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Batman/Superman: World's Finest #19 Batman/Superman: World's Finest #19

Batman/Superman: World's Finest #19

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 19, 2023
Cover date: November 2023

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

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Travis Moore
Cover: Dan Mora
Variant Covers: Tony S. Daniel and Alejandro Sanchez, Alexander Lozano, Helene Lenoble

Reviewed by: Tony Parker
Click to enlarge

Jax-Ur battles Superman in the Gotham skyline, beating him up and explaining to him that Batman is now trapped forever in the Phantom Zone, the place where Jax-Ur lay and watched Kal-El "waste his sun powered gifts". The Kryptonian criminal now insists that he, not a weakling like Clark, should be the last son of Krypton.

Meanwhile, inside the Phantom Zone, Batman observes the battle of the two Kryptonian survivors, only to suddenly be encountered by Alfred. Alfred explains that he had telepathically spoken to the other prisoners, learned what the prison was, and that the walls were slightly weakening, the breaches being what trapped the disappearing Gotham citizens, including himself. Jax-Ur too had noticed the breaches, and using his fine tuned mathematical mind, found a pattern. Using it, he mind controlled Riddler, drew Superman to an upcoming breech, and while failing to catch him and instead catching Batman, now has the Man of Steel in his grasp.

Superman, however, IS stronger, having spent more time under Earth's son. Jax-Ur, realizing this, uses his cunning to distract Superman, heat vision sending a cable car down to the ground. Superman, of course, flies over to save the people, and now has no idea where the maniacal mental monster is. Thankfully, Batman figures out how to push his thoughts through to Superman from the Phantom Zone, and the two use their knowledge of geometry to track him down.

While Superman does so, Batman observes aloud that Superman seems triggered by the escaped celestial convict. Superman explains that Jax-Ur is a mass murderer, one who defied Krypton's admittedly xenophobic rules governing interplanetary travel. Jax-Ur's own spaceship went off course and destroyed one of Krypton's populated moons, killing ten thousand. But it didn't stop there: Jax-Ur's rashness had led to a total ban on spacecraft, meaning Jor-El couldn't build the arks to save the people of Krypton, thereby making Jax-Ur partially responsible for the near extinction of Superman's race. Due to that, he is struggling to temper his rage. Batman, understanding how Superman feels, extends a wave of sympathy.

The plan to have Batman grab Jax-Ur doesn't work, however. He had already calculated where the next dozens portals would open. To prove this, he grabs Batman from the portal and throws him to his death, only for Superman to catch him.

Superman feels discouraged, but Batman insists that there is still hope to outmaneuver him, if they work together. Batman explains that to beat Jax-Ur, they must think like him. Superman expresses doubt, but tries, and the two figure out that Jax-Ur would want revenge on any and all living Kryptonians. And there are more, living in the Bottled City of Kandor.

Jax-Ur is found in the Fortress of Solitude, using his heat vision to melt the city. While Superman intercepts him mid-air, Batman gets more important information from Alfred: The weakening portals seem to be caused by a hooded alien holding some sort of device. The alien suddenly disappears before Alfred can ask any questions. Batman admits he feels out of his element, but Alfred motivates him, saying that if he's one thing, it's consistent.

Superman, losing his patience, tells Jax-Ur that Kandor and Earth are under his protection, but he'll be happy to find an unpopulated planet to drop on him. Jax-Ur is still too strong, however, and he launches Clark through the statue built in his parents honor. The explosion helps Batman find the Phantom Zone projector Superman had spoken about before.

Jax-Ur, meanwhile, beats the life out of Superman, making him bleed, wiping the floor with him. Superman can't beat him...

But Batman might. At first, it seems a lost cause: Batman is caught skulking around and thrown to his death by Jax-Ur, only for him to see that the projector is working from the crystal floors now instead, trapping the megalomaniac. The duo clasp hands, agreeing in subtext to work together again and help improve each other.

After trapping the Riddler together, Batman warns Superman of future encounters with Gotham villains, while Superman says he will keep an eye on the alien who had been seemingly causing the breeches. Batman then asks if Superman does this to avenge his parents. Superman says he does it to create a world where no one feels abandoned or alone. Batman then leaves as the sun goes up, telling Superman he doesn't normally trust anyone with such powers, saying he better not make him regret it. Superman promises he won't.

In an epilogue, we learn the alien is in fact Aethyr the messiah, who swears to release all the prisoners of the Phantom Zone...

3Story - 3: I will admit, in some ways, this is almost TOO nice of an adventure.

Not that I need ANOTHER Superman Batman fight (we've had plenty), but perhaps it could have felt a bit more impactful in terms of what it means to the two. It seems like they just mostly bond on being good people and having dead parents. I would have appreciated more of a "Batman learning to work with others" vibe, since he seems to adapt to it far too easily.

But it's still a good issue nonetheless! Jax-Ur is wonderfully ferocious, committing atrocities in the blink of an eye; Both heroes use their wits, making not one feel more powerful than the other; Kandor making a cameo is always great; and the ending is sure to leave a fan of one, the other, or both (like me) feeling something special. Plus, the set up for the Action Comics Phantom Zone arc looks quite promising (an idea I am sure will light up 2024!), and it was fun in a throwback sort of way.

Still, this isn't the strongest arc so far. I would so far rank it third, just behind Demon Nezha (for an emotional ending and a more entertaining action story) and Thunder Lad (which was just far more impactful and satisfying), but ahead of Elementary (while a great robot story, not much in terms of character arc). Obviously this is still a good book with some great character moments, but it's a little worrying to me that perhaps the only story that will truly match the character depth of the Thunder Lad arc is its sequel, coming next month in the Kingdom Come comeback. Again, this is still a good book, but I hope once that arc is done (assuming this run isn't over) that we get an arc that is more than just fun.

3Art - 3: Pretty standard stuff again. Nothing against this artist, but there isn't much that pops out to me here, outside of a decent Silver/Bronze age vibe, and even then.

2Cover Art - 2: Flagrant false advertising. Jax-Ur nowhere to be seen, Riddler features at the very end. Ruins what is a pretty well colored and atmospheric cover.

4Variant Cover Art - 4: Much better, a classic split cover that demonstrates the two different worlds of our leads in a cool way, the split red thunder a really nice touch!

5Variant Cover Art - 5: Gotta give a 5 to Nic Cage Superman. Especially seeing Clark so happy to see him.

1Variant Cover Art - 1: Composite Batman/Superman/Joker that looks honestly disgusting. Anyone else tired of this kind of stuff?

2Variant Cover Art - 2: Quite mediocre. They have space suits, I guess that's kind of different? Not much in terms of actual enjoyment.

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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