Friday, October 30, 2009

Review: World's Finest #1

Back when it was a monthly comic, World's Finest contained stories starring both Superman and Batman. So, given the current upheaval in the Bat and Super titles, I thought it was a clever idea to resurrect the title and have it star the other members of the two hero families. And the current families provide a number of very interesting combinations.

And Sterling Gates had much to say about the book on a recent Newsarama interview found here:

Here is what he had to say about the Supergirl/Batgirl team-up in issue World's Finest #3.

Stephanie and Kara have had tough lives as super-heroines, and I thought they’d get along really, really well. They both look as they leap, rather than exercising a lot of caution or analyzation. They’re both trying to live up to the families that have accepted them. And the pair of them really hit it off. Two old friends who didn’t know they were friends yet. Through Issue #3 – and even through some of #4 – you see their relationship and their friendship blossom.

Sounds like that will be a great read. But back to the review:

World's Finest #1 starred Nightwing and Red Robin. Both characters are the 'sons' of Superman and Batman. Both are using hero names used by others. And both are currently on well defined missions - Nightwing to gather up Zod's sleepers, Red Robin to find Bruce. There would be a lot of material to mine just from this pairing. Heck, you could probably do a monthly starring just these two.

The book is written by Supergirl writer Sterling Gates and he seems to have a pretty good take on the character's motivations and voices. The story moves along very quickly, a done-in-one episode that could easily have been stretched out over a couple of issues.

Unfortunately, the two star only in this issue. To be honest, I would rather read another issue of them instead of next month's Guardian/Damian team-up. Those two are my least favorite characters of the hero families.

The issue opens in Amsterdam with Red Robin fighting some crooks on motorcycles.

It is clear that Tim Drake has become a bit more dark, a bit more physical in his new identity of Red Robin. In this fight he comes across much more like the brooding Batman, taking down these thugs in violent and painful ways. It reminds me of that scene in Dark Knight Returns where batman runs through all the ways he can disable the crook he is fighting. Some kill, some disarm with minimal pain, but Batman picks the one that hurts the most.

For example, Red Robin stops this bike by jamming his staff into the wheel. There were probably a dozen ways to get the rider off the motorcycle. But he chose the way that sends the rider flying onto the street at high speed. Tim then screams to the now bloody and unconscious driver that this is 'no time for sleep'. Tim seems to be the one Robin to totally embrace Bruce's methods.

I thought the panel above was pretty slick, the bike and rider clearly looking awkward as they tumble while Red Robin looks almost graceful as he soars through the sky. It just was a visual showing of how in control Tim was here.

Despite that, Red Robin does need a little bit of help. Nightwing dispatches the last crook by telekinetically dissassembling the bike he is riding.

When faced with this new Nightwing, Tim braces for battle. Tim has no idea who is under the mask until Chris removes the helmet. He asks Tim for help.

It is another nice touch to have the moon shining off of Nightwing's armor as it conveys the light/dark contrast between the Superman and Batman families.

It becomes very clear why Tim needs his help.

In Gotham City, we see that Thara has been captured by the Penguin and the Kryptonite Man. As usual, the Penguin is hoping to make a quick buck by selling Thara to the highest bidder. An auction is quickly put together.

Now that we know the crux of the matter, Chris fills in the exposition with Tim.

During one of their sweeps looking for a General Zod sleeper agents, Nightwing and Flamebird stumbled into the Penguin's nightclub. They went in essentially blind as the building is set up tp thwart X-ray vision. Once they entered, they were subdued by the Kryptonite Man and the Penguin's flunkies. An explosion blasted Chris several blocks away but Thara did not escape.

With no one else to turn to, Nightwing sought out Red Robin to help him.

I think it is interesting how Red Robin finally decides to help. After refusing at first, Tim hears about the Nightwing/Flamebird mythology. How the two need to be kept together to love one another or catastrophe ensues (such as the destruction of Krypton). Somehow this legendary pull on the heart convinces Tim to put his mission aside.

A quick flight across the Atlantic later, Tim is infiltrating the Penguin's club, noting the lead enmeshed into all the surfaces, in essence scrambling X-ray vision.

Suddenly discovered by one of lurking henchmen, Red Robin springs into action.

But even Tim would have a hard time dealing with the Kryptonite Man who can hurl beams of radioactive energy.

Luckily Nightwing shows up in the nick of time. He douses the Kryptonite Man in the liquid lead used in the building, nullifying K-Man's ability to attack.

Once Thara is freed, the three heroes quickly depart. This wasn't a mission to shut down the Penguin. This was a retrieval mission. Their goal was to free Thara and once that happened they left.

I thought that was an interesting turn to the story. I can imagine that other heroes would have tied up the villains and left a calling card for the police. But Chris and Tim have bigger things on their minds. Maybe they are more alike than they realize in their commitment to the big picture.

And just like that the heroes split up to move onto their seperate goals.

Thara and Chris are going to head to Metropolis.

Tim found a letter from 1809 that is another clue in his search for Batman.

This was not a warm and fuzzy team-up. This didn't end with a wink or a joke. This was a speed bump on their paths. Both heroes have a near zealous adherence to their beliefs and neither seem like they are completely of a sound mind.

And it is that almost strained ending that made this not a straighforward team-up book. It has been said that Superman and Batman would not be easy friends. You can see that in this interaction of their proteges.

While the Nightwing/Red Robin story is over, we get one more scene that makes me think there is a story that will weave it's way through all four issues.

The Kryptonite Man was nowhere to be found after his fight with Nightwing. We see him awaken on an operating table, a creepy appearing masked child waving a knife in his face.

This 'Toyboy' speaks like a robot, an automaton made by his 'father' The Toyman! I was really hoping that the Toyman would end up in Supergirl's rogues gallery, especially given his history with Cat Grant.

Overall, I thought this was a fast-paced and quick read. The highlight of the book for me was the interactions between the stars. In some ways their ends are similar but their means to those ends are quite different. I meant it when I said that this would be an interesting duo to see guest star again.

Julian Lopez did a competent job on art. His strongest art here were the action scenes. The quieter moments in the book were pretty average.

Overall grade: B/B+

1 comment:

TalOs said...

Man it's so refreshing to have Stirling write something not centered on New Krypton like how his first issue taking over Supergirl was like! Loved this! :D