Overview: In Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #10, Joker tortures Boy Thunder for the identities of Batman, Superman, and Robin. Meanwhile, our heroes struggle to free their friend from captivity.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #10 begins at the secret lair of Joker and the Key, as Joker tortures Boy Thunder, questioning the young hero about the secret identities of Batman, Superman, and Robin.
In Gotham City, Superman searches for lead-lined buildings, looking for Joker and Key’s hideout to no avail. The Teen Titans are also on the lookout, as is Commissioner Gordon. At one of Key’s old safehouses, Batman and Robin pick through clues. Batman finally finds something that didn’t have the serial number completely filed off. He cross-references it with deliveries to vacant buildings, which leads the team of heroes to their next location.
At the hideout, Key talks with Boy Thunder and, in turn, reveals his origin story as a boy who dreamt of escaping, of turning to psychotropic drugs and chemicals to tap into the hidden potentials of his own mind. Key also reveals that he’s working with Joker in exchange for more experimental chemicals that could further expand his mind.
When Boy Thunder starts pleading for his life, he tells Key that he came from a parallel Earth. This excites Key, who believes that fate has dealt him a key to the multiverse.
Back at the Key’s other base, Batman, Superman, and the Teen Titans are presented with a bunch of floating doors that fade in and out at random. Batman notes that there’s a pattern, and he also mentions that while Joker wears gloves, the Key does not. Superman begins looking for fingerprints that could lead them through the right doorway.
Just as Joker resumes beating Boy Thunder with a crowbar, Batman, Superman, and the Teen Titans arrive. Joker flees, as does Key, who lets in some interdimensional monsters to keep the heroes occupied. While the heroes battle the monster, Boy Thunder chases after Joker, entering a doorway that leads him to a funhouse.
Boy Thunder chases Joker down and starts burning him. The other heroes defeat the monster and then prevent Joker’s death. Boy Thunder is last seen screaming at Joker, threatening to murder him someday. If not today, he’ll do it in twenty years — however long it takes.
Years later, Magog, the villain from Kingdom Come, stands over Joker, threatening to murder the Clown Prince of Crime.
Analysis: Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #10 takes readers to an unexpected conclusion. Throughout this whole arc with Boy Thunder, readers have been shown glimpses of an unhinged boy suffering the trauma of losing his homeworld. Though the heroes have tried to help him control his powers and emotions, these cracks have shone through.
In this issue, Joker tortures Boy Thunder for hours, taunting and beating him in hopes of eliciting information from the boy, but that’s only a half-truth. Joker enjoys torturing Boy Thunder for the pleasure of it. Batman, Superman, and the Teen Titans work tirelessly to find Boy Thunder, and when they do, it’s too late.
That angry, vengeful person buried deep within Boy Thunder is released, and he almost kills the Joker. The final page reveals that Boy Thunder will grow up to become Magog, a morally questionable “hero” best known from Kingdom Come.
The road to this reveal is beautiful and haunting. It’s beautiful in the sense that Dan Mora’s art, with Tamra Bonvillain’s colors, makes this arguably the most stunning and best-looking book on the comic book spinner rack right now. Mora’s paneling and linework are awe-worthy, deftly juggling parallel narratives that reach their apex too late in Boy Thunder’s story. Meanwhile, Bonvillain’s coloring evokes a sense of classic age heroism in Batman, Superman, and the Titans, but it blends well against the darkness and gravity of the situation at hand.
Ultimately, this storyline has become one about a fleeting attempt to right a wrong, about the struggle against the tide to save Boy Thunder from a grim fate. All along, Mora, Bonvillain, and writer Mark Waid have been teasing that Batman, Superman, and Robin have been licked from the start of this arc, but because they’re the best of the heroes, they, along with us readers, didn’t want to give up hope. But the writing’s been on the wall since the first issue for Boy Thunder. Over and over again, Donna Troy has warned about something dark that’s festering deep within Thunder, and it’s the Joker who finally brings it out of the boy.
On the surface, Batman/Superman: World’s Finest has played out like a love letter to the silver age of comic books, and in some respects, it is. This arc proves that beneath that bright veneer, there’s as much depth, emotion, and strife to put this series in competition with the overtly darker, moodier comics.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a 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.