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Subj: Worlds Finest #32 - The End.
Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2015 at 06:41:25 pm CDT (Viewed 824 times)
Funny thing is, no one said it the day it mattered. Bruce had warned Clark. But no one warned me.
And there was no place safer than The Daily Planet.'
As Paul Levitz' Worlds' Finest draws to its bitter close it does so with a heavy mixture of resignation and regret for this particular reader. At times it was a series which was deady dull in its pacing, at others though ennervating because of the fine character work and absorbing friendships between leads.
Cancellation was hardly unexpected of course - from its earliest days this was a title who's purpose and direction was never all that clear, but as I look back fondly in the archives at my semi-regular reviews of the title over the last three years it quickly becomes clear that such thoughts as 'direction' and 'purpose' were wholly unimportant in the earliest days of the series, as with the assistance of the incomparable talents of George Perez and Kevin MaGuire onboard here was a book that was not only a delight to read but positively basked in being a light fun and old-fashioned comicbook experience.
Two heroes and close friends enjoying each others company, simple Hero Vs. Villain plots, detective work, and all capped by a well balanced divide between action and quiet civilian orientated conversational scenes. The opening scenes of issue #1 with Helena and Karen dining in a lofty Tokyo resteraunt remain a high point of the series and a stunnng example of George Perez' richly observed eye for detail.
What went wrong then? Simply put George Perez and Kevin MaGuire departed. With their exit and no worthwhile new artist to carry on the fine work and continuity of style there was no due cover for the lack of substance to paul Levitz' plotting. Worlds Finest became a mirror to what was also befalling Levitz' Legion of Super-Heroes at the time - poor management with infuriatingly inadequate artistic assistance to support the writer efforts, patchy as they were.
Paul Levitz is a peculiarly archaic prescence in comics of today, belonging as he does to the old generation of literate writers who honed their craft via the process of working dilligently on character and dialogue. Like his peers - Marv Wolfman, Roger Stern, Chris Claremont - Levitz' talent has always lain in his ability to intill appealing characterisation to even the most minor of figures and to forward plot directions for these cast of characters. There is a warmth in his work that, as with Stern and Claremont etc, sets him apart from the much more clinical and sterilised technique of the modrn crop of writers working in the mainstream. Worlds Finest has been a good example of this now scarce technique as while the story has most often been lacking the reader could at least always rely on the good solid character work within to keep them coming back. In the first year especially the warmth and comraderie between the tight laced Helene Wayne and the free spirited Power Girl made them firm favourites, two friends who's quiet love for the other was both convincing and touching at the same time. If only a clear and firm direction could have been found for the pair to aim in we might not be left bereft of that duo as we head into the final issue this month. But then again with the now imminent annihilation of Earth-2 it might be fair to say it is just as well things end right here and now, low sales or not.
With support from the capable hand of the underappreciated Jed Dougherty Worlds Finest #32 is a deceptively fitting capstone to this series of which Paul Levitz has orchestrated from beginning to end. On the intial first glance that might appear a strange thing to state given it is Superman & Batman who now headline the book and the contents are concerning the final days of Lois Lane and the ominous first steps leading up to the first war with the forces of Apokolips. But for the attentive and faithful reader issue #32 here is not just another slice in the unfolding tapestry Levitz has been weaving concerning the first glimmers of the War. No, it is in fact a fittingly direct sequel to the seeds first planted in the very first issue some three years ago now.
It was there where we first learned of how Lois Lane met her as yet unseen death at the hands of "one of Darkseid's Infiltrators", and here for his final script Levitz finally divulges just who and what that infiltrator was. It is a fine example of circular plotting, and a reward for those of us paying attention and enjoying the slow unfolding of Earth-2's backstory.
With the New God Intri introduced as the prime agent of Apokolips' initial reconnaisance into Earth-2 the battleground proves to revolve very much around her for this final chapter. Whether it is Darkseid personally or his general Steppenwolf she answers to is not clear, but the minutae of which Paul Levitz supplies his scripts are painting a broad picture of an Earth unchallenged by any serious hardships and completely unprepared for the brutality and meanness which a New God brings to their world. At one point Batman makes it clear that since the only beings of power earth has encounered are the Kryptonians then perhaps Intri and her kin are some surviving outpost of Krypton. So innocent and untested is this earth they have never encountered beings from other worlds... It seems a truly bizarre thing for the Batman to be suggesting that the attacks on earth and the plotting Intri are Kryptonian in origin, but his theory does have some precedent within the series as it was actually Supergirl herself who first raised the possibility to cousin Superman back in the 2012 Issue #0 special. Once again an example of the skilled forward plotting of Paul Levitz that he sets up small details like this for future use.
So ever the rationalist Batman is speculating a Kryptonian origin for these strange attackers, and with Wonder Woman's help he forges a Kryptonite sword in the bowels of the Batcave... awaiting Intri's return. And as we have seen in the previous four issues that return is an inevitability as she has been targeting Batman (and Superman) since his earliest days. It can be said that Inevitability is a shroud across all of Paul Levitz' delving into Earth-2's history, as we know full well how the tale of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman ends, the fascination is in the details leading to it, and the sense of the quiet erosion of a golden-age of heroism and sunny skies for all men.
The arrival of Intri into the supposed secure haven of the Batcave dovetails with the end of Lois in the also supposed secure safe haven of the Daily Planet offices. Nowhere is safe in these dying days of peace on earth, and even now the fact that our heroes still do not grasp the true scale of the threat just out of their perception is one that drives all of these flashbacks to earth before the invasion.
The brutal scenes of Lois' last moments are left to some imagination but the horror that underpins the scenes comes from our having been granted intimacy with her over the course of the last four issues, to actually know her and be able to be shocked at the suddenness of her fate come thanks to the writers gift for character rather than the sight of blood n' guts so common in todays comics. And as Superman grieves so do we. The world has become that bit darker with her loss.
As Wonder Woman and Batman learn just what a New God is the power of even this minor player proves almost too much, only with the spiritual aid of Olympians Minerva, Diana and Venus do Batman and Wonder Woman finally succeed in destroying Intri. Again her fate is suitably dovetailed with that of Lois', and it is clear that the Olympian Gods influence over events while unseen by all was in fact one of the silent wars occuring in the run-up to the War with Apokolips. That the Olympian's would eventually lose parallels current events being played out in the Worlds End series as Earths living elemental spirits are also proved to be no match for the New God onslaught. Hope was never on Earth-2 side. And yet, ironically, hope is what Lois Lane herself ends up representing by books end... the series ends, Lois is reborn, and te story never quite ends. The final page and panel of the book is a fine metatextual message from the writer through the surviving Lois Lane, immortality can come from the power of storytelling, and stories are forever.
Worlds Finest ends, on a satisfying note. With fine work from Jed Dougherty complementing a script rich in detail it is for the best that the series does end here, the direction that Earth-2 itself is headed in will render any further exploration of the background to the first War and players like Fury and Supergirl largely redundant. With Power Girl and The Huntress removed from the book its particular identity and main selling point has, alas, largely dissapeared with them. And yet these final issues have still been tremendously enjoyable. A testament to Paul Levitz skill and ability to create fine character.
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