Today, Peter and Drew are discussing Worlds’ Finest 0, originally released September 5, 2012. Worlds’ Finest 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Peter: There is something to be said for the best-friend formula for dramas. You see it all the time with things like buddy-cop dramas and best-friend roommates. However, there are some basic formulaic elements that must be present for it to work well. Up to this point, Worlds’ Finest has been lacking. Trust me, I know. Hell, we all know. We constantly talk about what could make this book better, and what it’s specific issues are. No matter how long that list is, it must start with the basic components of friendship and duality.
This issue takes place long before the events of Worlds’ Finest #1. In fact, it begins before Helena and Kara even meet. The first scene shows Helena in her first foray as Robin. She thwarts a couple of muggers, proclaims herself Robin, and has a moment with her mother, The Huntress (…or Catwoman. The point is, this is the first appearance of Selena Kyle in the Earth-2 universe). Back at the Manor, Selina and Bruce argue about Helena’s attempts at heroics. After a heated argument, they do what all super-hot superhero couples do; they make out. Helena, of course does was every teenage girl does; gets grossed out. Meanwhile, in Micronesia, Superman is training Supergirl, in secret, to be his potential successor. He stresses upon her the importance of being hidden and safe, citing his loss of Lois. He then flies off to be, you know, Superman.
Helena, frustrated, continues her intense training. When a an alarm goes off in the cave, she knows something is wrong. She rushes to scene, only to discover that her mother has been killed and her father is hysterical. She speeds off the avenge her mother, and due to his injuries, Batman is left behind. Helena manages to take down a few bad guys, but then the building starts to come down around her. In the last moments, she is saved by Kara. Instant besties!
I will say, that this issue isn’t as bad as the previous ones have been. It still suffers from some of the same pitfalls as the previous issues, but not nearly to the same extremes. I think part that the reason is that Helena and Kara are barely together for the entire issue. In fact, the worst moment in the entire issue is when they are together at the end.
Paul Levitz does a pretty good job of crafting each of these characters independently. Their family dynamics are very interesting and surprisingly well done. Let’s break it down:
Helena has more page-time in this issue, and thus we will start there. We meet her mother, which is pretty cool. She is a lot like the Selina Kyle that we all know and love; sexy, slightly cocky, and oozing confidence. However, she really shines in her motherly moments, and defense of Helena’s heroic efforts.
Despite the lack of facial textures, and some faces that are too big for the cells they are in, I really like this sequence. It elevates Selina in my book, and at the same time, brings Bruce down a little bit. I mean, everyone holds Batman up on a pedestal, as they should. But here is acting like a normal dad, which, it turns out, I love. The Waynes seem more like an everyday family, except for – you know – the superheroics.
Kara’s segment is a little bit less focused on her, looking instead at her relationship with Superman. In fact, it’s probably only good because Superman is there. At the same time, Superman is being a little overprotective of his cousin. I mean, she has the same powers as him; she isn’t human like Lois. I am curious about Superman’s scars, but I’ll let that one go.
While a lot of this issue worked, it really comes down to one thing: this book worked because there are better characters in this issue. Neither Kara and Helena, had a whole lot to do in this issue – Batman, Huntress/Catwoman, and Superman stole the show. Also, Levitz has a problem with overall campiness, but when using the other characters, it’s not as cheesy as the earlier issues of Worlds’ Finest. The writing and the art just aren’t a good match for these characters or this story. News flash: after this zero issue, I am taking a break from Worlds’ Finest. I’ll keep an eye on it, but I don’t think that it is going to improve anytime soon.
Drew: Nobody can blame you for dropping this title. In fact, let’s go ahead and make it official: Retcon Punch is removing Worlds’ Finest from our pull. It just relies too much on reductive stereotypes and unrealistic dialogue. That would be a problem for any title, but when the problems apply specifically to the main characters, you end up with something nigh unreadable.
Removing the horrible relationship between Helena and Karen for this issue is a good choice, but expecting either one of them to carry an emotional story completely ignores that they’re undeveloped, boring, and kind of unpleasant characters. Without any goodwill to count on, the indulgence of going back to see how it all began is a bit like an endoscopy — seeing where shit comes from doesn’t make it interesting.
There are far more things wrong with this title than we could have hoped a single issue to solve, but it would have been nice if this could have at least attempted to address them. My biggest beef with this title is that the central relationship — the actual dynamic of this duo — is completely unexplored. Levitz has made a point of showing how “different” these characters are from one another (or, at least how different the stereotypes they adhere to are), but it’s never led to any actual conflict. They just roll their eyes at eachother, openly acknowledging that none of this actually matters.
Wouldn’t a story about two people who don’t really get along stuck in an alternate dimension be kind of interesting? Or they do get along, but they have some kind of motivation for doing things? Or they don’t have motivations, but they’re still written well? Or they’re not written well, but the title is at least fun? Any of those premises would work, but Levitz seems committed to the “boring and bad” model he’s laid in the previous four issues.
Hell, even internal logic would improve this issue. Check out this exchange right at the end:
Helena remarks that it’s “totally weird” that the soldiers she was fighting had technology “like nothing on Earth,” as if the thought of alien technology is a foreign concept. Two panels later Karen reminds us that Apakolips has already visited Earth-2, SO EVERYBODY IS ALREADY FAMILIAR WITH THE IDEA OF ALIENS AND THEIR TECHNOLOGY. In fact, that technology looks more-or-less identical to the boom tubes Apokoliptians use to get to Earth in the first place. It’s essentially impossible to be familiar with Apokolips and not know what a boom tube is. I thought Helena was supposed to be the smart one (which I was able to remember in spite of the fact that she never wears glasses in this issue).
Also, if this is a world where Apokalips is an ongoing concern (Superman says they’re at war), why is Helena bothering with beating up street toughs? Would there even be street toughs in a world where the anti-life equation has been introduced? This doesn’t feel like a planet that has an invasion problem, which is an odd choice for a title that often suffers from a lack of tension.
Kevin Maguire’s art is okay, but I don’t understand why Helena always needs to look so constipated. I was particularly distracted by moment when she first sees her mother’s corpse, but also apparently really has to pee:
I get that Maguire can’t trust the dialogue to convey much (“Nooo0” aside), but did he have to make Helena’s reaction so overwrought? I understand that she’s a kid, so maybe hasn’t developed the quiet strength we later see when she more-or-less gives up on returning to Earth-2, but she’s also Bruce Wayne’s daughter; shouldn’t she be able to take a parent’s death with a little more dignity?
Who am I kidding? Now I’m straining credulity by pretending to care about these characters. Levitz never has, so I don’t know why I should. This will be one of the easiest titles we’ve ever dropped, since there’s never really been so much as a glimmer of hope that it might improve. It’s big of Peter to offer to keep tabs, but with this title’s track record, there’s little chance we’ll miss anything. Good riddance.
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?