Writer Paul Levitz’ and artist Diogenes Neves’s World’s Finest: Huntress and Power Girl Annual #1 is a weird comic. Not only is the basic premise hard for even the most knowledgeable of comic fans to swallow, but Levitz’s writing and characterization for characters like Supergirl and Wonder Woman are head-scratching. Even the comic’s status as an annual comic raises some serious questions about the story’s impact. For the unaware: an annual comic is a comic from a specific line that is published annually with a longer page count (28 pages, as compared to the 14 of a typical monthly comic) that usually tells a story that is separate to the continuity of its monthly counterpart. It still uses the same characters and is mainly used to fill in some plot holes or tie up some story threads, but actually figuring out where the events of an annual fill into the timeline of a comic line is almost a pointless endeavor. I’m still honestly struggling to determine whether I actually like this comic or not.
I’ll try to explain the premise as best I can: this comic occurs in an alternate earth (simply called “Earth 2”), in which the circumstances of certain superheroes, like Batman and Superman, have changed radically. For example, on this Earth, Batman has finally married Catwoman and their daughter, Helena, was raised to be Robin, while Super Girl was raised on an island by her cousin Clark Kent. Also, Wonder Woman is apparently the last of the Amazons. It’s a strange, complicated world, that gets even weirder by the fact that this world’s “Robin” and “Supergirl” have now crossed dimensions (something that is surprisingly easy to do in comics) and now live in the original Earth under the identities of “Huntress” and “Power Girl.” This comic in particular, however, is focusing on the early days when they were living on Earth 2.
Confused? So was I, but the comic actually solves the confusion fairly simply with a small recap on the very first page of the comic.
“Before they were The Huntress and Power Girl, before they were tossed across universes not their own, they were already extraordinary young women facing unusual challenges, come back to those early days for The Adventures of Robin and Supergirl!”
This is a big help, and shockingly considerate, since DC Comics rarely features a recap page in their comics. I’m not sure why they don’t include a small summary of the characters and a recap of past issues like Marvel does (printing costs, maybe?), as one would think that DC, a company that previously rebooted its entire continuity to avoid confusion, one would think DC would do more to clear up the convoluted storylines and backstories. Regardless, having a recap here at all is a nice gesture.
The rest of the comic, however, is a slog. The art is bland. While the redesigned costumes for this world’s heroes are interesting to look at (Batman’s in particular is great, with a big bat’s head consisting of a pentagon shield in the center with two triangular “ears”), there’s just not much else here to comment on. The issue gives you all your basic art sins: weird faces, eyes not looking in the right direction, overly sexually drawn women, and so on. It’s not terrible, but it’s not memorable either. It exists in a state of mediocrity that some will find acceptable, but I just find boring.
The writing is the real star of the show here, but probably not for the reason Levitz would have wanted. It’s more along the lines of “bizarre” than anything else. It certainly isn’t good. Some characters haven’t changed: Batman still refuses to move on in the grieving process, but this time it’s his wife Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) that has kicked the bucket. If you were hoping that this alternate universe had the potential for a Batman that wasn’t a humorless, sociopathic jerk, then I’m sorry, but you will have to put those hopes to bed. It is almost worse here, since he uses his unexplainable ability to hack into all security cameras in the city to look after his daughter Helena/Robin when she is fighting criminals. So, on top of everything else, add “paranoid parent” to Batman’s list of “endearing” traits. Superman and Wonder Woman are also relatively the same. They have little to do, and when they do show up, they are bland and unemotional. Wonder Woman in particular has some overwritten dialogue and some unnecessary melodrama (she cries, which, for some reason, bothers me), but it’s nothing too egregious.
Then we have our two stars. Robin/Helena Wayne has some stuff going on about learning to be a superhero and trying to manage both her personal and vigilante life. But honestly, her storyline feels more like an illustration of how psychotic Batman is. She acts like a sane human being and calls him “Dad” during a patrol, and he just growls “I’m Batman out here” before running off and brooding to himself about how Helena is so much like her mother and how he misses Selina and brood, brood, brood. I liked Helena the most in this comic, mainly due to how genre-savvy she is. She realizes and mocks the fact that Batman is a complete loon, or that Supergirl is too rash and violent. It’s really a shame that, for a comic that is supposed to be about her, she doesn’t get much panel time.
The majority of the comic is devoted to Supergirl who, for some reason that I cannot even fathom, is trying to learn how to “flirt.” I’m serious. She actually says this. Why a person from another planet would be so occupied with getting laid is beyond me, but I’m going to assume it’s just another form of pandering to a male audience. I guess you could say she is trying to learn the human culture, but is there really no other way to convey or illustrate this? Why can’t she learn something else, like how the law works? That seems relatively important for a costumed vigilante from another world. If you can get past this (and I’m not sure how or why you could), Supergirl somehow finds a guy named Ken with a stupid ponytail and immediately falls in love with him. Like all superhero romances go these days, Ken dies, and Supergirl gets super upset about a guy she just met and vows revenge on the person responsible. Who the culprit is, you’ll have to read, but the answer is ridiculous and slightly insulting to everyone involved.
This comic is a weird mess. I can’t condemn the entire line based on an annual, since annual issues are usually one-off condensed comics that usually have no bearing on the actual story. Overall, the art is fine at best, and the writing ranges from tolerable to just baffling. Avoid this comic. I’ve heard the other comics in the line are better, so I’m guessing writing improves improves when characters are in different dimensions.
Photo: Daniel Varghese and Pam Shu/The Georgetown Voice