"The World’s Finest Part Four: Battle On"
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Ed McGuinness (p), Dexter Vines (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Branded a criminal by President Lex Luthor, Superman is served with an arrest warrant by Captain Atom and his team of Black Lightening, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Katana, Major Force, Power Girl and Starfire. A battle amongst heroes ensues, adversaries are revealed to be allies, a quest to find an unnamed boy in Japan is undertaken and two heroes fall before unexpected foes.
This book is all about the action. The battle between the title heroes and Captain Atom’s team spans past the centerfold. The battle ends with the possible, but doubtful, destruction of Captain Atom and Major Force. As an aside, I must complain about all the ads and previews in the middle of DC’s comics these days. I think it really restricts creativity and detracts from the reading experience. My request from DC editorial: please bring back the centerfold.
After a brief one-page interlude setting up Superman and Batman’s next foes, the battle is on again against Captain Marvel (SHAZAM!) and Hawkman. As expected Superman takes on the more powerful Captain Marvel while Batman battles against the more human Hawkman. Getting nowhere against their respective foes Superman and Batman change tactics and adversaries. Their mistake.
While the superhero melee is in progress, Lex Luthor continues to monitor the progress of a Kryptonite asteroid headed for Earth, which he has used as shaky evidence that Superman has betrayed the human race. Also, apparently as part of Luthor’s plan against Superman, he later injects himself with a serum which I can only assume from the green glow of his eyes is derived from Kryptonite. Whatever that stuff Luthor is mainlining like Heroin is, it must be making him randy, because he plants a smooch on Amanda (The Wall) Waller. Ewwwww!
Slowly but surely Jeph Loeb is transforming – or should I say reverting – Lex Luthor into a true supervillain. Luthor was presented as a potential Batman villain during the “No Mans Land” story arc back in 2000, but his U.S. Presidential victory in the Superman titles seemingly derailed the potential of a conflict between two of the DC Universe’s wealthiest men. Loeb picks up the thread from the Batman books and makes Luthor a menace worthy of two veteran heroes. The question on my mind is: how long will it be until we see a post-Crisis Secret Society of Super-Villains (or the Legion of Doom if you prefer)?
Issue four is the strongest of Loeb’s scripts so far. He has been spinning several threads as this series progresses and I certainly hope that they all wrap in a satisfactory fashion, but if they don’t the all out action has been fun. My only complaint in Loeb’s script is the introduction of the mystery character that Superman and Batman are seeking in Japan, referred to only as “the boy.” If this quest had been mentioned before I must have missed it, and that kind of annoys me, but not enough to stop reading.
Complimenting the action of Loeb’s script is the cartoonish but deft renderings of Ed McGuinness. His style strikes me as something between traditional American animation and Japanese Manga. His heroes are bigger than life and the action scenes are rarely repetitive or boring. I would also like to compliment McGuinness’ depiction of women. Many artists seem to stumble on the feminine form by making them all big busted sex-clones. McGuiness gives his female characters as much subtlety and diversity as his male characters. Amanda Waller is stoic, Katana is dark and brooding, Starfire is angry and Power Girl is her unavoidably doe-eyed super sexy self. What can I say; I have a soft spot for Power Girl. Power Girl…
OK, I’m back.
Both Dexter Vines’ inks and Dave Stewart’s colors compliment McGuinness’ pencils. I especially liked the way Stewart’s colors follow the flow of mass in the character renderings and the occasional blurring of speed lines and other motion. I’m sure there are lots of inkers and artists out there that do just as fine a job, but when they don’t it really shows and that can ruin an otherwise good book.
Unlike Marvel Comics, DC has made a concerted effort to maintain their youth readership with titles like Scooby Doo, Power Puff Girls, Justice League and other cartoon based properties. Superman/Batman is the next logical step for those youth readers that want to move into the continuity based superhero universe. The stories are well crafted, accessible and fun; which will please both new youth readers and old-timers who have a love of the style typical of pre-Crisis DC Comics stories. Cotton candy comics, sooo good.
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