World's Finest
by Dave Gibbons, Steve
Rude, Karl Kesel
(DC Comics, 1990)

The relationship between Batman and Superman has changed dramatically over the years, from best pals to mortal enemies and everywhere in between. World's Finest, first released as a three-volume set in 1990 and as a one-volume collection in 1993, attempts once again to redefine the boundaries between the two.

The tone is set near the beginning, when Batman says to Commissioner Gordon, "Superman? We're hardly friends, but, perhaps ... we might be allies."

The story in some ways reflects the camp of the 1950s and '60s, yet it doesn't step too far over that line. What, after all, could draw two diametrically opposed heroes together more effectively than an alliance -- or a war -- between their erstwhile nemeses, the Joker and Lex Luthor. Their plot centers around an orphanage, of all places -- a seemingly innocent setting situated midway between the two great cities.

The biggest strength of this book is the art, which casts Metropolis and Gotham in very different lights. Superman's city is bright, shiny and clean, a place for dazzling sunrises and sunny afternoons. Gotham, on the other hand, is dark, dirty and mean, dominated by sunsets and midnight forays into ruined buildings and alleyways.

The biggest stumble in the tale is the assumed familiarity between the two heroes' supporting casts. As Dave Gibbons writes it, Lois and Alfred are great pals, as are Perry White and Commissioner Gordon. And these groups of friends from Metropolis and Gotham apparently gather quite often to socialize.

Ultimately, the two heroes do precisely what they're supposed to do: work well together to bag the baddies. Gibbons retains their distinctive characters while fitting their individual strengths neatly together. World's Finest is, for DC fans, just that.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 30 July 2005

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