There’s so much I want to love in Paul Levitz and Kevin Maguire’s “Worlds’ Finest” #0, but the story and art are a tonal mismatch, and as a result it’s impossible to know what you’re supposed to feel.
Paul Levitz’s story has some sweet moments, but in the end it’s a dark mournful story, and so Kevin Maguire’s beautiful but bright and slightly cartoony art feels like a contradiction. There are moments when Levitz takes the writing to a campy level, which is a better match for Maguire’s visuals, but even then the story being told is far too serious for the campy dialogue and visuals.
Perhaps the problem is that there are two competing stories here: an almost lighthearted tale of how two young girls met, bonded and became best friends; and a story of the death of a beloved hero and mother (Selina Kyle, once Catwoman, now here, Huntress) and how tragedy yet again builds a hero like Batman.
There are obvious and deliberate parallels between Helena’s mother’s death and Bruce’s parents’ death, but the former lacks the gravitas of the latter. As a result, it’s difficult to connect or care about the scene. There’s also literally no development of Selina Kyle as a character in these pages. The story relies almost entirely on the idea of Selina Kyle as a character in general, and for the most part she doesn’t feel like any Selina Kyle I’ve ever read, which makes it even harder to link them and care when she dies brutally and off-panel. Add to that Helena’s cartoonish reaction (both visually and in dialogue) and it comes off as laughable instead of emotionally resonant. Though a minor character here, Bruce’s voice also feels off, and while it shouldn’t matter so much since it’s not his story, the truth is that when Batman’s present we all pay attention. When it feels wrong, as it does here, it’s painfully noticeable.
On the whole Maguire’s art is lovely and fun. He draws a fantastic Kara as Supergirl and Helena Wayne as Robin. However, he also has an assist by Wes Craig on this issue. While I like Wes Craig’s style quite a bit, it’s not a great fit with Maguire’s. The change in style is jarring and given the mismatched tone of the book already, having multiple artists just adds to the clashing ideas and images.
There are some great ideas in this book — one of powerful female friendships, emerging superheroines, tragedy that builds character — but the disconnect between the art and story is simply too much for the book to bear and as a result it doesn’t succeed on any of the emotional levels it aims for. This book feels like it never knew what it was supposed to be and thus fails to be anything, which is a shame, because it’s a wonderful (and too rare) opportunity to showcase these young heroines.