13 July 2008

World's Finest (DC, 1990)

It was only by chance, while surfing the 'net, that I discovered DC had just released a "Deluxe" edition of the 1990 3-part mini series, World's Finest by Dave Gibbons, Steve Rude, Karl Kesel and colourist Steve Oliff. Either there wasn't much publicity done by DC or I was just looking at the wrong places for this book to go under my radar. Probably the latter. Anyway, I remembered that I have this mini series so I dug it out and read it again for nostalgia's sake and maybe write a few words about it here.

After I turned the last page of Book Three, I figured either it hasn't aged well or my memories are playing tricks on me. Because I remember loving it the the first time it came out. What's not to love? Two of DC's biggest icons teaming up to fight their respective arch enemies, Joker and Lex Luthor. But I was surprised to find that after reading it again, 18 years later, the book did not satisfy. The older me is much more harder to please it appears. I blame Dave Gibbons' writing.

World's Finest plot requires too much explanation. There's a mystery about a Fagin-like character who used to employ orphans as his well trained thieves but he's dead now. No, he's not. Yes, he is. No, wait...somebody's dead but we're not sure who. Then for some reason, Lex Luthor wants to spread his empire to other cities so he buys up property in Gotham. At the same time, Joker wants to see the sights in Metropolis. So the two villains cut a deal and trade bases of operations for a month. Also for some strange reason, Superman and Batman feel that they too need to trade cities to pursue their respective enemies. Why? Why couldn't Batman stay in Gotham and chase Luthor while Superman remain in Metropolis and take care of the Joker? The pretext given so that Dave Gibbons could put the heroes in each other's cities is that Superman was humiliated by his first encounter with the Joker and Batman too felt played by Luthor. So they figured better to move to an unfamiliar city chasing the villain they know instead of staying home and be humiliated by the villain they don't. Sorry but I just could not buy that.

There were missed opportunities, I feel, when Gibbons failed to portray the differences in style between the two heroes and even between the two bad guys. What we get instead are caricatures of the villains. Joker the grinning maniac and Lex Luthor the cold, calculating businessman. Yawn inducing? You betcha!

The only good thing about World's Finest is Steve Rude's art. You can't go wrong with "The Dude" and the alliteratively named Karl Kesel inking. But pretty pictures cannot save a book if the story is boring as this one is.

Not recommended, sadly.

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