To a contemporary audience, the Silver Age of comics can come off as a bit campy. There's a reason for that; once you've seen Batman track down a modern-day Zodiac killer, it can be difficult to make sense out of the time that he turned into a radioactive zebra. And yet, the Silver Age was a time of unrestrained ideas. To move away from it entirely is to lose a sense of wonder. What comics need more of is a story that walks the line, that balances the fun and imagination of Silver Age comics with the modern appreciation for grounded storytelling.
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Dan Mora
Colors by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettering by Aditya Bidikar
On sale March 15
'Rama Rating: 8.5/10
Fortunately, we can count on the World's Finest.
Batman/Superman: World's Finest #1 (opens in new tab) begins the latest new DC ongoing series and features pencils by Dan Mora, story by Mark Waid, colors by Tamra Bonvillain, and letters by Aditya Bidikar. In the debut issue, we rewind the clocks to earlier days of the World's Finest pairing, when Dick Grayson was still Robin and Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent had just learned each other's secrets.
Poison Ivy has just attacked Metropolis, but when the Dynamic Duo shows up to assist Superman in her defeat, they find she's not alone. The Kryptonite-powered Metallo is there too, and during the scuffle, he manages to inject Superman with the deadly, transformative Red Kryptonite. Fortunately, Batman's got a plan, but unfortunately, he’s not the only one. As Batman and Robin hurry to save their super-powered friend, a shadowy horned figure lurks in the shadows.
This new series might be about the Man of Steel and Caped Crusader, but the real superpowered pairing here is artist Dan Mora and colorist Tamra Bonvillain. Mora's character work is unmatched anywhere else in comics. His sleek designs on the costumes of the titular heroes are reminiscent of their Silver Age days but adapted slightly for today's audience.(opens in new tab)
For example, Batman sports his blue and gray outfit from the 1970s, complete with a yellow circle emblem. However, look closer and you'll see the outline of the modern "armored spandex" that most post-New 52 heroes are sporting, plus a utility belt that looks like it can actually hold a hefty number of gadgets.
Robin, too, gets a more updated suit, though there does come a point in the story where we do see the green trunks of comics past, proving that not all superheroes wear pants.
Of course, the costumes and the characters that wear them are only part of this book's gorgeous visuals - what really makes them sing is Bonvillain's colors. When we open this book on the city of Metropolis, it's as bright and clear as we've come to expect from the hometown of Superman. But when the villains show up and things start going south, the tone of the pages radically change, darkening to greens and blues that make up Bonvillain's signature dread that shows up in books like Once and Future.
Just because World’s Finest #1 is fun (and it really is), it doesn't mean it’s any less dangerous for its protagonists, and Bonvillain makes that clear.
As mentioned previously, the series takes place years before the "present-day" adventures of Batman and Superman, which is one of the many brilliant moves by writer Mark Waid. By starting in this time period, Waid manages to both offer a refreshing take on the characters to regular readers and introduce them to someone who may be new to comics. Though we’ll avoid spoilers here, it's ultimately that friendship that saves the day in issue #1, and will likely be what the story ultimately revolves around.
Besides all this, starting it here also gives modern readers a chance to see Dick Grayson in action as Robin, which is always a treat.(opens in new tab)
Bringing the whole operation home is letterer Aditya Bidikar, whose work on titles like Swamp Thing has produced some of the most clever lettering in comics right now. World's Finest #1 is no exception, with Bidikar's work pulling the reader into the action of the scene. Whether it's by adding an icy effect to Superman's dialogue as he uses his freeze breath or warping the mystery villain's dialogue to make it more alien and ominous, Bidikar does with sound what Bonvillain does with color, and just as effectively.
You'll love World’s Finest #1 if you have an affinity for Silver Age comics, but even if you don't, there’s something for you in this book. This creative team has crafted a title that tells a new story with nothing but love for what's come before it, and no matter which era of comics is your favorite, that's something almost impossible to not enjoy.
Batman/Superman: World's Finest #1 is on sale in comic book stores and digitally on March 15th.
World’s Finest has all the markings of a great comic book, but will it be one of the best to feature its title characters? Check out Newsarama’s best Superman and best Batman stories to see what it’s up against.