Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Worlds' Finest #21

Worlds' Finest #21 came out last week and its story First Contact has certainly sprinted to its finish! I hardly remember part 3!

Okay, that is me being facetious. In a horrible move for DC, the finale of First Contact in this book has been released before the third part over in Batman/Superman. As a result, we get this chapter out of order. How did they characters get here? Are there crucial plot elements that I won't be privy to? Should I have read this? Should I have waited until part 3? Should I have held off reviewing?

Well, I am not a patient comic reader and it isn't my fault that this came out in the improper order. So I read it and I am reviewing it.

I will say I had pretty high hopes for this story arc. I never quite understood why Helena and Karen would keep their existence secret from their Prime Earth relatives. So it made sense for this to happen. Unfortunately, and maybe the third chapter would have changed things for me, the ending of this arc here is sort of a let down.

As is typical of Worlds' Finest these days, there are a couple of nice moments. But overall the whole things just fails to click. I keep hoping for some momentum in this book but it just seems to plod along. And the ending of this interaction between Superman/Batman and Power Girl/Huntress ends on something of a flat note. And that is a shame. Because there should be strong relationships between all these characters.

Lastly, I hate to keep harping on this, but RB Silva's art has simply unraveled. The art here just isn't eye-catching. In fact, I find it borderline ugly. These characters deserve better.

We jump right into the story ... at an interesting point.

Kaizen has opened up a true portal to presumably Earth 2 and it is ablaze. Everyone is hearing voices from the other side. Superman hears echoes in his own mind. Kaizen hears voices telling him to send Karen through the portal. If he succeeds he will be given great power. And Batman knows a portal goes both ways. Whatever is tearing apart Earth 2 can invade.

I don't read Earth 2. But is it really in ruins as this shows? Is it even darker than the main DCnU?

Just who is telling Kaizen to return Power Girl?

In some ways it doesn't matter. If there has been one constant in this book it is Karen's fervent desire to get home. If that portal get her there, she is going through on her own.

Things are a little too odd here for me.

One, I don't know if I like hearing PG say she wants to return so she can kill Darkseid. I know he is evil incarnate and killed Lois and (as far as Karen knows) Superman. But I am still uneasy with hearing heroes say they are going to kill.

But more importantly, how the heck can a flying kick by Huntress stop a streaking Kryptonian from flying. As far as I can tell, Power Girl is at full strength here. Shouldn't Helena just bounce off? I may be wrong about Karen's power levels.

After recovering, Karen decides that she isn't going to let a suddenly powered-up Kaizen take her anywhere against her will ... even if it is home.

As a former fan of pro wrestling, I actually loved this action sequence. Power Girl suplexes Kaizen through the portal! That is a show of strength.

This made me smile.

With Kaizen gone, it seems like this mission is wrapped up. Superman still seems to be under the influence of Kaizen's nanites and isn't at his peak. But his xray scan of Karen is clean.

He does say that she has some organ structures that don't look Kryptonian. Hmmm ... is the Earth 2 Kryptonian physiology different? Is she not Kryptonian? (Please don't make her a descendant of Arion!)

I do like how she is creeped out a little by Kal's scan. I know I complained about Silva's art before. But I think this panel is pretty slick. Kara's body language is perfect, trying to cover her body from his prying eyes with the perfect expression of disgust.

The portal is still open. And Karen is still hellbent of getting home. Regardless of the danger, she is heading back. And Helena, in a show of loyalty, says she will always go with Karen wherever she is heading.

But 'It's been fun boys' as their last dialogue seems just off. Wouldn't they have something of a little more weight to tell these doppelgangers? Wouldn't Helena want to say something to her 'dad'? Wouldn't Karen hug this Kal?

It doesn't help that this is clearly drawn with the focus clearly on the heroes posteriors, with just enough brokeback to look awkward.

This is something of a bad double whammy.

The action isn't quite over though. Before the Worlds' Finest can get through the portal, something comes back through.

It is Kaizen again, now mutated into a muscle-bound Apokoliptian-looking behemoth. And lingering inside the portal is the true villain of the piece ... the Earth 2 evil Superman. Despite Kaizen and a bunch of parademons swarming through, the evil Superman decides to hang back on the Earth 2 side of the portal.

Suddenly, we have a real fight on our hands.

That is why Karen is the key to this thing. This Superman wants his beloved Supergirl back.

How crazy is it in the DCnU that an evil Superman wants a close relationship with Supergirl but the heroic Supergirl is dealing with a loner? Things are really seen through a mirror darkly.

With a new threat, the two pairs of heroes team up again.

Here is a nice moment where Bruce and Helena team up to take out a parademon. I like that they seem like they are in synch despite not knowing each other.

The fist-bump seems a little over the top.

Personally, this was the most depressing moment of the book for me. The evil Superman calls Kara his 'little secret weapon', a term of endearment harkening back to the Silver Age.

It again shows that the Earth 2 Superman and Supergirl had a more classic relationship with each other, nurturing and loving. But nothing like that can last in the new 52. Here the 'little secret weapon' line can only be said by an evil Superman.

I long for a time where the super-cousins like each other, respect each other, and occasionally work together.

This whole thing is sad.

With things possibly spinning way out of control, Helena blows up the portal controls shutting it down and once again sealing the heroes on Prime Earth while keeping the evil Kal on Earth 2.

Throughout the book, Helena is concerned that this portal might lead to any 'other Earth' but Karen confirms, it was their home. This is some good expressive work by Silva here. Karen looks forlorn. Helena looks surprised and sick.

There is no way to reverse engineer the portal. They are once again trapped.

And then, with nary a word, the two pairs of Worlds' Finest go their separate ways. Ugh. I was really hoping that some sort of close relationship would blossom out of this meeting. Why wouldn't Bruce want to know Helena? Why wouldn't Karen want to be friends with Clark??

I just don't know if there is going to be any part of this arc that will be built upon in the future.

So, overall, this seems like it could have been something special but ends up falling short.

There just can't be healthy role model/protege relationships in the New 52.

Overall grade: C+


Martin Gray said...

I'll be back to read this post in three weeks!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Anj: re if E2 is bleak and angry... Darkseid invaded Earth 2 five years ago and Steppenwolf was still living in some analogue country. I was actually annoyed everything Levitz had PG or Huntress refer to Darkseid himself. (There was no other bad guy left on nu52 Earth after the first JL arc.)

So there is a type of World Army and there are four spots around the globe (just like Apokolips) where parademons randomly pop out. I can't add more details because a lot of the storylines are possibly worth waiting for the trade, nothing really sticks.

But things are indeed worse on E2 in some areas. It is neat seeing certain cues on billboards for Tyler chemicals and the like. There are very few heroes, but *sigh* the government has been keeping metahumans prisoners because they, I dunno, pledge allegiance to Darkseid.

I might be less exasperated if I were simply reading the trades. If you like the JSA, there are some interesting takes.

Jay said...

Still waiting for them to drop Levitz from this book. Its wrenching to see so much potential for these two characters continue to be strung along by a writer who just frankly does not have it anymore.

And with Rocafort off Superman, I think he'd be a perfect fit for this one.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

Wayne, I picked up the first few E2 issues when Robinson was on the book but it didn't truly grab me.

I hear that Tom Taylor is making it more interesting. But Lois as a Tornado? Kal alive and evil? I just can't do it.

And Jay, my guess is we are nearing Levitz' end.

Dave Mullen said...

As is typical of Worlds' Finest these days, there are a couple of nice moments. But overall the whole things just fails to click. I keep hoping for some momentum in this book but it just seems to plod along.

It is a habitually disappointing book. I read the first two chapters of this storyline and yes, there were a couple of nice character moments, but the whole meeting has been so non-committal in its impact on the characters it cannot be anything other than disappointing - where is the sense of importance to this first meeting if in the end nothing at all is seen to come from it?

The plot itself is so thin and unengaging it scarcely bears talking about.

Just disappointing and forgettable material allround. Despite being a great fan of the characters by lunch I have always forgotten about Worlds Finest...

Anj said...

Forgettable is a good word for it.

This should have been monumental. Helena meeting her 'dad'. Bruce meeting his 'daughter'. Karen meeting her 'father figure' while learning her Kal is alive and evil.

There should be longstanding repercussions to this. But it ends so flat, I doubt there will be.

Martin Gray said...

Well, I've now caught up with these out-of-order books, and gee, what a mess. The impressive but hard-to-follow art of Jae Lee, the disappointing work of Silva (with and without McDaniel), the annoying four-way narration and the flatness of the ending. A missed opportunity all round.