I bought this issue of WORLD’S FINEST COMICS while on a visit to my grandparents’ house–not a typical purchase for me, as I had come to realize that WFC was one of those DC super hero titles that read “wrong”, and so I would avoid it if there were other options available. In this instance, those other options must have been limited–and one must never turn down a free comic book proffered. It’s got a dramatic Neal Adams cover if nothing else, one reminiscent of the end of the Mort Weisenger era of Superman to some degree.
The lead story reads as though it’s a What If or an imaginary story–but it isn’t, it’s theoretically “real” and “happening.” The story centers on the discovery of an ancient message from Superman’s mother Lara revealing that he had a twin brother. And according to Kor-El, Superman imprisoned him in a Kryptonite asteroid. The backstory to make this all happen is insane, with Lara giving birth to another child after Jor-El departed with the newborn Kal-El, Lara hiding the second child Kon-El for years, and Kon-El somehow surviving the destruction of Krypton by being in a cave that was hurled into space whole-cloth, without somehow being transformed into Kryptonite. Yeah, it’s not a lot to swallow at all.
Believing Kon-El’s ridiculous story–which is presented throughout the story as gospel truth, Superman sacrifices his life to free his hunchbacked brother from the asteroid in which he’s imprisoned. Returning to Earth, Kon-El immediately takes over the United States, turning it into a police state overseen by himself as Big Brother. It’s a sad Batman, wearing a trenchcoat and hat over his cape and cowl, who attempts to seek out some kryptonite with which to stop Kon-El. (while the justice League has been sitting around in their satellite headquarters this whole time “planning a counter-attack”) But it turns out that Superman is still alive–but as Batman gets word of his pal still being among the living, he’s about to be jumped by Big brother’s goons. To Be Continued…
This is followed up by a Black Canary story picking up from the previous month’s werewolf adventure, in which artist Mike Nasser misses no opportunity to give us a butt-shot of Dinah. It’s a relatively unmemorable outing–and the next issue box signifies more werewolf shenanigans next issue as well.
Nasser and writer Gerry Conway also do this issue’s Green Arrow tale, which pits the Emerald Archer against a relatively new nemesis, Slingshot, an assassin whose weapon is his namesake. Not having Dinah to leer at in this story, Nasser turns in an interesting art job, including such implausibilities as Green Arrow hanging upside-down off the cornice of a building from the tops of his feet.
This is followed by another beautiful Vigilante story illustrated by the great Gray Morrow. I didn’t appreciate these stories all that much when I was a kid–they were very ground-level stuff, with little of the colorful super-heroics that I loved–but I do now. This one recounts the origin of the Vigilante as the masked rider’s arch-enemy the Dummy hangs his partner, Stuff. I remember being horrified by the page where the Vigilante walks in and there’s Stuff’s dead body, hanging from the ceiling. The story ends with the Vig swearing vengeance, which he’d presumably get next month.
Finally, the issue closes with a pedestrian Wonder Woman story, still set during World War II, in which she clashes for the first time with her enemy Baron Blitzkrieg, kind of a poor man’s Doctor Doom with a scarred face concealed in an armored face mask. The 1970s weren’t very kind to Diana outside of the enormous success and popularity of her television show–it seemed as though nobody could quite find the spark to make her interesting again. This particular tale certainly didn’t do it–and it’s To Be Continued as well.