Drew: Superhero comics are well-known for their entertainment value. We turn to them for wild plotting or impossible feats or insane action. When handled well, they can also be home to themes that resonate even with their non-powered readers. Our favorite titles home in on the themes that resonate most with their characters, offering pointed, deliberate examinations of the human condition. With World’s Finest 1, writer Paul Levitz offers a compelling case for counting it among those titles, as it explores how two very different characters cope with moving on from the loss of their very way of life.
That’s a theme that can always resonate with comicdom’s younger readership, as moving on from high-school or college or single life represent their own losses of ways of life. That resonance is only compounded in times of economic turmoil, where the threat of sudden, dramatic lifestyle changes seems to always be looming. Kara and Helena loosing their entire universe puts us at a safe enough distance from those realities, but still manages to ask the question: what would you do if you lost everything you knew?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Kara Zor-L and Helena Wayne were respectively the Supergirl and Robin of Earth-2. During the events of Earth-2 1 (our coverage of which you can read here), they were somehow transported to Earth-1. They have spent the five years since building new lives; Helena as secretive crime-fighter the Huntress, Kara as enterprising technology mogul Karen Starr. The issue opens with Helena saying goodbye to the identity she’s been using for the past several years — one Helena Bertinelli — a kind of mini-lifestyle change ceremony. Helena is sharing dinner with Karen in Tokyo, but they leave in a hurry when Karen receives a call that her newest lab facility is in flames. Karen rushes into the inferno to check on her prized quantum tunneler, a device she was hoping would allow the two to return home. Helena quickly follows her in (after suiting up), and the two find clues which lead them to suspect foul play. Just as Karen reveals her new Power Girl costume (and identity), they hear a sound elsewhere in the building. They rush to the scene, discovering a glowing baddie calling himself Hakkou.
We’ve spent relatively little time with these characters, but given their ties to Batman and Superman of Earth-2, we can assume a great deal about where they are coming from. Helena has a very practical sense of justice, which is at once driven by and accepting of injustices she has no power over (as Bruce is with his own parents’ deaths). This leads her to keep on keepin’ on, fighting crime the only way she knows how; as a mysterious legend of the night. I can think of no better representation of this than of this image from their first night on Earth-1, where Helena is already burning her Robin costume to stay warm.
Karen, on the other hand, has a very strict sense of justice, in which wrongs must be righted, reflecting the rigidity (and perhaps naiveté) of Superman’s philosophy. She devotes every ounce of her being to returning home, desiring to fix her problems than to accept them. They represent opposite views on how to react to change, but even this early in the game, you can see how their friendship is softening their arguments. Karen’s decision to take on a new super identity represents a kind of acceptance of her new home, and an admission that she’s probably going to be here a while. That kind of compromise recognizes the shades of grey between the two women’s philosophies, and suggests that this title may take time to elucidate them specifically.
As much potential as I see in the writing, I was a bit underwhelmed by the art. The present-day sequences pencilled by George Perez are typified by wonky faces and unimaginative layouts, and the flashback sequences by Kevin Maguire — while a bit clearer — suffered from stilted, awkward expressions. I’m a little more partial to Maguire’s sequences, but much of that credit may be owed to colorist Rosemary Cheetham’s impeccable sense of texture. This scene, where Robin and Supergirl are pulled into Earth-1 is particularly breathtaking.
It’s very tough to judge a title this early in the offing — the characters are being established just as the creative team is trying to figure out how to approach them — so much needs to settle-down before they can be objectively judged. Worlds’ Finest has a lot of potential, particularly in how it relates to its themes. I’m particularly taken with the specificity of the punctuation of the title: it’s not “World’s Finest” (as in, the finest on this Earth) but “Worlds’ Finest” (as in, the finest on many Earths). The fact that their Earth-2 history is built into the very title of the book means that it will have to remain a central focus of the series, a prospect that has me very excited.
At the same time, I can see how that focus on broad-strokes and theme-building might have gotten in the way of the entertainment value of this particular issue. There wasn’t much in the way of wild plotting or impossible feats or insane action. I’m okay to have those quiet moments even at the start of a series’ run, but there’s also a case to be made for starting with a bang. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this first issue is a bit of an odd duck for not featuring more action, or at least a more exciting cliff-hanger. What do you think, Peter? Did this slower start work for you?
Peter: Well I will say that this book is off to a good start. I did enjoy the slower pace of this issue 1….kinda. It has its good and bad for me, but – as always – it comes down to the reader. Right now, I’m a little on the fence about this book, but I’m not sure a single issue should be used as a standard for the rest of the series.
The thing I think that I like the best of this issue, and the slow start, is not necessarily the establishment of Huntress and Power Girl, but the comparisons that are being made from the get-go. It is pretty clear that Power Girl wants to go home to Earth-2, but Huntress doesn’t seem to be in too much of a hurry. Kara has spent her time becoming the billionaire tech mogul in an effort to find a way to transport them back. Helena has spent her time in the shadows, fighting crime, and just doing what she does. These are hold-overs from the Superman v. Batman perspectives that you talk about, Drew. Kara is out front, in the public eye, choosing to be a celebrity/billionaire, while Helena is just another person, switching identities as she see fit, as long as that identity is useful to what she is doing.
I really love this character development right out of the gate. It begins to establish the ever important relationship that Kara and Helena have and will have as the story progresses.
I wasn’t too overwhelmed with the bad guy, Hakkou, or the rest of the progression of the story. It pretty much focused on that Karen was upset that Turner’s device got wrecked, and the stolen radioactive stuff. It didn’t really do much to move the overall story along, which is okay, I just hope that this doesn’t set the pace for the rest of the story arc/book.
I am so far excited to be reading about relatively new characters to me, who are from an alternate Earth. I hope that at some point we cover their acclimation to this world, since we skipped over the last five years. I was kind of hoping that we would see how they view this world versus Earth-2, and how they reacted to being so far from home. That can really do a lot to a character, but other than being a little homesick and magically fabulously rich, both Helena and Karen have taken it in stride, which just seems a little off to me. I don’t know, I guess I would have expected a little more in that department, especially since they both just lost their cousin and father.
Worlds’ Finest will hopefully prove to be a fun read, with good character dynamic, and issue 1 definitely leaves me wanting more, but not necessarily because it’s so good, but because right now it’s lacking in some key areas.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?