It’s years since I read this book, having gotten tired of stories that were nutty without being entertaining. And the back and forth narration, with Superman and Batman constantly mancrushing, was excruciating.
But the promise of a Supergirl/Robin team-up was too tasty to resist. That would be the Tim Drake Robin, around the time Kara arrived on Earth. And there’s a more recent, though not that recent – Batman isn’t dead and Robin isn’t grim, gritty and Red – framing sequence that gives us a look at Supergirl’s new secret ID, Linda Lang.
The meat of the issue sees the World’s Finest Teens dealing with an Arkham Asylum breakout (there’s an R in the month, apparently) and it’s as straightforward as straightforward can be. No scary twists, no new psychos, just page after page of heroes pounding on villains as they get to know one another.
The most gratifying aspect of the story is seeing a Kryptonian pound on Batman’s villains in a way Superman never seems to. Supergirl never received the memo that in Gotham only the Bats get to look good, and once he sees her potential, Robin is only too happy to let Kara cut loose. There’s a nod to the dark side Kara displayed at this point in her development, but it’s over in a second and entirely appropriate to the story.
I see Michael Green and Mike Johnson are the regular writers on this title, and on this showing I’ll track down some back issues. Artist Rafael Albuquerque I already know from Blue Beetle and he’s a great fit here, able to place a bright Superman Family character into a dark Gotham scenario without her looking incongruous (it helps, of course, that Robin and Supergirl both have bright costumes). Both heroes are equally at home in this strip, and Albuquerque’s facility with facial expressions is put to good use. I was going to quibble that his Joker is shorter and stockier than he should be, but given the way artists have free reign to push him in the other direction, there’s really no reason to carp. Joker looks scary, that’s the main thing.
Albuquerque also provide a cover illo that perfectly sums up the issue without duplicating any scenes. DC needs to give this man a high profile book before Marvel nicks him.
The colouring is by David Baron, who shows a real understanding of mood (for example, in a scene introducing Commissioner Gordon and Arkham), while Rob Leigh gives us his usual lettering masterclass.
So, is every issue of this title these days as good as this?