Overview: In Batman / Superman: World’s Finest #16, Batman and Superman free themselves from Newmazo as the rest of the Justice League enters the fight.
Please Note: This comic book review may contain spoilers
Batman / Superman: World’s Finest #16 races to a start with Robin (Dick Grayson) in the Batmobile, covering his face as the vehicle is about to crash. The Flash (Barry Allen) saves Robin from a fiery demise, filling in both Robin and readers that Kid Flash (Wally West) alerted him to Robin’s impending doom. He asks if this has anything to do with the A.I. uprising, but when Robin expresses bewilderment, Flash notes that anything using some form of artificial intelligence has gone rogue.
Flash asks where Batman is, and Robin notes that he’s with Superman, which is bad, because that means he’s captured by Newmazo, the villain behind this vicious attack. For those keeping up with Batman / Superman: World’s Finest, it’s a fast-paced start paneled effectively by artist Dan Mora, who knows how to pump the adrenaline before delighting readers with a heroic save by Barry Allen.
Elsewhere, Newmazo threatens Superman, reminding the Big Blue that a Kryptonite Ultramorpho in the room is ensuring that the Man of Steel is powerless. Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, reveals that he was forced by Dr. Ivo to upgrade Amazo into this titan that has enslaved both Superman and Batman. After the upgrade, Newmazo absorbed both superpowers and super intelligence, conscripting other genius minds like Toyman and Dr. Cyber to his cause. He also started going after billionaires, using the fortunes behind Simon Stagg and Oliver Queen to fund his world-domination goals.
Batman and Superman try to guess Newmazo’s goal, but while they think they have him pegged as another world conqueror, robot savior a la Marvel’s Ultron type, they’re wrong. Magnus reveals that Newmazo wants to enslave humanity and send them to “reclamation plants,” where they will be dissolved into basic chemical elements. For a series that’s kept it pretty family friendly, fun, and a celebration of Silver Age comics, it’s a grim turn from writer Mark Waid and Mora. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain effectively casts an eerie green that hits the right grotesque note but also brings in a sense of classic 60s/70s-era scifi that adds a layer of pulp to this arc. What started as a seemingly simple murder mystery of Simon Stagg several issues back has evolved into a mortifying plot to literally dissolve all of humanity.
The retro scifi reference is confirmed on the very next page. In Midway City, Hawkman battles Kelex and Superman robots while Plastic Man, Metamorpho, and the Metal Men attempt to stop a rendering plant. It’s here where Plastic Man makes a Soylent Green reference, which brings home that green glow Bonvillain added on the previous few pages.
While Hawkman and the Metal Men battle above, Metamorpho enters the facility and dukes it out with G.I. Robot. The next few pages are a glorious, eye-catching display as Mora and Bonvillain give readers an exciting parallel battle sequence that’s dripping with vibrant colors. Though the fight is only a handful of panels, it draws readers in and is definitely a highlight to the issue.
Meanwhile, Batman (Bruce Wayne) has been talking to other members captured by Newmazo, both villains (like Toyman and Stagg) and other heroes (like Blue Beetle and Green Arrow). He has given them little items to defend themselves with and put a plan in motion to break out.
Blue Beetle is to distract Ultramorpho, who has a crack in his chest from Superman, and Green Arrow will take advantage of that weakness. When Arrow takes down Ultramorpho, Superman frees himself while the others block the Kryptonite radiation. As Ultramorpho reassembles, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Firestorm, Metamorpho, Robin, and The Flash join the fight.
A few moments later, Batman is directing Green Lantern to block Newmazo’s satellites around Earth while sending Wonder Woman and Robin to find T.O. Morrow, the inventor of Red Tornado, who was strangely absent from Newmazo’s menagerie of geniuses.
While Superman, Batman, and the others free Newmazo’s captives and set to work finding him, Wonder Woman and Robin meet with Morrow, who said he prepared for such an event to happen. Before readers can learn what it is, Supergirl approaches Batman. When Batman asks why she isn’t helping the others, she reveals herself to be Newmazo in disguise.
The ending gets a little muddy here, as Mora, Waid, and Bonvillain rush to a conclusion in the upcoming Batman / Superman: World’s Finest #17. The pacing that bounced effortlessly between action and exposition gets a little lost, leaping a bit off the rails in an unevenness that gives us all the facts, so we can prepare ourselves for next month’s finale. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but the info dump at the end takes a few rereads to understand. Morrow’s involvement is deliberately vague, which obviously is a clue to some big reveal in the upcoming issue, but here, it’s actually a disservice to this issue. Those few pages where Wonder Woman uses the lasso of truth on Morrow would have been better spent on the Batman / Superman side of the book, further explaining what Newmazo wanted to do with those satellites and better reveal the weight of his ability to create duplicates and hide among the population.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #19 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.