Saturday, November 14, 2009

World's Finest?... one issue's super-bad writing

World’s Finest issue 303 is a poorly written comic. I’ve been told its writer David Anthony Kraft is a particularly weak writer.

I’ve read lots of great Batman comics and there is nothing quite like a good Batman comics: the perfect balance of film noir mood, mystery, and action. On the splash page this issue has the mood down. Batman stands in the fog on the deck of a ship filled with human skeletons. I thought this was going to be an issue that didn’t throw its punches. Sadly this first page, along with the cover, which made me initially pick this issue up, turned out to be the highpoints of the entire issue.

My basic problem with this issue is that the script seems to have been written for children. And I know that’s whom comics are written for, but most comics aren’t this bad.

On p.3 a narration box says “A series of onsite tests already performed by Batman have established that there is no danger of airborne contamination!” That’s actually a smart bit of narration, but it is undercut by the fact that Batman is not wearing any sort of breezing apparatus at the start of the issue.

The action then shifts to Superman. Clark is walking with Lana Lang, when it starts to snow only the snow is green and full of a kryptonite mixture that is equally deadly to human and Kryptonian alike. You see clearly in this panel that Lana is being hit by the snow. I’m sure Clark will find a way to save her, right?

Wrong, the action shifts back to Batman and then when we go back to Clark three pages later he is crawling on his hands and knees towards the subway where he escapes the green snow and tunnels to safety. Lana is not seen in the issue again; I guess she died.

Batman goes to an expert on plagues for help. Who says, “unless I help, which I will, what happened on the yatch will happen to the entire City of Metropolis!” That piece of dialogue was so absurd, if this guy’s friend broke his arm would he say, “Unless I help you, which I will, your arm is going to stay broken.” It also reminds me of classic apocryphal B movie lines like a scientist saying “It will take the greatest scientific mind in the world to solve this problem, fortunately I am the world’s greatest scientific mind.”

This panel also introduces the idea that ancient alchemy is being used to transform Kryptonite into a plague. This premise, I actually accepted when I was reading the issue, because well, I’d already seen the effects of the green snow twice so, why question it? However, if you actually think about it, 1) ancient alchemy never worked and 2) how could kryptonite a mineral be transformed into a virus or a bacterium an organic material?

The scientist Batman found turns out to himself be the Alchemist and Batman makes a big deal out of explaining the clues that lead him to believe the Alchemist and the scientist were one in the same. These statements took the fun out of the reveal. This not being the first mystery I’ve ever read, I guessed the truth right away and caught both of the clues the first time I read the comic. To me they were in fact as obvious as huge roadsigns on a highway, but even if I’d missed these clues isn’t it more fun to have to reread the issue and find the clues yourself than to have them spelled out for you? Sherlock Holmes famously used to explain all of his intuitive leaps, but that was because readers would not be able to make the same leaps Sherlock did no matter how many times the facts were presented to them. Where as in this case the intuitive leaps are blatant.

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