Monday, 13 September 2010

World's Finest #5

Ok, I got back to this issue and got some panel scans uploaded, as well as fixing the unexpected truncated synopsis - sorry, recap fans!

At the back end of last week, the final episode of my stint on Amazing Spider-Man Classics went live. A few hours beforehand I strapped on the 'phones and mic and recorded my final contribution, almost two months to the day after the first attempt at recording. With the news that the hosts of the podcast are going to change their recording schedules - apparently, recording a podcast for 7 hours straight, the equivalent of a working day, is pretty hard even if it's not the middle of the night - this makes me the longest guest star on ASMC. Oh yeah, I am amazing!

In other news, I finally got to see Scott Pilgrim vs The World a couple of nights ago. Here in the UK, the film's release came a couple of weeks after the US release, and I've been waiting for my work schedule to allow me a proper night out before I went to see it. I absolutely loved it. I've only read the first three volumes of the series, but what I say adapted on the screen had the tone and feel of the books, and was far funnier than I expected it to be. The only moment that took me out of the film as Aubrey Plaza's portrayal of Julie, which just didn't feel like it fitted with the rest of the film. Everything else was absolutely brilliant, but props have to go to Brandon Routh, who made Todd so wonderful to watch. his delivery of the 'Tell it to the cleaning lady on Monday' speech was worth the price of the ticket alone. What I really enjoyed was that the theatre was mostly full, with quite a few people who I would guess had never read or heard of the original books, and who thoroughly enjoyed theirselves. It's nice for this geek to watch other people enjoy one of his loves, especially when it's one that doesn't occupy a space in the national consciousness like Superman, Batman or Spider-man does.

However, as great as Scott Pilgrim vs The World was, it had no Superman or Batgirl in it. I wonder what does... oh yes! This!

No scans as of yet, it's rather late for me to start scanning stuff in. I hope to get back to this later this week and pop a few in, in particular the panel where Superman and Batgirl start to fly.

A Woman's Work

Words: Karl Kesel
Pencils: Dave Taylor & Tom Morgan
Inks: Robert Campanella
Color/Separator: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Clem Robins
Associate Editor: Joseph Illidge
Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Special Thanks to Barry Kitson and Peter Doherty
Cover Artists: Dave Taylor & Robert Campanella
Cover Date: August 1999
Release Date: 16/06/1999

Six Years Ago. Two burglars attempt to break into the Gotham Public Library, but are stopped by the appearance of Batgirl. The crooks attempt to escape, but are caught by Superman. Batgirl acts nervously around Superman, until he explains that he is not timing her, and that he is not in Gotham on a case but on personal business. Batgirl unmasks the criminals, telling Superman that they are from Metropolis and affiliated with The 100. Surprised, Superman accepts Batgirl's offer to team up and work out what The 100 wants in Gotham.

In an abandoned warehouse, The 100 attempt to recruit a Gotham mobster to their organisation. The meeting is interrupted when Thorn comes crashing through a window on a motorbike. She takes out several of the goons, but one manages to whack her with a wooden plank, knocking her out.

Batgirl introduces Superman to Commissioner Gordon, informing Gordon that they will be working together. Batgirl leads Superman to the car belonging to the crooks, which she had disabled before tackling them. Searching the interior, she discovers that Batman has beaten them to the evidence. Following his notes, Batgirl prepares to ride her motorbike to the location, when Superman decides to try a different way of travelling. Grasping her, he lifts her into the sky. As they fly, Superman asks why someone as bright and upbeat as Batgirl would emulate Batman. Batgirl explains that for all of his darkness, she feels that he is the only one in Gotham who can see 'the light in the distance'.

As The 100 tie Thorn to a chair, she comes too and escapes. Giving chase, the crooks are surprised when the lights go out. In the darkness, something attacks them. The leader manages to escape, getting to his car. Turning on the lights, he is shocked to see Batman in front of him, crashing his car. Crawling from the wreckage, he is confronted by Thorn, whose lust for vengeance is tempered by the intervention of Batman. Superman and Batgirl arrive, with Batgirl wondering what The 100 wanted at the library. The leader confesses all - The 100 intended to plant evidence showing that Barbara Gordon had embezzled library funds, thus giving them leverage over Commissioner Gordon. To protect themselves, The 100 kidnapped the library's accountant, intending to kill her and place Barbara as the number one suspect. Superman takes Batgirl to the accountant's house whilst Thorn takes her leave of Gotham. At his house, the accountant answers his door to Barbara Gordon. Suddenly, Batgirl attacks, revealing Gordon as an imposter, who is quickly apprehended.

After the events of the night, Batman and Superman meet on the skyline of Gotham. Superman tells Batman that Batgirl is going well and doesn't need more training. Although Superman's advice is unsolicited, Batman values what is said, surprising Superman. Batman then confesses that he never thought that someone as dark and tortured as Thorn could have come out of Metropolis. Referencing Thorn's past, Superman wonders if there is a similar tragedy in Batman's past. Although he doesn't want to talk about it, Batman suggests that one day he will do.

In theory, this story should work. We're far enough into Batman and Superman's relationship to start to challenge what each character thinks they know of each other, and their preconceptions of each others cities, having only experienced the extremes in previous stories, is a good place to start. Starting to introduce the extended families (if Thorn can be considered to be part of Superman's extended family) also works as well. We're also working towards a softening of Batman, as opposed to a hardening of Superman. The problem is that all of these elements are filtered through the plot line of Thorn and The 100, a minor and obscure supporting character and criminal organisation from Metropolis.

So, the reason why this review is up a little later than expected is because I dived into this issue thinking I knew who Thorn was. As it turns out, she's someone completely different to who I was expecting her to be, having anticipated the Rose and Thorn version of the character. And once I worked out who she actually was, I realised that it didn't really matter to the issue. There are plenty of subtleties to Thorn's character, but in terms of this story the important thing is that she is a darker, Batman-esque character originating from Metropolis, in a move to help blur the lines between Batman and Superman's worlds. Unfortunately, contrasting her with Batgirl, a far more established and recognisable character in the Batman family, only serves to highlight Thorn's obscurity.

The final scene is probably the most successful part of the issue. For me, it's the first time Superman and Batman approach each other not only as equals, but as colleagues, not competing with each other or trying to prove a point. It feels like their modern relationship, with grudging respect for each other but each being their own superhero. Most notable is Batman's not-quite-a-refusal to talk about his personal history. Superman's gentle, respectful probing into his past elicits the response the one day Batman will tell him about his past. For Batman to be in a position where he considers revealing his most personal secret highlights how far the two heroes have come since their combative first meetings.

The Geeky Bits: I honestly can't remember when Thorn next makes an appearance, and considering my difficulties in identifying which Thorn I am reading, I don't think knowing her next appearance would do me much good! This version of Thorn isn't the schizophrenic Golden-Age-wife-to-Alan-Scott-and-mother-to-Obsidian-and-Jade character, but the schizophrenic Bronze-Age-anti-hero. So, I hope that makes things clear.

Next on World of Superman: It's our final visit to World's Finest for some time, as Batman and Superman take on Mr Mxyptlk, and continuity takes a beating.


  1. Right, you were thinking of Rose Canton a.k.a. The Thorn. This is Rhosyn Forrest, nee Rose Forrest, a.k.a. The Thorn. I can't blame you for getting mixed up as the characters are pretty similar, right down to the split personality issue. The only difference is the Golden Age version had the ability to control plant life, where this version is just a normal human.

    But, anyway... as for her next appearance...

    The Thorn appeared in four issues of BOOSTER GOLD (#2-4 and #9), then over into ACTION COMICS #669 when she became a pseudo-occasional supporting character. I've never read the BOOSTER GOLD issues, but I feel pretty comfortable saying they are all set before SUPERMAN (Vol. 2) #1, as this issue is. But how they line up with this issue, I can't say.

    In ACTION COMICS #669, Superman says Thorn hadn't been seen for years. And in this issue, IIRC, Superman seemed familiar with the character.

    So, (and again, without having read the BG issues), I would guess this:

    THE THORN (the 6-issue mini-series by Gail Simone that revamped her origin)

  2. It's weird how my only real memories of reading the character are in the Birds of Prey issue that rounded out Gail Simone's previous Thorn mini. I really don't remember Thorn as a supporting character in the context of Superman at all.

  3. Well, she never appeared as much as, say, Gangbuster. Calling her a "supporting character" might be giving her use too much credit. As I recall, she only appeared in a half-dozen or so Superman comics over the period of a decade. But, still, I always understood that she was always there, operating in the background whenever The Thorn's persona took over. I'm a fan of the character, so maybe I'm making too much of her appearances. ;)