Tim Reviews World’s Finest #1
I’ve got to say, I approached World’s Finest with more than a little trepidation. For DC to be introducing their infamous Infinite Earths-style cosmology to the New 52, which was supposedly a way of wiping the slate clean and freeing them from the shackles of convoluted continuity, it feels like a step backwards. Worse, it feels like a flimsy excuse to introduce heroes they couldn’t elegantly introduce in the first wave and pandering to those who still insist that the original Green Lantern was an interesting character (seriously, when Hal Jordan is considered a cool, dynamic upgrade for your title, you are doing something wrong). In addition, Power Girl and Huntress were never characters I considered particularly original or worth following; they might as well be Generic Female Superhero and Generic Female Urban Vigilante, every time I’ve read them previously. So, with all those preconceptions I was carrying with me, World’s Finest left me pleasantly surprised.
The concept sees Power Girl and Huntress as refugees (and possibly last survivors) of another DC Universe, where they were Supergirl and Robin (it’s implied Huntress is Batman’s daughter, but it never outright says it, and I don’t know my DC trivia well enough to be certain). Arriving on ‘our’ Earth five years ago after a climatic battle with Darkseid that saw their world decimated, Supergirl becomes a jet-setting technology mogul aiming to build a portal back to their world, while Robin transforms herself into Huntress, and carries on doing what she does best. The issue uses a flashback structure, with George Perez handling the present day and Kevin Maguire tracking the two heroes in the past. Both artists are fantastic storytellers, but I can’t help but wish they were the other way around. Perez’s art has a distinctly old-school feel (that may come from having read his run on The Avengers with Kurt Busiek) while Maguire shows a bit more flair in terms of layouts, although Rosemary Cheetham’s colouring work on the Maguire segments gives them a beautiful, slightly washed-out feeling that complements their flashback nature.
The issue rattles along in terms of pace, establishing the characters and throwing in some action, as well as developing some links with sister title Earth Two, without losing itself in a swirl of references. Paul Levitz establishes a really fun mood in this issue – duos are rare in comics but more common on television, and this comic sometimes feels like a freewheeling sitcom about two girls fighting crime, like Absolutely Fabulous with superpowers. It’s not that the characters aren’t treated seriously or lack depth, but there’s a lightness of touch that is admirable in the modern comics world, which tends towards the grim and gritty still. There’s some cheesecake when Power Girl rushes into a fire in her dress, which ends up strategically torn and burnt, but this issue is leaps and bounds ahead of DC’s previous track record with women in the New 52.
I can’t say there’s anything here that has me scrambling for the next issue – the story ends on about as generic a cliff-hanger as you can get, and there’s nothing to really suggest that the title is reaching for anything beyond standard superhero action done well, but it is done well, and as a first issue it’s super accessible, even with all the Earth Two nonsense it has to address. If you’re looking for something fun and well made but disposable, you could do a hell of a lot worse than World’s Finest.
The first page of World’s Finest #1 is really rather interesting – in a series of tight close-ups, it sets up two characters living double lives, and establishes an air of a mystery. The last page isn’t too shabby either – as Tim says, it’s your standard-issue ‘villain reveal’ cliffhanger, but it’s fun, and neatly laid out. What’s inbetween, however, is something of a mixed bag.
That’s perhaps inevitable, given that the issue is split down the middle by a flashback sequence, explaining who these two characters are (alternate-universe Robin and Supergirl, from Earth 2), and how they came to be (climactic battle, Big Bad chased through a portal, trapped in the standard DC universe).
That split comes hand in hand with a change in art, from tight George Pérez linework to a digitally-assisted Kevin Maguire. The styles aren’t a good fit. I’m not the biggest fan of Pérez, but his strength is in his characters’ expressive faces, which rely on a lot of delicate lines. On the first flashback page, the focal point is Supergirl flying towards us. Her features are rendered with the minimum of strokes, and the rest of her face is given shape by airbrushed colours. It couldn’t be much further from the opening pages’ rather traditional art if it tried. Worse, Supergirl is unconvincingly posed, and her expression suggests she’s trying to pass a particularly troublesome kidney stone. And don’t let your eye be drawn to Robin at the top of page, who resembles a distressed turtle in profile.
The writing fluctuates too. While the banter between the two is fine – never anything special, but buoyant enough to carry the issue along – the flashback throws in some narration from Supergirl. And cranks the Sixth Form prose up to full: “Charging through the hellish flames and smoke, feeling like we were Earth’s last chance… and maybe we were.”
There’s a spark of something in the idea, and on the odd page it nearly catches light, but overall it’s not enough. By the end, Robin and Supergirl have become Huntress and Power Girl. That’s the goal of the issue, and one which it serves, but it never does it more than functionally. It sets up the pieces, explains them, and then starts to move them around, but that’s all – just getting from the first page to the last one.