Overview: In Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #21, Batman battles against Earth-22 Batman, and Superman meets his Earth-22 match!
Title: Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #21
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Dan Mora
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Steve Wands
Main Cover: Dan Mora
Variant Covers: Bryan Hitch & Alex Sinclair, Sanford Greene, Mirko Colak, Crystal Hung
Release Date: November 21, 2023
Please Note: This comic book review may contain spoilers
Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #21 leaps right into the action cliffhanger of Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #20. Thunderman, formerly Boy Thunder, is using his powers to choke Superman, claiming that Superman and Batman abandoned him on this world — Earth-22. It’s a gorgeous opener, and Artist Dan Mora and Colorist Tamra Bonvillain offer up a vicious, tense, and vibrant display.
Elsewhere, this world’s Clark Kent, the one from Kingdom Come, is interviewing a coffeehouse owner about his new sleep pods. He gets word of the fight and uses one of the pods to quick-change into Superman. In the Batcave, this world’s Bruce Wayne, having lost most of his equipment in a fight against Mongul, resorts to using the experimental flight suit that would be his trademark in Kingdom Come.
Superman moves his fight with Thunderman out of the city. The Superman of Earth-22 intervenes, and though the main Superman tries to explain what’s going on, Thunderman gets hysterical, decrying his former friend as a liar and murderer.
In Metropolis, the main Batman investigates the scene of the first battle. When he tries to raise his world’s Superman on the comms, the Batman of Earth-22 drops in. The two battle, with the Batman of Earth-22 refusing to listen to the “imposter” on this world.
Throughout this issue, Mora and Bonvillain flex their talents. Mora puts his penchant for kinetic, jaw-dropping action sequences on display. In just a page or two, Mora’s able to put momentum and a flurry of fisticuffs on display that’s easy to follow and comes across with emotion and tension. Bonvillain’s colors add a bright tone, creating that chipper, upbeat atmosphere that’s synonymous with World’s Finest, yet still knows exactly where to add enough darkness to create a cascading effect of danger and worry.
Outside of Metropolis, the main Superman leads the one of Earth-22 into a lead mine. He then whistles, which causes a collapse, delaying the Kingdom Come Superman momentarily. This gives the main Superman enough time to contact his Batman, who is currently still engaged with the Batman of Earth-22. Whereas Mora and Bonvillain showed a rough-and-tumble battle of destruction with the two Supermen, with Batman it’s smaller panels that highlight each Dark Knight’s martial arts skills as they block each other’s blows.
What follows is a great moment of storytelling. Writer Mark Waid conveys to the audience in just a few lines that while both Batmen are duking it out, they’re thinking and analyzing the situation. The main Batman is trying to plead his case, while the Batman of Earth-22 is quickly realizing that this skilled foe isn’t just Clayface in disguise.
The Nightwing of Earth-22, sporting a red suit, joins the fight, subduing the main Batman. Tethered to concrete, the main Batman realizes that this “Nightwing” character might be Dick Grayson, all grown up. For readers who are just jumping onto the title, World’s Finest takes place back when Dick Grayson was still Robin.
While the Kingdom Come versions of Batman and Nightwing talk, the main Batman breaks free and subdues them. He takes this pause to try to explain why he’s here, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Thunderman. Suddenly, the main Superman swoops in and carries his Batman off to the Kent farm.
Superman loses it, breaking stuff and raging at the thought that another version of him could be so irresponsible and lacking in compassion. Batman tries to talk him down, and it’s revealed that Thunderman fried the device the two heroes used to teleport here. They’re stuck, for now. Batman asks Superman to pick up what he can, and he zeroes in on Metropolis, listening as Earth-22’s Batman questions Thunderman, who reaffirms a phony backstory that hides his true arrival on this world.
As they talk, a tornado swirls into Metropolis, and Thunderman recites something of a prayer upon its arrival. Gog has arrived, and he’s promised a legion of other heroes to help Kingdom Come Superman and Batman find their interdimensional doppelgangers. The final two-page spread is a gorgeous who’s who of characters, from favorites like Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Etrigan to a strange-looking Batwoman and cybernetic Jonah Hex.
With Mora and Bonvillain on the book, the art is, as usual, phenomenal. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest continues to be the best-looking comic book on the stands. With readers fully submerged in this story, we’re nearing the mid-point. As a result, the story and writing takes a backseat this issue, giving room for the action to flow. It’s almost too much room, as we learn very little about this world. For readers who have been with this title since the beginning, it’s a little bit of a letdown, as, even in the more action-oriented issues, there have been more morsels of information through dialogue or plot points to build upon the world, narrative, or characters.
Despite a few moments of subtle characterization, such as the two Batmen analyzing each other during their sparring match, I wish there was a bit more to chew on from a story standpoint. It’s not a dealbreaker, but after such a stellar previous issue, it is a bit of a step down.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.