By: Greg Pak (story), Jae Lee (art), June Chung (colors)
The Story: Which World’s Finest is the finest?
The Review: The Earth-2 arc that led off this series was a strong storyline whose promise was nearly ruined by the following arc that turned Batman and Superman into living avatars controlled by the collective nerd-rage of a host of gamers. Returning to Earth-2 is thus a wise decision on Pak’s part. It reminds discouraged fans of what made this title initially attractive, and it pairs this World’s Finest with that of another world, making for a mighty fine foursome.
I don’t know how Paul Levitz will handle the Batman, Superman, Power Girl, Huntress dynamic in coming chapters of this storyline,* but Pak gives them an endearing chemistry, surprisingly devoid of the misunderstandings that plague encounters between people of different worlds. Even Batman discovers, to his slight horror, “In my heart, I believe every word [Huntress] says[.]” This immediate trust lets Pak bypass obligatory conflicts to focus on the story at hand.
It’s a smart choice that doesn’t quite make up for the fact that the issue starts in medias res, with Huntress already trapped in the Batcave and Power Girl suffering from some power-destabilizing problem, without much context as to how they got there. Pak offers enough details for us to get by, but for people who don’t read World’s Finest (where the missing answers most likely are), you can’t help coming into the issue feeling like you’re missing something.
Aside from that slight shortcoming, Pak gets the essentials right. Right off the bat, Superman and Power Girl have the stronger rapport, exchanging a high-five within pages of their first meeting. This might seem a little strange, considering Clark is still on merely civil terms with his actual cousin after a couple years, but obviously, Karen comes from a very different place—literally—than Kara. Karen’s just friendlier, for one thing, but she’s also had a longer time to get over her trust issues with her cousin, even if Clark isn’t technically her cousin.
But the important takeaway from the issue is that Clark is only technically different from the Superman Karen knows. Since the encounter with his Earth-2 doppelganger, Clark has grown, both in age and maturity, thus closing the gap between himself and Clark-2. No wonder Karen immediately puts her faith in Clark despite warning Helena to do the opposite.
Maybe there’s good reason for Helena to take extra caution in approaching Bruce. Unlike Clark, the differences between him and his Earth-2 counterpart are as apparent as ever, in personality as well as the more insurmountable fact that not only is Bruce not Helena’s father, he’s not old enough to even resemble her father. Pak treats this humorously in a scene where the two go undercover as Bruce Wayne and his date, but you can imagine this becoming a more emotionally troubling obstacle for Helena down the line. Karen may have lost her cousin, but she’s about to adopt a new one; Helena lost someone even closer, and she can’t fool herself into having Bruce take his place.
I frequently question whether Lee’s particular style is best used on superhero titles, but it looks pretty good here. He’s far more comfortable with direct views of the characters in this issue, instead of his usual, shadowed angles. The overall effect, especially with Chung’s brighter, more vibrant colors, is to make everyone involved look more open, inclusive, and heroic, with the appropriate exception of Batman. If there’s one flaw that Lee still hasn’t gotten past, it’s his aversion to detail. His settings are suggested with the minimalism of an off-Broadway play, like the president’s ball in New Gamorra, which Lee renders as one (or two) flowing drapes against a bare background.
Conclusion: Pak gets somewhat back into form with a likable portrayal of both sets of Worlds’ Finest, but the substance is also somewhat lacking.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Just to let you know, I have no intention of following the story into World’s Finest.