Review: Worlds' Finest Vol. 5: Homeward Bound trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Worlds' Finest has one more volume to go before it ends, but I consider this in some respects "the end" because it's the last volume to specifically focus on Power Girl and Huntress's quest to get home to Earth-2. This is a book that's never ceased to frustrate me, and Worlds' Finest Vol. 5: Homeward Bound is no exception. The story offers a lot of pages of contrived plots that don't really matter in the grand scheme, and ultimately the climax of the book isn't worth the twenty-six issues it took to get there. This could possibly be blamed on the title's growing convergence, no pun intended, with Earth 2 and Earth 2: Worlds End, but at the same time what's come before hasn't been much better. As much good, Birds of Prey-esque stories that could be told from regularly teaming up the two heroes, there's not much to show for the last two years.

[Review contains spoilers]

Homeward Bound stumbles out of the gate with an issue that picks up after Power Girl and Huntress's last failed attempt to go home, deviates into an eight-page flashback of Huntress being brutalized by some hunters that has no connection at all to the present action, and then ends with a drawn-out scene, the only point of which being that Power Girl sells her company. That flashback scene, we find out in a Secret Origins story shunted to the end, is when Helena Wayne decided to be Huntress on "our" Earth rather than Robin, but that's not explicit in the scene itself.

There's a Power Girl Secret Origins story too that fits appropriately at the end, but the Huntress story should have been at the beginning. Even then, the first issue still reads oddly; at the beginning of this series writer Paul Levitz presented flashbacks to when the heroes first crossed dimensions, but those have since fallen away, and this scene doesn't seem to continue this trend so much as it's just tacked on.

But to some extent, these kinds of flashbacks might be exactly what Homeward Bound needs. Instead, the next two issues have Power Girl trying to generate sufficient nuclear power open a portal home, which conveniently blacks out Boston just as a group of (ill-defined) terrorists are readying to steal a dirty bomb from MIT. Huntress spends those two issues chasing one of the men, she captures him, and that's it. There's a bit about one of Power Girl's assistants (who becomes the new Power Girl), but for the most part Huntress vs. the terrorist has no more purpose in the book than if she fought the Joker or Giganta. As shoehorned as that initial flashback is, at least it explores the characters, whereas the middle of this book is boilerplate superheroics, gobbling pages.

The book's final two issues commit the additional sin of teasing the presence of Earth 2 characters on their covers, even as no such characters actually appear in the book. The heroes' return home is surprisingly anti-climactic, with no good explanation given for why this going-home technology should suddenly work. Levitz spends a bunch of detailed pages on the new Power Girl Tanya Spears who's not even continuing in this title, while Power Girl (the original) and Huntress fade out in a generic fight scene with Parademons.

After all of that, Levitz's Futures End tie-in issue is astoundingly relevant (among a variety of Futures End tie-ins with nothing to do with the miniseries proper). Power Girl meets an important and tragic death in Futures End, and this tie-in rightly fulfills the purpose of a tie-in by showing how she arrived on the future Cadmus Island in the first place; the issue also uses central Futures End characters Deathstroke and Fifty Sue. Given that Worlds' Finest's companion title Earth 2's Futures End tie-in was contradictory to Futures End at best (and nonsensical at worst), and given Worlds' Finests's other problems, Worlds' Finest's contribution is a nice surprise, and with sharp art by Yildiray Cinar as well.

Power Girl seems to be being used better as a comedic foil for Harley Quinn over in those titles. It's ironic because in the Seinfeld-ian "book about nothing" that Levitz sometimes delves into -- evidenced in Worlds' Finest Vol. 5: Homeward Bound in Power Girl flirting with her co-workers, or another repetitious conversation about Power Girl's sexual appetites and Huntress's prudishness -- there's similarities to the Harley Quinn title's faux workaday aesthetic. Worlds' Finest has always felt a bit caught between what it seems Levitz is drawn to do with the characters -- write them sitting around talking -- and how DC markets the book as a traditional superhero title. Possibly if Worlds' Finest could have embraced its less superheroic side, it could have avoided some of the more middling stories along the way.

[Includes original covers, Futures End tie-in alternate cover]
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  1. I agree with your review 100%. I had such high hopes for this title when it first came out, but I was so disappointed in it by the end. Most of the time it felt like it was just spinning its wheels for some reason, and even when this arc rolled around and they managed to get back to Earth 2 it still felt like a letdown. My suspicion is that editorial mandate forced Levitz to write the series the way he did, because I cannot believe that he would ever write a series like this when left to his own devices and creativity. He is much better than that.

    1. One of the reasons I'm curious to read Levitz's Dr. Fate. And I liked his recent Legion of Super-Heroes, IIRC.

  2. What do you do with the volumes that frustrate/you hate? Leave them in you collection, or bury them in the darkest basement you could find?

    1. Even a book that doesn't turn out so well stays in the collection!