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Batman/Superman: World's Finest #18 Batman/Superman: World's Finest #18

Batman/Superman: World's Finest #18

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 15, 2023
Cover date: October 2023

"The Origin of the World's Finest Team: Phantom Riddles - Part One"

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Travis Moore
Cover: Dan Mora
Variant Covers: Darick Robertson and Diego Rodriguez, Ariel Colon, Meghan Hetrick

Reviewed by: Tony Parker
Click to enlarge

Years ago, on a yacht in Gotham City, a reporter named Charlie quarries Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock on a Riddler crime more puzzling than ever. At the Daily Planet in Metropolis, Jimmy Olsen shows Clark Kent/Superman the curious riddle, which shocks Clark: It's written in Kryptonese! (Read what Mark Waid had to say about the Kryptonese writing on Facebook). Charlie asks Gordon if Bruce Wayne/Batman has seen it, but Gordon replies that even if he has, he's busy with another mystery at the same time: Seven Gothamites disappearing into thin air in front of many eyewitnesses.

Superman flies over to Gotham to talk to Gordon about the case and the Riddler, hoping to take care of the situation. Superman reveals that the riddle is written in a dialect from his long gone homeworld. Gordon asks if there's anyone Riddler could have learned it from, other Kryptonians, but Superman says it's unlikely to be his dog Krypto. He asks if perhaps he could get directions to Batman, but Gordon says he can't signal him (though it gives him an idea to deal with that). Detecting him close by, Superman flies over to Batman to talk the case.

Superman translates the riddle, which Batman solves promptly. He then tells him of the Ghosting of Gotham (the aforementioned disappearances). Random victims, with no common location or relationship. Superman and Batman both agree Riddler has to be connected, since the answer to the riddle ("Nothing"), fits the disappearances. However, they stop for a moment to deal with a new villain named Spellbinder, who's robbing the Gotham Diamond Exchange. Superman saves the at risk guards, while Batman restrains the would be murderer. His partner, Magpie, is still on the run, however.

It seems like they have a chance, but then Superman, from underneath a sewer, punches the car to the side. Batman stops the criminals from shooting the Man of Steel. Superman says he appreciates the teamwork, but Batman says not to get used to it, he works alone.

Superman disagrees. He states that Riddler is quite likely working with a Kryptnonian, and that Batman wouldn't be able to fight such an opponent, and he won't leave Gotham unprotected. They will work together for now, even if he himself isn't too trusting of a man who hides his face in a mask. He asks Batman to reveal his identity, but Batman says Superman should go first. Using his detective skills, he nearly cracks it, but Superman changes the subject. Batman says Riddler will strike again soon, and he'll flag Superman when the time is right.

Elsewhere, Riddler is hurting, bleeding from his nose. He's seemingly working (against his will) for a mysterious voice and form, trying to break free. But the form asks for one more task...

At Wayne Manor, Bruce has a conversation with Alfred, which reveals that Bruce has been Batman for one year. Alfred would rather he stopped, but relents and asks about the case. Bruce has nothing, and when he turns around...

Alfred's turned to nothing.

Meanwhile, Clark informs Perry White of the case, and that he's staying in Gotham for now to handle it. Perry has even better news for Clark: Bruce Wayne, Daily Planet stockholder, is offering an exclusive interview, and he's asked for Clark by name.

And so, the two meet at Wayne Manor for the interview. Only for Bruce to reveal that he figured out Clark is Superman. Using Waynetech satellites, he mapped the flight paths of Superman to nail him down to the Planet building, then scanned the worker profiles and landed on Clark. Bruce has also filled the building with an odorless knockout gas, hence why he let Clark wait for 30 minutes.

Bruce then reassures Clark that his secret is safe with him, and is open to revealing his own, though Clark admits to X-Raying just a moment ago.

Clark asks why Bruce would reveal to him his secret. Putting aside that Clark would eventually learn, Bruce is desperate to find Alfred and the other victims. He wants to know if there's ANYTHING Clark could do to help. Superhearing reveals that another Riddle is out. The two head out in daylight to get the job done.

Gotham Memorial Park, where the next riddle is. Superman translates, and Batman solves it. It's about house numbers, and when added all up, it leads them to 1792 port street's abandoned shipyard. Superman X-rays and finds Riddler in one of the ships.

While Superman confronts Riddler, Batman is grabbed by the mysterious associate, making him disappear. The figure then attacks Superman and punches him hard through a ship, revealing himself to be...

Jax-Ur, a Kryptonian prisoner Jor-El jailed. And he's got Batman trapped in the phantom zone...

To Be Continued...

4Story - 4: A strong, solid start!

For a story with this much hype, it's odd that there aren't many versions of it, especially in the comics! This feels like an attempt to give a finally definitive multi part first meeting that isn't yet another fight of philosophical proportions before the inevitable team up (hmm, wonder where I've seen that before, and why that sounds terrible...), and I'm very pleased that this arc is trying to take a different direction. Bruce dealing with his first proper supernatural mystery, still rooted in his world but with a Superman flavor (literally, since it's the riddles and villain are kryptonian) is very clever and very fresh, leads to a logical route for a team up, sets up Batman's need for partners and relationships, and allows Superman to work on his deductive reasoning (something he seems to be lacking in this early story but we know he develops later on). It leads to a story where no one feels stronger than the other, there's a building healthy respect (though I do expect more character moments soon), and a tantalizing mystery. I was truly wondering who could be controlling Riddler, and Jax-ur is a fun choice, especially with him trapping Batman in the Phantom Zone! Plus, many many fun moments and call forwards (the bat signal one had me practically giddy!)

This book is always must read, but I feel like this could be a serious golden standard if it can deliver in the next few parts and provide some more great moments between the two heroes (having Alfred in danger is already a great start).

3Art - 3: Dan Mora steps down from this arc (either temporarily or fully, I think he might be working on the "Teen Titans: World's Finest" book that came out recently), and I hate to say it, but it shows. The art feels like it's trying too hard to stick to the style of the departed artist, but it never stands out on its own. It's not bad, persay. Just a little middle of the road. I do like how Superman is drawn, though!

5Cover Art - 5: Absolutely perfect. The two separate meetings. The Cave and The Planet. The contrasts. The lighting. The colors. Dan Mora does it again. Movie poster like in the best way.

2Variant Cover Art - 2: Too gritty for my tastes. A little grotesque, to be honest.

3Variant Cover Art - 3: Nice Blue Beetle promotion, colors are nice!

1Variant Cover Art - 1: What's with all the grotesque covers? They look like dried prunes.

3Variant Cover Art - 3: Nicer, decent rain and thunder. Very impressionistic, but no Van Gogh over here.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Except for digital first releases, the month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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