Review: Worlds' Finest Vol. 4: First Contact trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Worlds' Finest Vol. 4: First Contact is a crossover with Batman/Superman, and I'd read that crossover before in Batman/Superman Vol. 2: Game Over. What was true in my review of the Batman/Superman book remains true here, that the problem with setting Worlds' Finest and Batman/Superman side-by-side is that the latter only serves to emphasize the significant shortcomings of the former. Additionally, there are errors both within the story and in the production of the Worlds' Finest Vol. 4 book itself.

Aside from the unending call of collection-completion, the main reason to pick up First Contact is because it better contextualizes the "First Contact" crossover than Batman/Superman does, though the relative importance of this is debatable. There's also a couple of significant revelations here regarding characters in the Earth 2 book, though again one has to decide if it's worth buying an entire other trade for a little information that will just as likely come out elsewhere.

[Review contains spoilers]

Batman/Superman Vol. 2: Game Over includes a three-part story unrelated to "First Contact," the four-part crossover, and an unrelated annual that I recall being pretty moving. The point is, Batman/Superman (and Superman/Batman before it) has traditionally been an episodic book where there's not so much an ongoing story as separate multi-part Superman and Batman stories. This suggests -- and Worlds' Finest Vol. 4: First Contact confirms it -- that "First Contact" is really Worlds' Finest's story in which Batman/Superman happens to take part.

The "whos" and "whys" of "First Contact" are found in the Worlds Finest annual and issue #19, which are collected in this book but not Batman/Superman, though again, that information isn't likely of utmost importance to Batman/Superman readers. For instance, reading "First Contact" in Batman/Superman, one doesn't necessarily know how Huntress ended up in a cage in the Batcave, though from context clues we can intuit she snuck in, Batman caught her, etc. Worlds' Finest issue #19, in about five pages, shows Huntress actually sneaking in, but there's nothing especially noteworthy here and the rest of the issue involves Huntress and Power Girl talking and eating and recapping what the Worlds' Finest audience already knows about Power Girl's power surges. Having read Worlds' Finest #19 in this fourth volume, the reader can say they really know how events unfolded, but precious little will actually have been gained.

The Worlds' Finest Annual #1 is meatier as an Earth 2 Robin and Supergirl story and a prologue of sorts to "First Contact," and with a major Earth 2 revelation. Even as my enjoyment of Paul Levitz writing Huntress and Power Girl has waned (mostly due to the same character tics repeated over and over), I still like his Robin/Supergirl team-ups, and the presence of the Earth 2 Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all worked to keep my interest in the story. There's some teen melodrama here, but having read "First Contact" before I now understood that aspect's importance. And I found it curious that the Earth 2 Fury seemed to be the story's villain, and yet the cover shows Supergirl fighting Wonder Woman; that's clear by the issue's end, and there's also a revelation as to Earth 2's Wonder Woman/Fury connection. (Worlds' Finest Vol. 4 also reveals something about the Earth 2 Superman, but that much is in "First Contact" also in Batman/Superman, whereas the Wonder Woman secret is only found in Worlds' Finest, at least until Earth 2 tackles it.)

Worlds' Finest Vol. 4 and I got off on the wrong foot immediately, however, in that this volume includes Worlds' Finest #18, which was also included, page for page, in Worlds' Finest Vol. 3: Control Issues. That earlier trade collected six issues, and this later trade collects seven issues including the issue #18, so if we exclude that, the customer still pays the same amount more or less per issue, even if many of those are also reprinted in Batman/Superman. But there's a significant difference between reprinting issues between different series, and reprinting an entire issue between two books of the same series. Even if issue #18 is necessary reading for "First Contact" (which, with issue #19, it's not), it's a fair assumption for any book series that the audience has read the book immediately previous, and there's no call -- other than a mistake -- to reprint the same issue in back-to-back collections.

Reading First Contact and the annual will help assuage the confusion in "First Contact" that the Kaizen Gamorra here is not the original Kaizen found in Team 7 (and late of Birds of Prey Vol. 4: The Cruelest Cut) but rather his son Ken. Again, Supergirl falling in love with and then failing to save the Earth 2 Ken reads a bit thin, but it at least explains Power Girl's feelings for him later (even if in that, too, Levitz verges on silly instead of moving). But some confusion still remains between Worlds' Finest's Levitz and artist R. B. Silva and Batman/Superman's Greg Pak and Jae Lee, in that Lee draws Kaizen as the senior and Silva draws Kaizen ("Ken") as the junior (a good cross-section of comics character databases are therefore confused about Kaizen Gamorra and his relationship with Apokolips and Earth 2 versus his son's).

And though I've enjoyed Silva on Superboy, there's really no comparing Silva's animated style, more traditionally found in comics, with Lee's sleek, edgy, architectural lines. And important comparator is that Lee tends to underemphasize Power Girl's truly ridiculous costume window, if not turning the character away from the camera entirely, whereas Silva constantly emphasizes the same, and grows and shrinks it at will. This is in addition to Pak's rather tight, succinct narration versus Levitz's tendency to have the characters gab through the scenes, often with odd slang. I was struck by a suggestion in the book that Huntress and Power Girl are about seventeen here, which maybe helps explain why Levitz has them speak the way he does, though it's entirely incongruous with Power Girl Karen Starr owning her own company and so on.

After Worlds' Finest Vol. 4: First Contact, Paul Levitz has only one more collection starring Huntress and Power Girl before the book turns to Superman and Batman for a volume and then ends. I have never been wholly satisfied with a collection of Worlds' Finest and yet I keep purchasing it, and will again as the book's connections to both Earth 2 and also Teen Titans get stronger. More's the shame on me, I guess, and overall Worlds' Finest's effect is to make me slower to check out Levitz's new Dr. Fate series, though now I've been hearing good things about that book, so it's well worth wondering if I'll ever learn ...

[Includes original and variant covers, penciled pages]
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2 comments:

  1. Levitz started out strong on Worlds' Finest, but I believe he was hindered by having to work toward Futures End and World's End and having to synch with Earth 2 toward the end. For me, it didn't help that there was so much emphasis on the New Gods, that George Perez and Kevin Maguire left the series, or that it was tied to the dystopian crap that seems to be "in" at the moment.

    As a huge JSA fan, I would love it if Levitz would be given an opportunity to re-imagine the JSA with, perhaps, Nicola Scott, Jerry Ordway, or Ethan Van Sciver on art. His Doctor Fate -- which you should be reading -- is the book I look forward to reading most each month and is my favorite of the June DCYou launches.

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    1. I have a slightly different take; I think Levitz started strong, and with great artists, but said everything he had to say about the characters early on and then the rest was just repetition (maybe needed to be a miniseries instead). And I felt the New Gods just weren't used well -- take Desaad, for instance, who captures the heroes and then ... just lets them go.

      I wouldn't ever say no to new work from Jerry Ordway, but I didn't find Levitz and Ordway's previous pairing on JSA (roundabouts Infinite Crisis) so strong. I do appreciate your recommendation of Dr. Fate, though.

      Thanks for the comment!

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