Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #9 sees every sidekick’s worst nightmare comes out to play. Part three of David aka Boy Thunder’s story also comes with a shocking revelation as well as Batman and Superman do their best to make sure the new hero stays safe and wise.
With how he draws faces, Dan Mora would excel at drawing an in-your-face clown prince of crime rather than a dark sinister Joker – and that is exactly what he does. From the POV of David, The Joker is mid-backswing with a bloodstained crowbar as Superman and Batman rush in to save him. The lack of background has DC’s greatest villain acting as the spotlight, the green, purple, and white pop out from afar so everyone knows who it is.
Paolo Rivera shows the World’s Finest in action for his variant, not thwarting the usual comic perils, but real-world ones. Batman reaches for a hand buried in the rubble of a collapsing building while Superman holds it up. The rescue team and authorities are behind them until they can get through themselves. There is absolutely a classic feel to both characters with grey as the main color to capture the settling of dust.
Afua Richardson goes with a genre we’ll now call “World’s Finest Traditionalism.” This is where Batman and Superman are juxtaposed by their respective colors and tones – light and dark. Superman is set to the light of the sun while Batman is shrouded in the dark of the night like a yin-yang. Light orange and dark blue naturally bring each other out, so it always works. Richardson adds his unique touch with his charmingly minimalist style utilizing bold lines and simple shades to illustrate the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight. As you will notice, their costumes and faces aren’t as detailed but the iconography is unmistakable.
The Devil Nezha returns in a variant by Steven Beach after his recent defeat by Batman and Superman. The glowy green cavern lair has all the appeal of a Mortal Kombat stage with Nezha looking like a Constantine villain on a cover illustrated by Glenn Fabry – perhaps he is an influence on Beach. He truly does look like a demon here with his wrinkled red face, horns, claws, and ghost-white hair. Even those not familiar with the character or the series will find this cover appealing thanks to Beach’s fantasy realism.
When Mario Foccillo’s variant for 90s month was announced online a month ago, the unofficial contest for the best cover of them all seemed to be over. One of the staples of 90s superhero cartoons other than Superman’s mullet was Batman’s enormous cape. Foccillo comedically shows the pitfall of having such an enormous cape with the World’s Finest in this variant that everyone visiting a comic shop this week should pick up. It’s all drawn without a hint of irony and is extremely well done when it comes to costume touch-ups and that illuminated 90s feel. This is for Foccillo’s criterion collection.
World’s Finest issues always start out with a small little adventure before the title page that serves as a small first act. Here, we begin with Batman and Boy Thunder foiling Ratcatcher in the sewers of Gotham City. It’s here where David learns just what makes Gotham so unique when it comes to its cut of crime and villainy. The chase for the Key is still underway, but he’s got a partner in crime with The Joker. After stealing failed supervillain Angle Man’s angler tool, the two can unlock (pun intended) new methods of chaos in Gotham.
Meanwhile, Superman has a footrace off the coast of Nigeria with The Flash and discusses upbringing a kid as a superhero. Since this is the time before his son, it’s almost jarring seeing Clark so clueless about how to handle kids. But the truth was, that was really how the character was – being sidekick free and all before the days of Superboy. They assist the Teen Titans in handling a pirate situation, but David allows his powers to get the best of him. This warrants a talking to from Clark wherein David reveals a startling revelation about his origin. From there, Gotham City becomes the new battleground with a new threat.
Mark Waid continues David’s superhero origin story in the past DC Universe rather than the present which makes for more great simplified storytelling without the demands of the current continuity. As usual, the classic Teen Titans are always a joy to see in action with their absence in the mainstream. It goes to show that Batman and Superman are not alone in influencing David. When it comes to writing The Joker, Waid is just going for the Bronze Age agent of chaos rather than a modern psychological thriller of an antagonist. The advice that Batman and Superman give David continues to be their strongest dialogue with all their experiences and viewpoints reflected in just a couple of sentences.
While the story is simple, David really keeps you guessing where it will be going – especially with his latest bombshell. His hero’s journey so far has been full of trials for sure, but none will be as intense as this brush with The Joker. However, a lot of that is left up to the next issue.
Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #9 has its own appeal with some great action art by Mora. And, I do mean art in every sense of the word. In one page in particular wherein Superman and Batman are out on damage control in Gotham – both are drawn in poses seen from some of their most iconic comic book covers throughout their history. Mora keeps the electrical energy up and the explosions coming as the Titans take on pirates. There are some large-scale events that take place during this issue that selective linework by Mora and proper shading by Tamra Bonvillain allows for a great job of illustrating.
Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #9 takes the Boy Thunder into the danger zone with Batman’s worst enemy, but overall makes the clown prince of crime take a back seat to the action rather than taking the fight to our heroes. The whole grand scheme has yet to be revealed as well, but what David reveals and the action on the parts of the World’s Finest and Teen Titans will keep the reader entertained in the meantime.