Monday, August 21, 2023

Review: World's Finest #18

Batman/Superman World's Finest #18 came out last week, starting a new arc and focusing on the first meeting of Superman and Batman. This book remains an extremely entertaining read. This new take on the origin of the World's Finest team is a fun new wrinkle to continuity.

Writer Mark Waid has been pulling a sort of Bob Haney Earth-B continuity in this title. He has been writing stories which take place in the 'recent past'. All of his writing has been incredibly fun and just perfect comic book super-heroics. But is it in continuity? I don't know if I can fit a Supergirl who lived in an orphanage and has a red shouldered costume in the current DCU. 

Frankly I don't care. Bring me good stories.

This story is just as fun and just as good. Waid is trying to show how Superman and Batman who became friends. I have read this story many times before. So why not another take? And, given this is their first adventure, we are even further back in the 'recent past' and Waid gives us visual cues and clues to help cement that.  It is Waid's forte to dive deep into the DCU. Throw in the Riddler and a Superman specific villain at the end and it all sings. 

Dan Mora gives us the split cover, linked by the hand shake at the bottom. Travis Moore is on internal art and gives us a solid take on a very very classic World's Finest and their early costumes. There isn't a ton of action here, focusing on the mystery. But it flows well and Moore keeps the action moving smoothly. 

Everyone should be buying this book. On to the details. 

The book opens with scenes from both Metropolis and Gotham.

Gotham is dealing with two different problems. Citizens are disappearing. The Riddler is involved in major thefts. The news has made it to the Daily Planet's news desk.

The Riddler has robbed a vault and left his telltale riddle for people to solve. Except ... the riddle is in Kryptonese.

This isn't the Kryptonian alphabet that we have seen for the last few decades. This is Kryptonese, the Bronze Age language that (I think) was created by E. Nelson Bridwell. (Anyone, feel free to correct me!) 

So when I see this version of the language, I am thinking Silver Age Superman. It sets up the timing in my mind.

Given this wrinkle, Superman heads to Gotham and meets Commissioner Gordon. He lets Gordon know the riddle is in Kryptonese.

Any other Kryptonians on Earth at this time? Just Krypto! So that means we are before Supergirl arriving on Earth. 

Is there a signal Gordon can use to get Batman there? Nope. So this pre-dates the Bat-Signal.

This is an early adventure. Waid does a great job peppering in these bits to help us place it in some timeline.

Superman spots Batman eavesdropping and so the two meet. 

Batman thinks the disappearances and the Riddler have to be linked.

But check out this Batman costume by Moore. Gray and blue! No yellow circle around the bat. A black front to the mask with tiny ears. 

You want me to place this in some sort of classic timeline? Put Batman in a Carmine Infantino style costume.

The two continue to swing over Gotham, I suppose hoping to stumble onto some clues about the disappearances or the Riddler. Instead they foil a robbery being committed by ... The Spellbinder and Magpie. Batman even leaves a calling card for the police, clearly a sign of what time this is.

Again, Waid is diving into Who's Who with the Spellbinder, who I know best from the famous (or infamous) Superman #330.

Magpie is a nice pull given she was the villain Batman and Superman stopped in Man of Steel #3 when John Byrne reimagined it. 

But really what I love is Superman already reaching out to talk about teaming up. 

Batman has another mystery to solve. Who is Superman?

I am not a big fan of the infallible Batman trope. But I like how he is able to put together context clues to come close to an idea. A Kansas boy with a day job ... not bad.

Moore just shines here with these pages giving us such old school action and poses. The very feel of it is Silver Age.

People keep disappearing, including Alfred. That might spur Batman to actually team-up. 

Suddenly Clark is invited to Wayne Manor to interview Bruce.

Except it is a pretense for Bruce to reveal he has figured out Clark is Superman. Between the prior context clues, so Bat-tech, and a clever trap, he knows. 

But then, in a nice turn, he reveals he is Batman. Again, this isn't the rather paranoid Batman of current times. These were simpler times. So this puts me into the head space of these characters and the time of this. 

I really liked this scene. The 'odorless knockout gas' is a perfect Batman gambit.

More riddles appear.

Superman seems pretty clueless.

And then a cliffhanger.

We had seen the Riddler in the book earlier tormented by intrusive outsider thoughts. 

Turns out it is from within the Phantom Zone. The disappearances are Gothamites being thrown into the Zone. And here, Batman is sent there, releasing Jax-Ur. But this is a rather S:TAS Jax-ur, not the chubby bald one from the Silver Age. 

Hmmm ... that is a knuckle ball from Waid, really making me question just how classic DC this World's Finest world is. Perhaps we should call this Earth-W?

Doesn't matter.

This was another fun romp, especially when I had to truly think about where these characters are at the time of this story. This was an old-school flashback!

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

I agree, this was a splendid issue from start to finish. Great job on realising that this is pre-Supergirl, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the storyline ended with Superman being called to a spot where a strange, looking rocket had come down…

Anonymous said...

Mark Waid has an Alan Moore-ian knack for "Making Sense Out of the Nonsense that was The Silver Age", I can pay him no higher compliment.
Thats why I like him when he writes Supergirl, he is not confused or intimidated or bored by the character, he just assumes "Kara is Important" and the storytelling flows. naturally from that simple premise.