Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Worlds' Finest #0

Worlds' Finest #0 came out last week, another of DC's 'origin' issues of this zero month, a potential jumping on point for a new reader. And, like most of the zero issues I have read, this one takes place in the 'past' of the DCnU. Huntress and Power Girl aren't marooned on Earth 1 yet. In fact, they aren't even Huntress and Power Girl. They're Robin and Supergirl. And this issue focuses on how they first met and became friends.

I have really enjoyed Worlds' Finest as a book as I feel it has a sort of throwback feel to it. I think the characterization of the two stars has been perfect. Huntress is clearly a Bat but with a biting sense of humor. Power Girl is the optimist with a sort of innocent Silver Age-ish joie de vivre and a healthy appetite for love. So they aren't a classic Bat and Super team. And it has been easy to see why these two would be fast friends and so devoted to each other. This issue we get to see the foundation of that friendship.

Writer Paul Levitz clearly has a handle on these characters. Kara and Helena feel well-rounded and sound natural. So it was interesting to see his take on their earliest days of heroism. One thing I like is that while each of the hero's father is clearly a dominant figure in their lives, it is their history with their mothers that forms the initial bond. And there are some nice subtle Supergirl homages here that made it even more wonderful for her fans. Levitz is a confirmed Supergirl fan. Here he shows it and in a nicely nuanced way.

And as this is the 'past', we get an entire issue of Kevin Maguire's art. It is so beautiful. Stunning. Perfect.

The issue starts out with a sort of old school picture of the heroes bookending the title and credits. It has a sort of Brave and Bold/DC Comics Presents feel to it, a sort of roll call.

But for me, it is the poses of the heroes that just speaks volumes. R

Robin is poised for action, fist in hands, chunky armored appearing boots and gloves, hair pulled back, gaze slightly down. You can tell just how much of a fighter she is, looking down on the cowardly lot, ready to dole out some old school justice.

Supergirl, in contrast, is in a more classic heroic pose, hands on hips, looking up at the horizon, smiling. There is no 'fight' in this pose. She is all smooth lines, no harsh angles of equipment. It oozes optimism.

Without a word or a panel, you already have something of a feel for who these two are.

I'll add, I love this Supergirl costume.

The book opens up with Robin's first mission. Out on patrol with her mother Catwoman, she takes down some thugs attacking a young woman. There are plenty of things to like about this fight.

It is a brutal take down of the criminals, opening with a shuriken through the attacker's hand and ending with this flying kick. Maguire brings a nice kinetic feel to the art.

But the things I liked was Helena's joy in the conquest. The opening taunts leveled at the men. The smile accompanying the knockout blow. And the hug from her proud mother that punctuates the scene. Yes, there is a lot of Bruce in her, in her approach and dedication and training. But there is some of the Catwoman sass there too.

I also loved this scene where Selena and Bruce argue about Helena being out fighting crime. Bruce wants to be there as a protector. Selena thinks she is ready. They banter back and forth until their passion gets the best of them and they kiss. Again, understanding her upbringing helps us understand Helena more. I love her exasperated expression in that last panel.

In fact, no big surprise, the expressions of the characters is tremendous throughout the issue. Maguire shines here.

As for Supergirl, she is also in training with her cousin. He is pushing her for perfection. Rather than crumble under that pressure like Linda Lee would in early Action issues, she is able to shrug it off. She will keep trying. But she won't be crushed.

What I did love was the re-introduction of Supergirl as being a 'secret weapon' again. Here it makes a little more sense than when Superman dumped her in the Midvale orphanage. He is living with her, caring for her, but wants to leave her as an unknown to Darkseid.

Supergirl as a secret weapon. Nice little homage.

Maybe Superman is a bit too concerned. He clearly still blames himself for the death of this world's Lois.

There is something touching about him having carved out Lois' desk from the building, wall, floor and all. It appears untouched , a sort of memorial for her. I think this better showcases who Lois was then some bronze statue of her likeness. This is more personal, more poignant.

And, perhaps most intriguing for me, is the fact that Supergirl's arrival on this Earth is as much a mystery here as it is on Earth 1. By not defining how Supergirl arrived here, it leaves the opening for more resonance between Power Girl and Supergirl. Maybe she doesn't know how she got here and will learn that from the E1 Kara. On the other hand, how fantastic is it to see Superman and Supergirl acting like friends and colleagues and family.

But best of all, look at that first panel. It is the classic Supergirl 'finger near the mouth when in deep thought' quirk that was such a big part of the Silver Age Jim Mooney stories. It is one panel, maybe glossed over by non-Supergirl fans. But wonderful and deeply appreciated by this Supergirl fan.

The issue takes a sad turn as we learn that Catwoman has been killed in the line of duty. She thought she was breaking up a human trafficking ring but instead ran into heavily armed men.

It tells us so much about Helena. She sees her mother dead before her. It mirrors Bruce's origin, maybe informing us as a reader why she seems so reserved now. And of course she will carry on her mother's work about trafficking (as seen in her mini-series).

Again, Maguire is able to convey so much in his art. Helena has been poised, controlled, and strong in all her panels before this one. Here, with Selena bloodied in the foreground, she can barely stand. There is something child-like in this knee-knocked pose. It emphasizes that this isn't a fallen colleague ... it's her mom. Even her hair, slick and Trinity/Matrix like is now much more like a school girl's ponytail. Poweful image.

Enraged, she storms the building hoping to take down her mother's assailants only to realize she is outnumbered and outgunned. It appears these men have Apokaliptian weapons.

Batman, injured and outside, sends an alarm to Superman. But Superman is busy. So it is Supergirl who arrives instead. I love that there are parameters on what she can and cannot respond to. It is enough of an homage to those early stories without being stifling (like some of them were) to make it charming.

There is also a vague 'You've got me, who's got you' Lois and Clark vibe here. Maybe?

Now the two can act as a team finishing off the bad guys. I love that Helena is awed by Supergirl at the same time she is kicking some serious bad guy buttocks in the midst of chaos. She's pretty awesome too.

Realizing they are outclassed by the World's Finest here, the bad guys boom tube away.

The victory is bittersweet.

What I love about this is that Supergirl can empathize with Robin because she lost Lois (the closest thing she had to a mother). Lois and Supergirl had a good relationship too! And now the death of their mothers is a unifying element of their back stories. It is a nice wrinkle to their friendship.

So, another issue of Worlds' Finest ... another win. While this issue doesn't impact the current stuff happening in the title, it provides the backdrop for how these two met and why they would be so close. It usually doesn't make sense for people with such different approaches to life like Bats and Supers to get along. Here, their back stories have similar beats even if the families' approaches to life is different.

I thought this was a very solid zero issue which illustrated the strengths of the book - solid characterization, great plot lines, and some killer art.

Seriously, Kevin Maguire knocked this issue out of the park.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Good review!

Agree with all your points, really liked how Earth-2 SG was done. Her attitude, design, and meeting with Robin was all right on target. Excellent art too like you said.

For sure an A

Anonymous said...

Is it me, or is Levitz version of "Power Girl" a lot more akin to the silver-bronze age incarnation of Kara?
Meanwhile Earth One's Supergirl seems a closer to the Gerry Conway concept of PowerGirl (opinionated, a little angry no patsy for her cousin, confused as to her arrival on Earth)...?
Loved this ish as well, Maguire's artwork is superlative in every way....


valerie21601 said...

I give this issue a A too.

I would have loved to see a few more pages showing the girls bond a bit more before proclaiming bff with each other.

I love this series by Paul Levitz. I love seeing the Power Girl and Huntress back together as best friends and as a team. The first story arc could have easily been done in two issues but I can easily live with it.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I agree John that there is a lot of the optimism 'can do' attitude of the pre-Crisis Supergirl in this E2 version. It makes her charming.

I do wonder how the Power Girl fans are taking this as the version of PG that we saw in JSA and her own title is basically missing in the DCnU.

Gene said...

Anj wrote:
"I do wonder how the Power Girl fans are taking this as the version of PG that we saw in JSA and her own title is basically missing in the DCnU."

From what I gather on the forum pages at Comic Book Resources, they are less than thrilled.

Supergirl's E2 costume is lovely.

I hope Superman compensated the owner of the building where the Daily Planet resides for cutting out Lois' entire office from the entire structure. ;)

Gene said...

Anj wrote:
"I do wonder how the Power Girl fans are taking this as the version of PG that we saw in JSA and her own title is basically missing in the DCnU."

If the message boards on Comic Book Resources are any indication, they are less than thrilled.

Anj said...

Interesting Gene. Thanks for the info.

I wonder if they would like the new Supergirl book.

Stephen Thornton said...

Loved this issue. I really wish Maquire was illustrating every issue by himself. The other issues in the series would be better off with just him on board or maybe rotating artist for each story arc, but he brings so much personality to the characters while the other artist just feels a little generic.