Review: Worlds' Finest Vol. 3: Control Issues trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When I re-read Paul Levitz's second volume of Worlds' Finest in preparation for the third, I liked it a little better than I did originally, and this made me optimistic for the third volume. Unfortunately, what problems the second volume had are even greater in Worlds' Finest Vol. 3: Control Issues; what had seemed promising emerges as a really poor effort. I have wanted to like this book from the outset, and indeed once again what Levitz promises for the next volume threatens to bring me back, but by the third round I think I've learned my lesson enough that Worlds' Finest is going to fall well to the bottom of the reading pile.

[Review contains spoilers]

The book's first chapter, issue #13, is indicative of its overall problems. Levitz has Huntress and Power Girl break into a government building looking for information on New God Desaad and the takeover of Power Girl's company; the pair is attacked by and defeats a giant Apokoliptian dog; cut scene of Desaad being evil; Huntress and Power Girl go to a safe house, banter for a page, and then the dog attacks again; Desaad is evil again; and then the heroes defeat the dog again.

Levitz's story would seem to have plot development at least in the fact that the characters change location, but that they're attacked by the same enemy after just a page of banal dialogue suggests the issue is needlessly padded. Basically it's just one long fight scene made worse by Levitz's thin attempt to make it anything more so. The Apokoliptian dog never appears again, and no aspect of the fight reveals anything new or important about the heroes nor about Desaad. The book would be exactly the same without this issue; there's a story here with a beginning, middle, and an end, but no serious development.

And the second chapter is basically the same, as Huntress and Power Girl fight Parademons before being whisked away to Desaad's lair; frankly, if the book had a couple pages introduction and then immediately moved to the third chapter with Desaad himself, the book again would be about the same. But even the confrontation with Desaad -- the draw of this book, for me -- is lackluster; that Huntress and Power Girl come from Earth 2 doesn't seem to matter so much as, generically, Desaad just wants to feed on fear and power. Power Girl fights Apokoliptian monsters for a bit, Desaad gets the drop on her but then, just as suddenly, decides to let her go, and the characters are out the other side. It is terribly anti-climactic, and not at all what one would hope for from the first major appearance of Desaad in the New 52.

The three issues that follow, however, lack even the benefit of the cache of Desaad's presence. After the fight with Desaad, Power Girl's powers are unsteady, so she tries various means to jumpstart them (amidst various banter with Huntress); meanwhile Huntress stalks an arsonist who emits shadow weapons from her tattoos, named, ridiculously, "Tats." Their conflict is rote superhero storytelling with no specific ties to Huntress or Power Girl, such that this could be a Batgirl or Green Arrow story as easily as a Huntress one. In the end, Power Girl defeats Tats's demon master and ... that's about it. The characters go eat dinner.

Quite possibly, the fact that nothing really happens in Control Issues may be this title's attempt to keep up with a number of other series, mainly Earth 2 and also Batman/Superman, with which it crosses over in the next volume. But the result is stories that almost feel like fill-in issues except written by the book's main writer, which makes them all the more disappointing.

Even without strong stories, Worlds' Finest might float along nicely if, as in the first volume, Levitz made greater hay about this being the story of the prodigies of Superman and Batman, grown-up and on their own. But though the audience got some of that early on, it's largely fallen away at this point, and over a dozen issues in, Levitz hasn't developed the characters beyond these original characterizations. Never, indeed, do Huntress and Power Girl significantly disagree or find themselves at cross purposes; they fight a bad guy, and then Levitz substitutes real characterization with "gee whiz" conversations where Power Girl says something off-color (but never too off-color) or they remark again on Power Girl's outgoing versus Huntress's reserved personas. By the third volume, I feel I'm reading the same thing again and again.

There's a good marketing mind behind all of this, though, that I picked up this volume because of Desaad's promised appearance, and the next book has Superman and Batman. It's unfortunate that the Batman/Superman Vol. 2 collection seems to lack one of the relevant issues from Worlds' Finest; I will be slow to picking up the next volume, to be sure, but the Batman/Superman crossover issues makes me much more likely to do so than if it weren't present.

I have still enjoyed Paul Levitz's Legion work quite a bit (though I never did pick up that third New 52 trade), but his Worlds' Finest has lacked sophistication from the start and at this point I've about reached my limit with it. Really the sole bright spot in the second half of the book is Superboy's R.B. Silva, drawing in an interesting, unusually sketchy style for the artist, whether due to inker Joe Weems or "breakdowns" by Scott McDaniel. But if the Desaad appearance in Worlds' Finest Vol. 3: Control Issues piqued your interest, my take is it's not enough to warrant the price of admission.

[Includes original covers, sketch pages]

Next week, indeed we'll follow Huntress and Power Girl over into Batman/Superman Vol. 2: Game Over and Jeff Lemire's Teen Titans: Earth One. Don't miss it!
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5 comments:

  1. I agree with everything you say here. I read the individual issues as they were coming out, and nearly dropped the title because of them. I got the sense that the story was spinning its wheels until things further developed in other titles like Earth 2. My feeling was that Levitz had a plan for these characters and this title but had to wait to implement it.

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    1. Appreciate the comment. I guess one can kind of see in the book where Levitz is having to keep pace with Earth 2, and especially to put Power Girl and Huntress in the right position for the Batman/Superman crossover, and no doubt that's tough on a writer.

      At the same time, maybe unfairly, in a perfect world I'd like to see a writer say, "OK, my plans have been derailed/put on hold, but here's this great story I can tell in the meantime." The cause might be editorial interference, but the effect -- like a whole issue where they fight a dog, or the generic Tats storyline -- I can only see to blame on the writer.

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    2. Alternatively, he might be keeping himself on the book to make sure that Huntress and Power Girl don't get messed up by Worlds End and the New 52 in general.

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    3. And that may or may not be, but to my mind, it's still incumbent on the writer to offer up relevant, meaningful stories even if they're just marking time. Marking time for marking time's sake isn't worth my dollars.

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  2. This book pretty has much outlived its purpose by now. Issue #26 was even mistakenly solicited as the final one, but instead of cancelling the series, DC decided to keep it going with Earth 2 flashback tales featuring Superman and Batman. Maybe the plan is for Huntress and Power Girl to be back after World's End is over, but with sales the way they are, I'm not sure the book will still be around by then.

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