Monday, October 23, 2023

Review: Batman/Superman World's Finest #20

Batman/Superman World's Finest #20 came out this week, the second part of the 'Return to Kingdom Come' arc. In fact, it's a sequel to the second arc of this book which ended with 'Boy Thunder' heading to the Kingdom Come world, where it was hinted he became Magog.

Writer Mark Waid is revisiting his (perhaps) magnum Opus of Kingdom Come. I often wonder if creators can go home again. Is heading back to that story worth it? Kingdom Come is almost universally revered. If you go back to the well with a sequel and it doesn't shine, does it dull the original work. Maybe I worry too much.

Waid does have the new wrinkle of inserting the Earth-0 Superman and Batman into the KC storylines. We get to see their reaction to that world. This isn't a KC story. This is our heroes responding to what they see in Earth-22. Waid also sets the bulk of the story in the years before Kingdom Come #1. That world hasn't been explored. This feels, at least, a little fresh.

Meanwhile, Dan Mora continues to crush it on art. The first couple of pages show just how well Mora can adapt as he apes a number of famous stories. But this issue is mostly scenes of Batman and Superman talking to each other. Mora shines there too bring the emotions of all that our heroes see.

Listen ... I love Kingdom Come. I love it so much I want it to remain the pure story it is. 

On to this issue.

We start with this fun scene of Barry Allen running and 'mapping' the multiverse. Barry sees all. And he does see it all. Lots of DC's most famous stories are here and Mora sort of swerves his art to be more like the style of those books.

So we get a Miller-esque Dark Knight Batman, a Bruce Timm-like Batman, a Kelley Jones Red Rain Batman, a Mignola style Gotham by Gaslight Batman, a Dave Johnson style Red Son Superman. We even get Superman Red/Superman Blue. We get Thrillkiller Batwoman and Robin. It's a smorgasbord of great stories and tweaked art.

Great opening scene to get me into the book.

One of the Earths Barry sees is the Kingdom Come Earth and he sees Boy Thunder there too. Superman has not forgotten about his potential sidekick. He even recalls some adventures we didn't see ... like that time they fought Eva Unit 1????

A Neon Genesis Evangelion sneak homage in my favorite current comic book? Like peanut butter and jelly.

Barry has labeled the Kingdom Come world Earth-22. Batman and Superman use a modified cosmic treadmill to head there. 

Initially they end up in the latter events of the mini. They see David as Magog. They see their older selves mourning at the super-hero cemetery. We see these three heroes but then we pull back to a 2 page spread of the entire cemetery with too many stones to count. 

Again, this is the the real grist for the mill. 'Our' Batman and Superman reacting to what they see. They can't imagine what could cause such death. 

Unfortunately the Cosmic Treadmill isn't perfect. In that first scene, our heroes are ghosts, just watching.

They suddenly snap back in time. They are still on Earth-22 but in the past. This is before Magog kills the Joker and Superman retires. 

Superman is eager to find David, the Boy Thunder, but Batman says the two should lay low before they go public. They shouldn't even find their own counterparts. So it's off to Planet Krypton.

Planet Krypton was one of the more fun places within the Kingdom Come book so it is fun to head inside again. Look up top ... headband Supergirl! Look down low, the Superman/Batman merge from World's Finest #4!


Superman really ... like really ... wants to find David. He even hints about wanting to have David live with him. 

I like this response from Bruce. It won't be easy for Clark. It wasn't easy for Bruce. And he had money to grease the wheels. We don't hear a lot about that these days what with Dick being an adult. This is another reason why I love this book set in the 'near past' as a way to see these relationships at their beginning.

For all they know, this world's Superman is already mentoring David. 

But our Clark wonders how dedicated this world's Superman could be if somehow he let all those heroes in the cemetery die.

Again, this is the real juice of this story for me. I want to see how our heroes react to Earth 22 and their own counterparts. I know the pain the Earth-22 Superman endured. How he saw his world darken. How he couldn't compromise his ethics. How he hid.

This Clark isn't going to see it. I see the worried look on his face. Is he worrying about this Superman? Or himself? Or both. 

When David goes into action as Boy Thunder, our heroes decide to jump into action. 

But David's hair trigger temper is still present. We see David ... now Thunderman ... lash out violently against a super-villain, nearly killing the Atom-Master with his mega-heat powers.

Our Superman chastises him for this act. 

We all saw how fragile David was in the first arc. We know he is destined to become Magog. So I am not surprised he still is this irrational. 

So unhinged he recognizes Superman as the one he knew as a child and decides to try and kill him. 

Love this new look for David. It feels very 90s with the leather jacket and pouches. The domino mask gives him a little Comedian vibe. 

This is a solid cliffhanger. And no doubt next issue the Supermen and Batmen will meet. 

The art was great here. From the emotional expressions to the battles to the art homages, Mora really brought it. I think Waid is doing solid work here. He knows the beats to hit. But I don't know if I need this story. I'll see where it goes.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Great review. I don’t revere Kingdom Come quite as much as most people - I talk about that in an upcoming podcast with Billy D - so don’t mind revisiting Earth 22. If Mark Waid didn’t, someone else would and the results wouldn’t be as excellent as this.

I am surprised that Superman is quite so attached to David. I mean, Supergirl is family, and lovely where David is a brat. I wonder if Batman’s chat about adoption with Superman influences his later decision not to try adopting Supergirl…

Anj said...

Great idea about Superman adopting Supergirl and this talk influencing him.

And yes, his attachment to David is odd.

Anonymous said...

I'm hardly a Kingdom Come apologist myself, but if Mark Waid wants to brew up a scherzo on his old theme, I trust him enough not to worry too much about it. Kal El's attachment to Boy Thunder makes sense when you consider how much mental and emotional energy he's devoted in the past to reforming Lex Luthor...granted all those attempts aren't in the same continuity...but still :)