Legends of the World's Finest |
by Walter Simonson, Daniel Brereton (DC Comics, 1995)
Batman & Superman Adventures: World's Finest
by Paul Dini, Joe Staton (DC Comics, 1997)
The World's Finest title has meant a Batman/Superman team-up for many years now. Return with me now to yesteryear as we take a look at two classic examples.
Legends of the World's Finest is dark and moody, a tale of demons and curses from the misty lore of Scotland all the way to Metropolis and Gotham City. It involves Tullus, an evil man who was condemned to Hell centuries ago; the Silver Banshee, an occasional thorn in Superman's side who bears the curse of Tullus in her family line; and Blaze, a demon who reigns over a portion of Hell and does not give up her captives willingly. Their plans involve Superman, who must become darker; Batman, who must become purer; and the Man-Bat, who for reasons unknown must get pumped up with demonic power.
The struggle for power and corruption of the heroes -- primarily involving, it seems, the odd exchange of their nightly dreams -- doesn't always make a lot of sense. And Daniel Brereton's art -- roughly chiseled, thick-lipped and high-cheekboned -- doesn't do much for me in this book. Characters are stiff, the men all need shaves and Lois Lane looks drawn and haggard in every scene in which she's not holding a red balloon. (Trust me, that will make sense if you read it.)
Still, Walter Simonson has put together an unusual sort of story, and I enjoyed the package more, perhaps, than I should have. Anyone who enjoys a touch of the supernatural in their superheroing will probably like it, too.
The Adventures version bases its style on the animated television series, and the creative team -- writer Paul Dini and artist Joe Staton -- have captured the cartoony look and pacing perfectly. The action is absolutely frantic as Batman and Superman team up for the first time, as do archfoes Lex Luthor and the Joker. Perhaps even more interesting is the serious romance that develops between Bruce Wayne and Superman's main squeeze Lois Lane -- it really gets Clark's goat when she comes to her door in a fluffy bathrobe and Bruce is sitting on her couch all smug and handsome -- while the laffs come mostly from the squabbles between Joker sidekick Harley Quinn and Luthor bodyguard Mercy.
The story isn't terribly deep, but cartoon stories usually aren't. In this, Joker steals a kryptonite statue in Gotham, then heads to Metropolis to sell his services in a bid to kill Superman. It's all just too wacky for words -- but it's a lot of fun, too.
These two World's Finest books are diametric opposites -- dark and somber vs. light and witty -- and both have a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. Bottom line is, if you like Batman/Superman team-ups, you'll enjoy 'em both.
5 January 2008