Overview: IN Batman / Superman: The World’s Finest # 2Batman and Superman fight Felix Faust, while Robin and Supergirl travel back in time.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman / Superman: The World’s Finest # 2 begins at Caulder Mansion as Robotman helps Dr. Caulder performing surgery on Superman. Da Dr. Caulder opens Superman’s heart, the doctor screams after Negative Man. Superman has only a few minutes to live as the Kryptonite poisons his blood. Negative Man must use his radiation to cleanse Superman of his infection from within. As Negative Man begins to work, Batman begs Superman to stay strong and succeed.
Superman survives. Later, Batman, Robin, Superman and Doom Patrol talk about an artifact they rediscovered several weeks ago. It’s a sword from the Shang dynasty, both Batman and Dr. Caulder. Doom Patrol notes that it belongs to a man named Nezha. Nezha died young, and his body was preserved so that his father, a warlord named Li Jing, could find a way to revive Nezha. Eventually, Li Jing found an elixir that would give eternal life, after sacrificing his entire empire and wealth to learn about this elixir. When Nezha saw what price Li Jing paid to revive him, Nezha murdered his father.
Nezha then set about rebuilding the empire his father once had, slaughtering anyone who stood in his way. He became known as the Devil Nezha. In the end, magical warriors gathered to imprison the Devil Nezha forever.
Superman, Batman and Dr. Caulder guesses that either the Devil Nezha is free, or also uses an acolyte Nezha’s symbol and creates an army of supervillains to throw after the heroes. Dr. Caulder reveals that several heroes are under attack. The Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Billy Batson are all under attack from various enemies. Batman decides they need to get divorced. He sends Robin to find the House of Ji, the organization that imprisoned Nezha, and learn their secret to defeating this ancient villain. To accompany him, Superman summons Supergirl.
Batman and Superman fly off to rescue Billy Batson, while Caulder and Doom Patrol find the Devil Nezha.
In the Fawcett neighborhood of Philadelphia, Felix Faust is harassing the poor Billy. Before Faust can kill Billy, Superman saves the boy. Batman tries to disarm Faust, but Faust traps both Superman and Batman in a trap. Superman uses a loud whistle to cause dizziness and paralyzing muscle cramps, which breaks Faust’s enchantment by causing him to lose focus.
Elsewhere, Supergirl holds both the sword and Robin, and she flies fast enough to break the time barrier. She uses the sword’s tachyon trace to follow it to the right point in the story. Unfortunately, when they meet with House of Ji, the magic warriors assume that Supergirl and Robin are agents of the Devil Nezha (as they carry his sword).
Back in Philadelphia, Superman interrogates a disarmed Faust. Faust pretends to be defeated, and gets the jump over the heroes by telling them that Nezha has imbued him with powers that surpass their imagination. As the release ends, Batman, Superman and Billy Batson are surrounded by flames and the demons of hell.
Analysis: This follow-up takes off right at the cliffhanger off first problem where Superman was poisoned by Red Kryptonite. At Caulder Mansion, Superman is rescued with a little help from Doom Patrol. An entertaining exchange of views between Batman and Dr. Niles Caulder reveals that there is a new (and old) villain who is most likely outside this latest plot. This Devil Nezha character has allied a bunch of supervillains in an attempt to conquer the planet, and one by one they have been targeting DC’s most popular heroes.
A good third of this issue is devoted to Nezha’s background story, and readers learn something about the tragic origin story of this new villain. After being revived by a mysterious elixir, Nezha murdered his own father in anger after learning that his father sacrificed their entire empire to save him.
From there, the heroes split. Batman and Superman go to Philadelphia to rescue Billy Batson. It’s hard to judge exactly when this story takes place, but no one seems to know that Billy is secretly Shazam. Not even Felix Faust is aware of why he was sent to kill Billy. He just dutifully follows orders from the Devil Nezha, in exchange for superpowers beyond his wildest dreams.
Robin and Supergirl team up. They travel back in time to learn how the original group of heroes locked Nezha away. The details of how and why Supergirl and Robin can “break the time barrier” and travel back to ancient China are sketchy, but the fewer readers think about it, the better. This scene really depends on readers knowing a little bit about Supergirls and Robin’s relationship as they exchange biting teasing while traveling together.
In the last panel, Superman, Batman and Billy Batson appear to have been transported to hell by Felix Faust. Dan Mora’s art in this panel (and indeed throughout this issue) is absolutely glowing. Tamra Bonvillain brings a range of vibrant, exciting and fun colors to Mora’s work, and Bonvillain does a fantastic job of separating the ancient past from the present in a way that makes readers question whether other artists completed flashbacks. the sequences (they did not).
It’s a beautiful number, but the revelation of this Devil Nezha character, his background story, and his collection of villains come to readers at a dizzying pace. It’s hard to keep track of who, what, where, how and why in this series, and creators Mark Waid and Dan Mora use these plot-beats quickly to get on with the action. It’s not incomprehensible, but the plot just stumbles a little in this issue over the previous one, and I would have appreciated maybe a little more explanation and less witty teasing to help make sense of it all.
If it were not for the fact that Mora and Bonvillain lifted the visual in this issue, Batman / Superman: The World’s Finest # 2 would be less fun to read. Luckily for this series, this issue could be one of the nicest books on the shelves. It is certainly a glory to see.
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 at Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title throughout Things from another world.