Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: Worlds' Finest #20

Yesterday I reviewed Batman/Superman #8, the opening chapter of First Contact, and raved about the characterization by Greg Pak and the dream-like art by Jae Lee.

Worlds' Finest #20 also came out last week, part 2 of First Contact. Unfortunately, it doesn't carry the quality of the opening chapter into this book. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. Worlds' Finest has been an 'okay' book for some time now. Paul Levitz struggles to make the main characters three-dimensional, especially Power Girl who vacillates between maneater and innocent girl, sometimes with unintentional comedy. Levitz can't seem to get the two working together for any period of time, having them split up on separate missions rather than working together. And the art by RB Silva just doesn't seem to match the tone of the book, a bit too rough and scratchy for these characters together.

Those concerns carry forward into this issue as well. There are some nice moments particularly for Huntress. But Power Girl again seems wrong, switching from tough, hard-nosed veteran to trusting fool in the span of a couple of panels. I would be irate of Supergirl acted this way ... so I have to be consistent.

There are more chapters to go in this story so hopefully things will get pulled in tighter leading to a satisfying conclusion. I can hope.

Last issue ended with Superman absorbing whatever was ailing Power Girl. Now both plummet from the sky, unconscious, with unclear power levels. It is up to Batman and Huntress to come to the rescue.

As I said in the prior review, the most interesting part of this story is the interplay between Worlds' Finest duo and their Prime Earth mentors. It is the similarities and differences that are the most interesting things to learn here.

So I liked how Huntress seems surprised that this Batplane doesn't have cannons. And how matter-of-fact Batman in with his response.

We know that the Earth 2 Batman was engaged in a world war with Apokolips. It isn't that shocking to hear he had major weapons on his plane. So I like that the Prime Earth Batman, supposedly grimmer, actually has a stronger anti-gun ethic than Huntress' father.

It is clear that Superman has absorbed what is ailing Power Girl. He is now glowing, overpowered, and struggling to maintain control. Of course, Batman's first idea is to lay Kryptonite onto Superman, hoping a weakness will downgrade the strength of this power surge. It seems like a bit of a jump but desperate times ...

I did like how Huntress and Power Girl react. Potentially killing Superman in an attempt to control him seems unbelievable. Huntress declares what we know ... this isn't her father. This apparently is a darker, more driven, Batman. My few glimpses of the E2 Batman showed him to be pretty tough ... although I wonder if the love of Catwoman softened him.

Power Girl and Batman streak off to investigate Rheelasia capitol, leaving Huntress and a weakened Superman on the beach. Of course, such an explosion brings some Rheelasian defenses, including a metahuman (or maybe someone in tech armor).

Despite being outgunned, Huntress defeats the guy, incapacitating him. It is a nice moment for Huntress as she protects Superman! I like the respect Clark has for her here.

Levitz just seems to understand Huntress more than Power Girl. Helena just shines more.

As for Batman and Power Girl, Karen shows just how tough she is. Batman suggests that Power Girl enter the country as Karen Starr, going undercover and diverting attention while he sneaks in.

Interestingly, Power Girl will have no part of it. She shuts him down, refusing to be 'bait' for his grand idea. Instead she will bash her way in.

It is a different diversion ... but not Batman's way. He calls her less disciplined than Clark when he thought her more in control at first.

I like this show of personal strength for Karen. It is understandable given prior stories where she thought with her fists first. I can also imagine that Superman dying in front of her, from her problem, has given her some adrenaline. She probably doesn't want to lose Kal again. Nice moment for her.

Too bad that nice moment is immediately followed by one of her weaker moments.

With a blinding rage, she crashes into the capitol, right into Gamorra's headquarters. But the site of Gamorra seems to shake her resolve. Despite him admitting that it is his nanites that caused her problems, despite knowing that Superman is dying from that problem, she allows him to sway her with his words. He can get her back to her world. He shows her Earth 2 on a monitor. And she willing puts her hand in some sort of genome reading device.

It is H'El on Earth all over again. Power Girl seems to trust too easily, forgetting her family and the current concerns, instead concentrating on getting her lost world back. Gullible and misguided - it isn't right for Supergirl. It isn't right for Power Girl either.

Because, not surprisingly, Gamorra turns out to be a bad guy! I mean, he released nanites he knew were interfering with Power Girl, didn't let her know, didn't stop using them, and talks about mapping her genome. None of it sounds good, even if it includes a promise of returning home. Jeez ... he does sound like H'El.

Here he releases 'the Army of Gamorra', a bunch of superpowered synthoids based on Karen's DNA. How will she and Batman defeat these things?

So some rough characterization with Power Girl. Some good characterization with Huntress. Some 'rough around the edges' art. It sounds like Worlds' Finest, doesn't it? I have to say, it probably suffers a little bit from being released on the same week as (and read immediately after) Batman/Superman #8.

Still, it is good to see Huntress and Power Girl interacting with the DCU at large.

Overall grade: B


Diane Darcy said...

Great review Anj! The only thing I didn't like about Huntress during her scenes with Batman is that Levitz writes her as being more child-like, which is not only a huge contrast to the way Pak writes her, but it's also not how a woman in her 20s should be characterised. But then, infantilisation of the lead heroines has been a consistent problem with Levitz during his run. (I am a woman in my 20s, I do not still behave like a teen in real life).

On that note, her 'you are so not my father' line was so completely random, it literally felt out of place in the scene that it took place in. Putting aside the 'no shit Sherlock' moment I got out of that, I think Levitz tries too hard to make these heroines sound 'cool' and 'contemporary,' but has yet to realise the 1990s ended 15 years ago.

And then Power Girl. She suffers the most from Levitz' gendered clich├ęs and stereotypes it makes my heart ache for her every time. :(

That being said, this issue was admittedly better from what we've seen of Levitz in terms of pacing and plotting (maybe working with Greg Pak helped a lot on that front), but he still sucks at writing women. Perhaps if he stopped thinking of young women as extraterrestrials from Venus, that would be Step 1 to rectifying his characterisation of them.

Anj said...

I thought the 'Not my father' comment made a little sense in that her father would probably never put Kryptonite on the E2 Superman.

Still, this seemed smaller in comparison to the Pak/Lee issue.

Martin Gray said...

I pretty much agree on your reviews of the two issues. One thing that seemed off was Batman's assessment, in B/S, that Helena is 'maybe seventeen' - I though the Worlds' Finest team were at least mid-20s.

Just a wee reminder, RB Silva's work is less smooth than usual because he's working to scratchmaster Scott Mcdaniel's layouts.

Diane Darcy said...

The 'maybe seventeen' bit bothered me too since I felt it denied Helena's adulthood. (She was established as being 21 by Paul Levitz). But I think within the context of the narrative we were supposed to interpret that as Bruce guestimating her age since she's relatively young.

Anj said...

I keep forgetting about McDaniels work on the title Mart!

And the '17' comment did seem weird. She has to look older given she has posed as a teacher, gone undercover, etc.

It would be even ickier if she looked 17 and he dolled her up for an evening party like he did in the last part.