had escaped from earlier. Nice team effort by the heroes there to pull him free.

Hey, this is a Supergirl site. Of course I am going to highlight the Kara moments. Loved this family moment as she hugs Superman telling him to never leave again. Just wonderful.  Notice she isn't filled with pain, away from her family, sulking. She's smiling and hugging her cousin. Yes!

And there are other moments that are powerful. Earlier, Superman and Batman take the news of Robin being lost in time with a sort shrug knowing they'll find him. It shows they are further down the hero's journey than Supergirl who had just beaten herself up over it. These two are the world's finest. They are great role models.

The art is just so crisp and beautiful. When I want to see Dan Mora draw a comic with every character that has been in this arc (Doom Patrol, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern), you know it is gorgeous.

Hey I was able to escape reality for a while! I was supremely entertained.

Overall grade: A


Metal Mikey said...

On the one hand, I loved your review and insight for this series. Seriously, comics SHOULD be escapism again! However, one thing that keeps me from diving into this book, despite yours and Martin Gray's praises... is the still evident "written for the trade" model. I would like to think Waid is veteran enough to have still crafted a book that had story blocks that still felt like a solid story in one issue, but here we are. Part 5 of an intro story. I know... I know... it's just how books are written these days, but with the price of comics, it's still not 100% appealing as a monthly concern.

Martin Gray said...

I really enjoyed the review too, Anj, and I share the feeling, this does remind me of comics when we were nippers. And I share Mikey’s feeling that a few shorter stories would be great - done in ones are possible, and Waid certainly has the skill set. Who knows, perhaps he’ll reads this and take up the gauntlet!

I don’t think that editor’s note was implying another time travel adventure - probably the editor didn’t even pick up the boo-boo.

(And thanks for visiting Too Dangerous For a Girl, Metal Mikey.)

KET said...

"And then Waid gets right into it, having Superman voice a very negative opinion about Supergirl that I bet many casual comic readers agree with.

Superman calls her a faded echo of him, that without him she is nothing.

It is just so perfect."

Actually, it's merely more decades old recycling. Waid continues to prove he has nothing left but nostalgia in his DC Comics work, and zero new ideas to develop these trademark characters any further. A gender war between Kryptonians really is thematic retrograde, and just pointless posturing.

The just-released DCeased: War of the Undead Gods #1 preview seems to be strongly hinting at what editorial is planning for Supergirl now.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

Is DCeased considered to be a part of "official" DC continuity (whatever THAT is), or is it like an "elseworlds" series? I don't know, I haven't been following it.

I'll take Waid's "nostalgia" over just about anything happening to DC characters these days.

As for writing for the trade, I think it encourages more readers to wait for the trade and get the whole story at once, rather than purchase the issues individually. I would prefer to see more done in ones and shorter story arcs as well.

Martin Gray said...

No, it’s an alternate universe/Elseworlds/Whatever. Maybe Ket thinks DC is just going to use her likeness in EXTREEEEEME ways.

Or maybe he’s just trolling us, as usual.

Anonymous said...

I will take Mark Waid’s “nostalgia” over Tom King’s wholesale eight issue looting of Charles Portis’ literary estate any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
This is otherwise “Good Kara Angst”, in other words it is sensibly derived from the storyline while sending the narrative off on an interesting tangent, and creating some emotional mishaugas for The Batghod and the World’s Finest Team. Besides, it gives Kara a chance to chase down young Grayson and who knows, maybe the lovebirds will give it a second chance :)
Its all good so far...


Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.

Loving this series. Love the way Supergirl was written in this book. And love the mini-tour through the DCU.

Hope we get more Kara here. Give me a Dick/Kara 'one and done', or a Babs/Kara one!