Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Worlds’ Finest 3, originally released July 4th, 2012.
Shelby: Often, the hardest review to write is for the really good issues. All I want to do is gush, “IT’S SO GOOD!!!” and I have to force myself to find something intelligent to say. It’s not unpleasant, by any means; it gives me an excuse to spend more time with something I really enjoy, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. The really bad issues, though, are much easier to talk about. I can compose a laundry list of reasons why I don’t like it, and usually don’t have to spend much more time with it than a couple of readings. This month’s Worlds’ Finest falls firmly into that latter camp, and I’m really glad I don’t have to read it anymore than I already have.
The issue opens as the fight continues between Kara, Helena and Hakou, the radioactive man. He’s feeding on the nuclear power plant, growing stronger and stronger, so Helena tries dousing him with coolant. It’s full of radioactivity, he gets too strong and flies away. Kara and Helena follow, but Kara dumps Helena in a tree to save a pilot from a crashing jet. Turns out, the Japanese air force has been called in to deal with a giant Hakou, stomping through the streets of Tokyo. Kara takes him on, and flings him into the ocean. Oh, and there’s a flashback in there of the two of them talking about how this Earth is different than theirs’, and then Kara buys a bunch of scientists to work for her because she’s too smart to use our technology, or something.
This issue is a mess, beginning to end. I’m really not sure what Levitz is going for with this title. Is it action-adventure, with lots of fighting? Is it a character study of two people far from their home? Is it a dumb rom-com about the serious brunette and her slutty blonde girlfriend? I don’t know. While the action scenes are fine enough, I’m am bored to death with these two. Yes, we get it: Helena wants to make her life here now, Kara wants to get home. Helena cares about this Earth’s version of her family, Kara does not. Pérez’s art is not helping matters at all. Look at this full spread of the two of them talking; the panel layout doesn’t change, the panel composition doesn’t change, it is the most boring spread I’ve ever looked at.
I could forgive boring, but I’m far less lenient on the cookie-cutter stereotypes these women fit: the bookish, intelligent brunette and the slutty blonde. Helena always has some sort of file or papers in hand, trying to tell Kara some sort of information she has discovered. Kara has zero interest in it, unless is pertains to them leaving, which it never does. She just wants to run around and sleep with men and pay for people to do the things she needs. You can see it perfectly in they way they’re dressed in the above scene.
I’ve said it before, poorly written female characters are far more damaging than sexist costumes. While Power Girl’s boobs are so huge I’m surprised they don’t hit her in the face while she’s flying around, I would take that over these unrealistic female stereotypes any day. Falling back on these tropes is offensive, and a very lazy way to tell a story. Oh, and speaking of lazy, I cannot believe we’ve got a giant monster trashing the streets of Tokyo while Japanese civilians run in terror. Come on, is this really the best you’ve got?
Unless things change very drastically in a very short amount of time, I’m probably going to drop this title after the zero issue. It’s boring, I don’t care about the characters, it’s sexist: need I go on? I enjoyed the first issue, but now I think that’s only because the direct tie-in to Earth-2 was really cool to see. Now that the two titles aren’t playing off each other, I find I couldn’t care less. Drew, what did you think? Were you able to find anything of value in this issue?
Drew: No, I’m pretty much right there with you, Shelby. This title is a weird mix of boring, dumb, and lazy that makes it a bit of a slog. All of your complaints are spot-on, so I’ll use this space to detail a few more issues that have been bothering me.
Worlds’ Finest — or really any superhero team-up involving Superman — has always struggled with explaining why Superman needs anybody’s help in the first place. The solutions to that problem usually relegate his teammates to the sidelines, or manage to de-power Supes in some significant way (“everybody has Kryptonite” or “Darkseid took him prisoner” for example). The real problem is that the question “what would happen if Superman and Batman teamed up?” is itself flawed. Worlds’ Finest ignores the flaws in that question, and adds an emphatic “with boobs?!” at the end.
Boobs or no, the results are the same. Helena is only useful when Karen is incapacitated, or, you know, when only one mother and child need saving.
Karen eventually bests Hakkou on her own, after rescuing that pilot on her own, after saving Helena. In fact, the only thing Helena (the brilliant strategist on their team, mind you) accomplished this issue was accidentally turning Hakkou into Godzilla. WHO’S THE DUMB BLONDE, NOW?
Speaking of dumb, this whole flashback structure is really starting to bother me. The dual art teams kind of force a sizable flashback each issue, but this one is particularly pointless. We learn exactly no new information. We already knew Karen was preoccupied with getting home, while Helena was more interested in the world they were in. We already knew Karen has spent her time since she arrived pouring money into trans-dimensional research. Heck, we even already knew Karen had a thing for boob windows.
The banter between Karen and Helena isn’t terrible, and the flashback does confirm that Helena’s mother is Selina Kyle, but it mostly seems to be there because all of the other issues have had flashbacks. I appreciate that Levitz is trying to balance the action with the story of how they got to this point, but unless those flashbacks are going to advance the story, they’re just filler. Even next month’s issue, which promises to show us the first encounter of Michale Holt and Karen Starr, can’t boast any new information.
Ultimately, though, it’s the way this issue uses female stereotypes as a crutch that really sends it into the toilet. I’m actually more offended at the laziness of relying on a stereotype to define these characters than I am at the perpetuation of said stereotypes. I could accept Karen as a bit of a horndog if she was also depicted as anything else, but since the slutty/bookish dynamic was easier to write in that scene, that’s all we got. It’s insulting to the characters and the readers, who could watch Sex and the City or something if they really wanted to see that shit.
I think giving this title through September to improve is charitable enough, though I kind of wonder how the dynamic will change now that the Huntress and Power Girl are more public figures. They may have avoided meeting up with their trans-dimensional family members, but Batman and Superman may take an interest in them after this whole Hakkou thing is over. I may stick around for another arc, but that’s really more out of optimism than any actual faith in this creative team.
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?