Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: Worlds' Finest #17

I have been a lifelong Huntress fan and I would say an above average Power Girl fan during my comic lifetime. These are characters who I have followed around the DCU, often collecting books they have starred in from Birds of Prey to Justice League Europe. I really like these characters and so I was thrilled to see they would be starring in their own book. While it meant they expunging of Helena Bertinelli, it meant the return of Helena Wayne and a Power Girl who was the Supergirl of Earth 2. It seemed like the perfect mix. Even the initial creative team - writer Paul Levitz who has a known love of Supergirl and artists extraordinaire George Perez and Kevin Maguire - made this seem like a perfect storm of comic goodness.

So why hasn't this book really grabbed me?

Worlds' Finest #17 came out this week and was another fine issue I suppose. The ongoing plots of Power Girl's glitchy abilities and Huntress' tracking down of a super-powered arsonist are moved forward. And there is some interesting banter between the characters. But, in this issue in particular, everything seems just a bit off. Some of the things the characters do and say seem the tiniest bit off the mark. It is a decent a quick read, but nothing earth shattering, nothing that leaves me clamoring for more.

The new artist on the book is RB Silva whose style has morphed to something much more angular and rough when compared to his early work on Superboy. In my head, this book should have a very smooth polished look - like Francis Portela or cover artist Emanuela Lupacchino. So I don't know if this is the right fit either. (I do think this current Silva style would work well on a solo Huntress street level book.)

As a result, this book remains one that I read and kind of shrug and say 'ok' and file away. And I want it to be so much more than that.

The book opens up with Karen trying to take advantage of her inconsistent powers by getting a tattoo. Alas, her powers flip on just in time, breaking the ink needle before the artist can begin.

There is another reason for this visit as Helena is trying to see if she can identify the tattoo artist who inked the pyromaniac magical villain from last issue.

The scene ends with Karen letting Helena know that she is aware of Helena's ink (this after Helena teased her about trying to get a tattoo to begin with).

I keep trying to wrap my mind around this ending. One, while not a tattoo guy (I am glad Karen remains inkless), I like Helena's homage to her Bat and Cat heritage. Two, I don't know why she would hide it from Karen. I understand it might be personal but these two are supposed to be like sisters. Three, I don't think the implication here is that Karen is x-ray peeking at Helena. While in a semi-private area, the top would certainly peek over shorts, low cut pants, etc. Helena must know it would be partially visible at times so why the shock. Lastly, we know it was done on Earth 2 (the inker Adrienne is 'gone'). So it wasn't in memoriam .

That scene definitely reminded me of the classic Siegel/Shuster Superman origin where the doctor is befuddled that he can't vaccinate Clark. Another broken needle?

Thanks to blog pal ealperin for tracking down the Siegel/Shuster panel for me!

As happens a lot in the book, the two decide to separate to pursue different goals.

Karen decides that the best way to get an unadulterated yellow sun ray bath outside of Earth's atmosphere.

So she drops millions to take a 'celebrity shuttle ride', to get her up and into space. And, of course, Levitz can't have a Karen scene without a little titillation. Here she says that having sex with the pilot in the shuttle would be fun but she has some goals. I don't mind the carefree Karen as long as it is an aspect of her character and doesn't overshadow her intelligence and fierce pursuit of justice. This seemed a little silly. Especially because she basically revealed her 'secret identity' to this guy and is hoping a 'non-disclosure' line in the contract will keep him from blabbing. That seems irresponsible.

And I think the 'Starr Industries has been bought out' storyline was resolved too quick. One panel explanation in a back issue and suddenly everything is perfect and she's flush with cash again?

Also, I always worry about these on/off power stories because they need too much suspension of disbelief. Would Karen really go into a vacuum if her powers could cut out at any second, killing her?

As for Helena, she is still trying to track down the young girl with the magic 'shadow' tattoos and apparent flame powers. Last issue she torched fashion shows. This time it is trendy nightclubs.

I like Helena's spirit in this book as she often enters the fray with little regard for her own safety, fighting super-powered beings just like dear old dad. But calling this villain a 'little bitch'? It felt a bit off.

I'm no prude. I read Brubaker and Chaykin, books littered with curses. This just seemed beneath Huntress a little.

As I said above, Silva's art just works better in scenes like this. This is good stuff.

But then I thought this was almost comical. I suppose not every super-villain has a getaway car or plane. And this young woman seems more misguided then funded. But to see her riding away from the fire on a bike seemed almost silly.

I suppose this is a comment on the villain. If she is riding away on a Schwinn, there must be some more to her story. My guess she really is going to be a very young girl, angry at the world.

But wouldn't a well tossed Huntress-rang/crossbow bolt in the spokes put an end to this.

Okay, the eventual fight between the two is well done.

Meanwhile, Power Girl learns that maybe there is more to her screwy powers than just them fading in and out. While 'tingly', the sunbath seems to overload her. Glowing like a comet and out of control with energy, she plummets to Earth. She is still in control enough to guide her falling body towards Helena.

I wonder of the Earth 1 sun is just a little different than the Earth 2. Maybe the solar processing of her cells are a little off here. In some ways, this looks like the 'corona wave' fireball Supergirl has shown in her book.

I'm not sure how Helena is able to piece together that the giant fireball from space is Power Girl but she does. She breaks off her pursuit to dive in the water and swim to Power Girl.

We do learn more about our villain's motives. She uses her 'shadows' to fight the cops and escape.

This is clearly personal to her. I wonder if this whole obsession with beauty is based on some poor self-image, some bullying. This is a little different than the 'pursuit of power and control' motive so prevalent these days. Interesting.

And there is Karen, glowing, steaming, and clearly worried.

Maybe the Parasite needs to drain her too?

So another issue, another issue with some good moments, another issue with some odd ones.

I always finish and seem more on the positive side than the negative. I guess I just like these characters and their interaction with each other. But I am never floored (although WF#0 came close but was a flashback to E2) and I wish I was. This book is below Supergirl in sales. I hope the Batman/Superman crossover gives it a boost.

Overall grade: B-


Count Drunkula said...

I don't read this title so series so my questions are sincere as much as they may seem rhetorical. Does the initial premise of this series still hold up?

I think team-up books like SUPERMAN/BATMAN have pretty short shelf lives of quality (even if they continue to sell). The original BIRDS OF PREY maintained because the book took on more of a family dynamic than team-up, especially when Gail Simone took over. One of the complaints about the current BoP book is there is no reason for the team to exist and we've never been told why Dinah assembled the team.

So is WORLD'S FINEST a team-up book? Or is it more of a sister/partnership book? Is there still a reason Power Girl and Huntress are together? Is there a reason they seem isolated from the rest of the heroes?

elknight20 said...

Anytime, Anj!

I, actually, like team-up books, but, it depends on how many are on the team, the "family dinamic" with the characters, as stated above, & if they/the characters bounce off each other.
B.O.P., Secret Six, The Authority, JSA...etc...

Even Peter David's (& Sterling Gates, for that matter) Supergirl was part of a team or two, LOSH for both..I think, YJ, for the former, TT for the later, but, I, also, like seeing the cast of characters, & how they interact with the main character, too.

Peter Daivd's Supergirl, keeps bringing back warm memories, for this one.

Anj said...

So is WORLD'S FINEST a team-up book? Or is it more of a sister/partnership book? Is there still a reason Power Girl and Huntress are together? Is there a reason they seem isolated from the rest of the heroes?

Sister/partner book. There definitely is reason for them to be together. As the 2 surviving legacy heroes from Earth 2 and best friends before Steppenwolf's attack, they should be together.

Don't know why they have remained hidden for 5 years outside of it being awkward to interact with E1's Trinity.

Anj said...

I, actually, like team-up books, but, it depends on how many are on the team, the "family dinamic" with the characters, as stated above, & if they/the characters bounce off each other.

Agree. When at it's prime, the Legion was a great family book, with the teammates interacting naturally, growing closer/apart, etc.

These 2 have an easy rapport with each other in the Helena/Karen moments. I think the tougher part has been adventures that work for both power sets.

Dave M said...

Lastly, we know it was done on Earth 2 (the inker Adrienne is 'gone'). So it wasn't in memoriam .

"Adrienne" is almost certainly a tribute to the omnipresent 80s DC comics colourist Adrienne Roy who passed away in 2010, her work and name graced much loved books such as the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans run and Batman, but more relevantly also coloured some of the Huntress' earliest appearance in All-Star Comics and latterly her fondly remembered back-up strips in Wonder Woman commencing with issue #272. All written by Paul Levitz himself. The significance of the scene being that Roy herself was something of a noted fan of tattoos!
Helena is bidding farewell to "Anthony" (Tollin. Another of DCs most celebrated colourists and husband to Roy.)

As with your Legion of Super-Heroes reviews I share your thoughts about Worlds Finest too, I enjoy the characterisation for the most part but the lack of any real direction or purpose is really starting to sink the book. With Batman/Superman now joined by Superman/Wonder Woman the pressure has to be on to both rival the action and scope in those books and get a stable artist in place. It's worrying how this book is starting to mirror what happened to Levitz' Legion, but with two modernday characters like Power Girl and Huntress this should be a completely different (and easier) series to write than that was.
If I can enjoy and look forward to a Superman/Batman book and the new Superman/Wonder Woman book, it surely can't be too much to ask for a Worlds Finest that matches the energy and content in these two new series...

Diane Darcy said...

Great review Anj! I'll be perfectly honest here and say I haven't felt Levitz has gotten the characters' voices right since (literally) the first story arc. I largely attribute that to Levitz' preoccupancy with reinforcing clich├ęs and stereotypes about young women as opposed to giving these two characters actual personalities that make sense for their backgrounds. Considering that they've both been better written in the past makes the current creative choices Levitz is making incredibly regressive for both characters, which is a huge disservice to them both in my opinion.

On the topic of Helena's tattoo, I'm glad I wasn't the only one who thought that her comment on Adrienne being 'gone' (along with 'everyone' else) was possibly hinting at the ink job having taken place on Earth-2. If that is indeed the case, it's not a logical development for several reasons:

1. She was under 18 when she was last living on Earth-2, which leads to

2. She was not old enough to get one on her own without her parents' permission, leading to

3. There is no way either Bruce or Selina would have approved of her getting one, and even less so with Helena wanting to get a tattoo that gives away her parents' identities.

4. Even if she sneaked by with a fake ID, there's a very good chance her parents would have found out she got one eventually, and probably would have taken her to get it removed.

5. Continuity-wise, if she had always had it, we would have already seen it (at least partially) in the Huntress miniseries where she was in a bikini and wearing a skirt that hanged below the waist-line.

It would have honestly made much more sense to establish that she got the tattoo sometime after she arrived to the mainstream universe as an hommage to both her mother and father. She would have also been able to get it without the burden of needing mum and dad's permission to get one. It was also easier for her to make fake IDs on Earth-1 where she technically doesn't exist in the first place.

If this wasn't a nod to Adrienne Roy as Dave M suggested (good catch, btw Dave!), I would call this a lack of attention to detail on Levitz' part. (Something he has done consistently as well, which has left the series with MANY loose ends).

Anonymous said...

When the most powerful woman in the DC Universe looks like a crack whore, you know you have the wrong artist on the book.