Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Worlds' Finest #22

We are approaching the two year mark for Worlds' Finest, a book I had very high hopes for.

But as people who have read my reviews of this book know, this book has been frustrating. There have been some nice character moments. The flashback sequences are wonderful. But the overall progress of the story and the characters has been pretty lackluster. It seems every time I read this book I think of the phrase 'treading water'. I just keep waiting for something to happen which will nudge this book into excellence. I'd even be happy with 'very good'-ness.

I really thought that the First Contact storyline was just what this book needed. Linking Huntress and Power Girl to their mentor doppelgangers on Prime Earth seemed like just the catalyst to push this book forward. There is so much potential for stories there. Karen could talk about her Kal's greatness, his love for Lois. This Bruce might see Helena as another Damian, either becoming overprotective or trying to convince her to stop heroing. Etc. Etc. Unfortunately, between the shipping gaffes and the sudden ending without any emotional punch (the two pairs just walk away from each other?), First Contact failed.

Okay ... okay ...

Worlds' Finest #22 came out this week and looks like we might finally have some plot points that will change this book. Writer Paul Levitz sets up some big changes here. And we get another flashback sequence of the Huntress' early career with some splendid art by Yildiray Cinar. While this sequence is very good, I don't quite understand why it was in this book except to fill pages.

As much as there was some optimism ... just a smidge ... it was dulled a bit by the further murkiness of RB Silva's art. It looks rushed and ugly here. What is going on?

Standing in the rubble of the Gammoran lab, the portal the Earth 2 blown to bits, the two heroes confront each other angrily. We have learned that Kara wants to return to Earth no matter the cost. She doesn't believe her Superman could be evil. She wants to defend her world. And this isn't the time for Helena to be cautious.

I do like how these two characters have different approaches in life. Much like the Superman/Batman dynamic, there is enough friction in the friendship to craft stories. While Helena's cautious approach mirrors Bruce, Kara here is just a force of nature. Here the Huntress has to reign Power Girl in whereas I feel sometimes Batman has to spur Superman into being more proactive.

I do like how Power Girl simply can't believe that Helena would stop them from going home since that has been their primary goal since coming to this Earth. Despite Helena's concerns (this might be yet another Earth, they can't simply charge in), Karen isn't listening. In fact, she questions Helena's motivations.

Even for someone as fiery as Karen, this seems like a low blow. But in the heat of disappointment, emotions might be running high.

Before the argument can continue, ARGUS troops swarm in. Assuming the heroes are villains, they attack. Thus we get another comic where the super-heroes of a title fight the military and a peace-keeping organization like ARGUS.

And like many friends, the tiff is forgotten as the two take out the infantry and fly away friends again.

Okay ... take a look back at these three panels I have posted.

Now compare it to some representative panels by Silva way back in 2011 when he was on Superboy. Look at the clean lines, the unique style, the innovative page construction.

Then look back at the muddy, rough work here.

I loved Silva's work on Superboy. But this new style of his doesn't work for me. 

And then, with little resonance to the story at hand, we flash back 4 years to Helena, pre-Huntress identity but masked, trying to stop some men from sexually abusing some women. Unfortunately this is Helena 4 years ago. The scene opens with her hog-tied.

As usual, I like these scenes when we hear Helena's internal voice and commenting on how her parents would respond.

But why this scene here? And now?

While something of a rookie, she still has talent, coming close to escape. Cinar's work shines here. There is a more pencil-y shadowy feel here that adds to the feeling that this is in the past.

But this is close to an escape. She is quickly knocked out again.

There is a little magical thinking by Levitz here. Rather than kill Helena because a gunshot wound can be traced, they leave her alive, tie her to a tree slowly bleeding, and hope the wolves eat her.

I can think of many ways this is poor thinking by them.

Why not choke her and then leave the body to the wolves? Why would they place her in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death? Maybe their boss is Dr. Evil?

Huntress' thinking isn't much better. After she does escape, Helena decides the best thing to do is to light the house on fire.

Umm ... aren't the women you are trying to protect in there? Maybe these creeps have tied them down so they can't escape?

Luckily they aren't. The occupants run out and Helena thrashes the men.

Okay, this is a younger Helena. I'll give her a pass.

And, as I said, wonderful art by Cinar.

At the very least, Levitz mentions the meeting between the two World's' Finest groups in this scene.

Helena hooks into Batman's computer system to try to figure out if the portal actually did open up to Earth 2 or not. She talks about thanking him with a package of pastries to her 'not dad'.

But is that all there is?

I wish ... wish she was in the cave, talking to Bruce, working closely with him. Wouldn't he like to know about what is happening on Earth 2 given Darkseid's prior attack here?

I don't know if I have learned enough about Helena's emotions over meeting this Bruce to understand her viewpoint. Does it hurt too much to see him?

And Karen?

There is some major character movement with her. She finally has regained all of StarrWare after the attempted takeover by Desaad.

But just as quickly as she regains control, she opts to sell it all. She needs money ... and fast. She is going to recreate that portal. And soon.

I like the fiery persona of Power Girl here. From the beginning, her one goal has been getting home.

And I think the end of this arc is going to be them getting there.

It turns out that Helena's investigation does turn up some proof that the other world was in fact their world.

She is on board to finally strive to get home. But ... I thought she was on board all along?

Could this be the big change I have been looking for? Will the book shift to Earth 2? Will I continue to read it if it does? Shouldn't I be happy??

The art on the end pages seems smoother making me think a different inker did these pages.

So, all in all, another okay issue of Worlds' Finest. We get a nice flashback sequence ... without a clear reason why. We get a move towards a big shift in the book. And maybe we'll get a new artist.

But I don't know ... it still feels like treading water until we get the potential change.

Overall grade: C+/B-


Thomas Hayes said...

Given what we've seen of the solicits for issues #23 and #24, I fully expect this series to continue to tread water for the next two months. I also wonder why the Cinar-drawn flashback was there - it served no purpose to this story at all and apparently he's done another one for next issue. If they wanted to they could tell the story of them returning to Earth 2 in two issues but they're stretching it out really unnecessarily and I just feel no investment in this.

That comparison with Silva's earlier work is rather telling. What has happened to him? It can't just be because he's using Scott McDaniel's breakdowns.

Dave Mullen said...

"If they wanted to they could tell the story of them returning to Earth 2 in two issues but they're stretching it out really unnecessarily and I just feel no investment in this."

That's how I feel about the majority of DC/Marvel comics these days Thomas. It has become especially acute these last 10 months ago, with overlong storyarcs now endemic, a lack of substantial plot, muddled resolutions, and aimless directions.

Worlds Finest is a title I want to love, I certainly love the duo, but as Anj says (every month!) it is a title that just exists, it never has any sense of a direction and the content is so vacuous you have forgotten all about the book by lunch. I must say as well it sats a lot that we have gone from art of the calibre of George Perez and Kevin McGuire to an array of shifting artists of dubious quality. Just like Legion of Super-Heroes...

Save this book DC, don't just watch it rot.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I think sales on the book confirm that there is loyalty among fans for these characters. We just need to see some change!

Martin Gray said...

Well, that was horrible, the nadir of a disappointing series. Never mind the irrelevant eight-page flashback, the whole issue felt like filler. What did the Argus fight add? Could Karen act any less professionally with her associates? Do we need another scene of Kara flying?

As for the art, surely the wrong Superman is drawn on Helena's screen - she's meant to be watching the Earth 2 fella, but it's the Prime guy who's been drawn and coloured.

What a mess.