Published as a two-issue limited in October and November of 1997, Elseworld’s Finest takes the seeds of Batman and Superman and plants them in the soil of a World War-era, Indiana Jones-style adventure tale. With plenty of action and excitement, and appearances from an assortment of familiar DC characters, this story promises–at minimum–an interesting read.
That fateful spring of ’28
Our story begins with, and is driven along by, narration from Lana Lang, Clark Kent’s once-flame and forever-friend. Her father has gone missing, and she suspects a connection between his disappearance and his interest in the ancient Greek city of Argos. Clark, Jimmy, and Lana set off across the world to track him down, enlisting the help of one Bruce Wayne, and running into some other noteworthy names along the way. Things come to a head as several interested parties converge on Argos, all seeking a power which they can’t control or contain. Only Bruce and Clark can stop this power from falling into the wrong hands and save the world from the fallout.
We’re on it, Chief!
The creative team does an outstanding job of crafting this world. Moore’s dialogue rings true to the films of this era, and Dwyer nails it on all fronts, from costumes to vehicles and scenery. Even his artistic sensibilities seem more anchored in the past than the present, and his characters feel dated, but in the very best way.
Beyond that, the story is genuinely engaging, and it moves along at a nice pace, taking us to exotic locales and introducing us to a number of interesting representations of classic characters, all brought creatively to life by Dwyer’s capable hand. Perhaps most importantly, through it all, Bruce and Clark manage to be quite familiar, even as their physical appearances are anything but.
Why do you resist me, Last Son of Krypton?
There are the sorts of parallels you would expect–Clark is from Krypton, Bruce lost his parents, and Lex Luthor is the world’s most powerful impotent. More fundamentally, however, Moore captures the very essence of the World’s Finest, and the story would be just as effective had their names been Sam and Max and neither of them ever put on a costume.
Even with that character accuracy, however, there isn’t a whole lot of depth to either Bruce or Clark. The genre surely bears much of the blame for this: it’s a plot-driven adventure story. We’re expected to be drawn in by the superficial appeal of the heroes and the excitement of the quest rather than any internal evolution. That sort of thing works really well given the right adventure, as proven by Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, given a slow plot–or in the case of Elseworld’s Finest, an over-abundance of time spent introducing peripheral characters–successive readings struggle more and more to keep the audience’s interest. Once you know what happens, and how it happens, there are precious few thrills left on the table.
The human will not be allowed to damage the avatar
But, but, but–there are plenty of thrills in this book. It is true that most of its characters feel like archetypes or extraneous DCU references, but the adventure is such a fun, exciting one that I’m still enjoying it even as I’m flipping through it for the fourth time looking for examples to substantiate my criticisms. Alfred, Selina, Carter Hall, Hal Jordan, and others are gratuitous characters whose utility is quickly spent. But their appearances are quick enough early enough that they do not ultimately slow the momentum of the plot.
So yeah, at this point, I’m arguing with myself. There are flaws in execution, and flaws that I think are inherent in the genre, but the actual book produced by Moore and Dwyer is so much fun that I can’t help but enjoy it.
- You think there’s more to Batman and Superman than their traditional costumes and environments.
- You feel like the only thing missing from Raiders of the Lost Ark is superheroes.
- You enjoy a fun, plot-driven adventure at least as much as a cerebral, character-driven arc.
Elseworld’s Finest has its problems, but honestly, they aren’t big enough to drag down its merits. It’s not my favorite genre, so there’s only so high it can rise in my estimation, but that’s okay. For what it is, it’s awfully close to best-of-breed, with a fast-paced script, excellent art, and a creative repurposing of well-known characters. If you can find it for the right price (I got both installments for a few bucks a piece at my local 2nd & Charles), this is definitely worth scooping up and enjoying.