Review: Worlds' Finest Vol. 1: The Lost Daughters of Earth 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Worlds' Finest Vol. 1: Lost Daughters of Earth 2An interesting premise and some wisely re-imagined characters carries Paul Levitz's Worlds' Finest: The Lost Daughters of Earth 2 a very far distance. Unfortunately, the number of issues collected here outpaces the utility of the plot, to the point where the book begins to feel decompressed; the juxtaposition of the past and present with artists Kevin Macguire and George Perez respectively is entertaining and certainly pretty to look at, but this too gets gimicky after a while as it fails to come to any cohesive point.

[Review contains spoilers]

The best part of Paul Levitz's Worlds' Finest is his new Earth 2-born Power Girl and Huntress. Though the two initially seem much like their pre-Flashpoint counterparts (as did Huntress in Levitz's Crossbow at the Crossroads miniseries), later in the book Levitz begins to differentiate and re-imagine their voices. Huntress is, in comparison to the former Helena Bertinelli, somewhat bookish and reserved, preferring to remain in the shadows; Power Girl is bold but also surprisingly flirty, more tawdry than one would expect considering that she was once Earth 2's Supergirl.

The two are friends but not close, only having recently reunited; Power Girl Karen Starr nee Kara Zor-El has spent the past five years in the spotlight, building a tech company in an attempt to find a way back to Earth 2, while Huntress has fought crime but largely remained hidden.

Power Girl is brash enough that at times it's hard to fully sympathize with her character; also, that Levitz chooses to have Karen buy her way into corporate dominance rather than on her own smarts, as in the previous continuity, seems a step backward. Huntress, however, is a more interesting study -- a new Robin, the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, raised from birth for the role and having experienced all the pressure and adventures that go along with that. Levitz only scratches the surface of the stories he could tell, well aside from the present Worlds' Finest action.

But most of what this book establishes, it establishes in the first issue. In the past, Power Girl and Huntress are mistakenly shunted to "our" Earth, as also seen in James Robinson's Earth 2: The Gathering, they filch a little of Bruce Wayne's money, and they set up lives for themselves; in the present, they fight a radioactive hulk named Hakkou that's bent on destroying the device that will send them home. Little about that, if at all, changes over the next successive three issues; Levitz shows them continuing to set up their lives, but there are no surprises there that change our understanding of the characters in the present, nor does their continuing fight with the one-note Hakkou reveal anything about how they became stranded across dimensions.

Levitz would seem to take the Lost approach (or do we call it "the Arrow approach" now?), paralleling the present with the characters formative moments in the past. Worlds' Finest has a classic art team, and Maguire especially sells Power Girl and Huntress's clowning around and the differences in their personalities. But again, well-drawn flashbacks aren't enough -- Levitz doesn't actually tie the past action to the present nor offer any new information, so four issues in, the book feels repetitious.

The fifth issue sets Huntress and Power Girl in separate adventures, but again what follows is mostly predictable -- Power Girl fights a rampaging machine in the sunlight, Huntress takes out a sniper in the night. The final issue is the book's Zero Month issue, and this is a good look at the characters' more interesting Supergirl and Robin personas, though I wonder whether Levitz has revealed here too early the circumstances of Selina Kyle's death.

At the same time, Levitz offers up plenty of other mysteries -- maybe too many. Power Girl's powers don't work right on "our" Earth for some reason (though Levitz is never specific how they're different), Huntress has apparently gained a modicum of invulnerability somehow, there's a mysterious belt that made the trip across dimensions with them, Hakkou has some sort of dimension-hopping in his background, and apparently even the circumstances of Power Girl's original arrival on Earth 2 are suspect (it would be an interesting turn if it ended up that Power Girl was sent from "our" Earth to Earth 2 originally and not vice versa as in pre-Flashpoint continuity). Levitz sums up these questions at the end of the fourth chapter, perhaps too helpfully; mystery is fine, but the list of questions only serves as a reminder of all that hasn't been explored already six issues into this series.

I really enjoyed James Robinson's first Earth 2 collection, but unfortunately this second book in the franchise doesn't live up to the first. From writer -- Paul Levitz created Huntress, once upon a time -- to artists to characters and concept, Worlds' Finest: The Lost Daughters of Earth 2 should be a book that can't miss, but unfortunately some good character work only takes it so far. Possibly Levitz had to bide his time here to line up with other events in the DC Universe; hopefully that's the case and this series's second outing will be better than its first.

[Includes original covers, costume designs and sketches by various artists]

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  1. I am particularly interested in this book because of the clever use of punctuation in the title.

  2. I'm reading Huntress DarKnight Daughter (based on your pre-crisis recommended reading), World's Finest is on my radar but I've not tried it yet. How does this Helena compare to Levitz's original creation?

    1. Levitz's Huntress here is closer to his original than Helena Bertinelli, we can say for sure, but I didn't necessarily feel there were distinct similarities between his early and "new" Huntresses otherwise.

      If anything, the original Huntress -- working in a law firm, dallying with Harry Sims -- seems more mature than the present Huntress, who skews younger, not naive necessarily, but less worldly. Levitz takes great pains here to differentiate the bawdy, even promiscuous Power Girl with the more timid, insular Huntress, and that's different from the Silver Age depiction, I think.

    2. Thanks CE, I'm a big fan of the original Helena Wayne and your review sounds more positive than single issue reviews I'd read, so I'll have to check this out :)

    3. Unfortunately there's not a whole lot I can recommend about this book, but Levitz's portrayal of the new Huntress (or former Earth 2 Robin) is probably the best part.

    4. Thanks, sucker that I am for Wayne family members, that's enough to sell it to me XD