Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #19 review

Here’s the conclusion of “Phantom Riddles,” a re-imagining of Batman and Superman’s first meeting. Rather than giving us an elaborate arc, the creative team has opted for a short-and-sweet approach. Part one was a lot of fun, but can part two live up to that quality? Let’s have a look.

I did not enjoy “Phantom Riddles” Part Two as much as Part One, but it was still entertaining. There’s a kind of innocence to this comic. Throughout World’s Finest, there has always been a strong sense of optimism with a focus on adventure and action as well as great character work. Those elements are definitely still in place here, as Batman and Superman continue to work together to defeat the enemy—Jax-Ur, a murderous Kryptonian. The comic does a pretty good job of showing how Batman and Superman earn each other’s trust and decide that they should join forces more often, and that’s exactly what I want from superhero comics these days. No more pointless grit or Emo-Bats. DC should be about optimism, not about how depressed everyone is all the time, and this comic delivers that optimism with each and every issue.

Yet, what I think doesn’t work out very well is how most of this comic is basically just a drawn-out slugfest between Superman and Jax-Ur. Like so many other Superman stories, it becomes a game of who can punch the hardest. Yes, in the end it turns out that Superman is basically taking a beating to buy Batman the time he needs to execute their plan. But the fact of the matter is still that there’s too much mindless violence on the page, which ultimately makes the solution to the problem seem too straight-forward and underwhelming, even though it is supposed to be quite clever if you think about it.

A lot of what’s happening here also seems somewhat derivative. For example, there’s the trope of the villain explaining his entire motivation in a monologue as he punches Superman through buildings. There is also a moment where Jax-Ur jeopardizes innocent lives to force Superman to save those people so he can get away. These things are not necessarily bad ideas; it’s just that I’ve seen this kind of stuff hundreds, if not thousands of times, before, which makes this issue rather generic at times.

A couple more minor points: We see Batman telepathically communicating with Superman by “pushing his thoughts” from the Phantom Zone. I have no idea why Batman is able to do this, and the explanation given is kind of silly. It’s literally, “Well, if the villain can do it, I can do it too.” Furthermore, Superman is supposed to feel all this rage for Jax-Ur, since Jax-Ur is this mass murderer, but I don’t feel like the story is really showing me this; Superman seems relatively calm, under the circumstances. Lastly, if you were hoping to see more of Riddler, well, he just gets a single page and that’s it.

Before I talk about the art, I want to make it clear that even though the solicits say that this sets up a new event, you don’t have to worry about that too much. Halfway through the issue they shoehorn in a page where we see a mysterious figure doing mysterious stuff, and the very last page of the comic shows that same mysterious figure doing more mysterious stuff. The editor’s note at the end then prompts us to check out the upcoming Action Comics issues to see what this is about. Of course World’s Finest #19 would read far better and smoother without these tacked-on pages, and I’d rather not see them here, but at the end of the day it’s not that big of a deal. This issue, by and large, still stands on its own and you can easily ignore the “tie-in pages” if you’re not interested in whatever this upcoming event is. Besides, it’s not like these pages do a good job of piquing my interest anyway, so I guess that might be true for some other readers as well.

Travis Moore turns in great artwork once again. With most of this issue being a fight comic, Moore brings a lot of energy to the page. When Jax-Ur and Superman crash into a building through a window, all the flying shards of glass add a strong sense of motion. Additionally, the speed lines that Moore often adds into his panels add that much more oomph to each and every punch, as well as really sell the idea that these Kryptonians are flying and fighting at top speed. Bonvillain’s beautiful colors aid a great deal in this as well, as her varied and bright palette adds a lot of texture and definition to all the different characters and objects, making it easy to tell at a glance what’s going on. While I would have liked a bit more substance from the writing department, the sort of “less-is-more” approach is this art team’s strength in this issue. Even if I think some of Waid’s ideas could have been more fleshed out, it’s still a joy to behold this art team’s excellent output.

Recommended if…

  • Fight comics are your jam!
  • You want to see how Batman and Superman defeat Jax-Ur.
  • You’re looking for a bit more fun and optimism in your hero books.

Overall: This is a very fun comic, albeit a bit of a standard approach to superheroes. I like how, in the end, Waid somewhat subverts the trope of “solving everything with a good punch” and has Batman and Superman come up with a plan to defeat Jax-Ur, but since most of this issue gives us a lengthy brawl, that solution doesn’t pay off like it should. That said, it’s great seeing our heroes bond through this experience, earning each other’s trust, and the artwork is excellent. All things considered, I definitely recommend this comic.

Score: 7/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.