Tuesday, 15 June 2010

World's Finest #2

A Tale Of Two Cities

Script: Karl Kesel
Pencils: Dave Taylor
Inks: Robert Campanella
Colorist/Separator: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Bill Oakley
Associate Editor: Joseph Illidge
Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Cover Artist: Dave Taylor and Robert Campanella
Cover Date: May 1999

Nine Years Ago...

Batman is mourning at Harrison Grey's grave, a year after his death. Sensing that Superman is approaching, he hides. Superman pays his respects, then calls Batman out of hiding. The two talk about what happened, how Grey ran out of fear of both of them. With tensions high, they prepare to depart, but instead get into an argument about each other's cities. Realising that their lack of trust and understanding of each other contributed to Grey's death, Superman makes a suggestion - they spend half the night in each other's cities to try and understand a little bit more about the worlds they come from.

First up is Gotham City, and Superman expresses his dislike of the gothic architecture that epitomises the city. Suddenly, Batman vanishes. In an exclusive club, the patrons are being robbed by a gang compirising of henchmen from various Gotham villains. Batman bursts in, fighting the henchmen. Superman arrives a few minutes later, using his super-powers to catch a spray of bullets fired at the victims. In the aftermath of the encounter, Superman realises that his presence has only heightened the unease of the victims.  He  gracefully makes an exit.

Outside, Superman suggests that Gotham might have an easier time with its crime if Batman became a public figure, someone that the inhabitants of the city would feel more comfortable with. Batman explains that without any super-powers, it is the fear he instils in the criminals that keeps him alive and fighting. They turn to discussing why each other turned down JLA membership. Batman was too busy, as was Superman, although Superman wishes that he was able to talk about aspects of his life with people who understand. As Superman attempts to hold out a hand of friendship, Batman tells him that it's time they visited Metropolis.

Before long, Superman and Batman come across a crook named Khodar, who claims to be from the future. Khodar has a device that allows him to control metal, and he uses it to trap a lady in railway tracks. With a train approaching, Batman tackles Khodar, whilst Superman brings the train to a halt before it can kill the lady. Despite being saved, the lady is petrified.

As dawn breaks, the heroes discuss the night's events. Superman has realised that his raw power and abilities have the power to instil fear in others. He tells Batman that his real reason for not joining the JLA was that he was concerned that he was too powerful, that people would have trouble trusting someone with so much power and that could have hurt the newly-formed League. Superman works as hard to make sure that he can be trusted as Batman does to make himself feared. Despite their differences, they agree that they made a good team that night, and agree to meet up once a year on the anniversaru of Harrison Grey's death. 

This second issue of the World's Finest mini-series sets up the format for the rest of the run, namely that Superman and Batman shall meet up once a year on the anniversary of the death of Harrison Grey, and we as the reader shall watch their relationship grow and develop as time passes and events in their lives shape how they view each other. In this first year, both Batman and Superman have been offered places in the JLA and have both declined. In Superman's eyes, this, combined with their failure to prevent Grey's death, gives the two common ground to start building a relationship, even a friendship, although Batman is far more closed off and unwilling to participate in this.

Kesel draws the comparisons between Superman and Batman in more obvious terms in this issue. Whereas the first issue delighted in the subtleties of this, especially in the opening sequence, here Superman and Batman tackle their differences head-on in downtime between their activities. It's interesting that the person with the most room to learn about himself is Superman, who is faced with the distrust that people can have in him as a result of his powers head-on. Batman is more assured with his place in the world, although he is sufficiently affected by the death of Grey to agree to the team-up.

The two menaces faced in Gotham and Metropolis are wonderfully goofy and lightweight. I really like the idea of a bunch of henchmen teaming up to pull a crime and to try and control their own place in the world, and the visuals of Batman taking down these brightly costumed goons work well. On the other side, the criminal from the future with a fantastic piece of technology kind of riffs on the recent (in the life of Superman) Xotar encounter from The Man of Steel Annual #4. There is an interesting moment where Superman decides that he doesn't have the time to save both the girl and the train, and he confronts the train with his super-strength and super-confidence. He seems to have gone in the complete opposite direction from his being unsure of his powers in Superman Annual #7 and Action Comics Annual #7, having a total and uneasing confidence in his abilties and what he can achieve. My reading of this has it that this, combined with his inherent otherworldliness, is what terrifies the girl so much. Well, that and her brush with a squishy crushed-by-a-train death...

The art here has tightened up from the first issue. Dave Taylor has a better control over Superman face, although the odd panel still seems unusual, such as Superman's first full appearance against the gang of henchmen on page 10. I particularly like the quiet moments at the start of the issue, where Superman's face is imbued with a great sense of expression. The colouring is also particularly effective, with (again) the opening graveyard scene flooded with gorgeous sunset oranges.

The Geeky Bits: As has already been covered, Superman was offered membership in the JLA in both The Man of Steel Annual #4, and JLA Year One . As Batman's continuity didn't receive a 'hard reset' after Crisis on Infinite Earths, I'm not so sure as to when he was first invited to the JLA.

Next on World of Superman:  Superman is pretty legendary, so it's about time we got into a story from the legendary series, Legends of the DC Universe. Crappy hyping aside, this is the first time we get James Robinson writing Superman himself, and having just finished with the whole War of the Superman/World of New Krypton era of Superman, I'm interested to see how his tales from 12 years ago stand up today.

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