Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
World's Finest #323Cover date: January 1986
"Afraid of the Dark"
Writer: Joey Cavalieri
Penciller: Jose Delbo
Inker: Alfredo Alcala
Cover: Denys Cowan and Dick Giordano
Reviewed by: Tom-EL
It is 9:00am in Metropolis, but it's totally dark in the city. Not the dark of night, but a black, inky darkness for which the light of torches and lanterns doesn't extend very far. Superman is out on patrol, and he senses that this darkness is not natural, but magic in origin. Even his telescopic vision will not penetrate this darkness with any distance. He is concerned that if this unnatural darkness continues, people will become fearful. Superman continues his patrol, on the lookout for vandals and hoodlums trying to take advantage of the darkness. He stops some thugs from preying on innocent people while he continues to search for the source of the pervading darkness. As soon as he rounds up one group of hoodlums and turns them over to authorities, he flies off in a direction that appears to be the heart of the darkness.
As he gets nearer to that point, he sees two small points of light, a moment later there are more pairs. Superman thinks "Maybe I've come TOO close..." as the pairs of lights turn into the glowing eyes of a pack of phantom-like wolves, but Superman can clearly feel their teeth tearing at his costume and cape. He knows he can't defend himself if they truly are magic. As Superman succumbs to the attacking wolves, the one responsible for the darkness comes into view. He calls himself "Nightwolf", and he's working for a mysterious person called Powerbroker.
Somewhere in Metropolis in a boardroom, the board of a corporation is in communication with a faceless person on a wall monitor. The members of the board around the table all have concerns about Powerbroker's choice of Nightwolf to achieve their goals. They are concerned that his continued darkness will put the world's ecosystem at risk of permanent damage. Powerbroker tells them to end their alarmist talk, telling them that Nightwolf is under the reins of the corporation, and it has the means to deal with him if the need arises.
At the Metropolis train station, a large number of people are trying to take the train to leave the city. A female spokesperson of the railway service assures the panicky crowd that the trains will run on time, and requests that they stay calm. She hears something down the track and moves closer to investigate. It turns out to be another phantom wolf, who moves to attack her. A second later, Batman swings by on the batrope, picking her up and out of the reach of the wolf. Batman throws one of his new smoke batarangs, and the wolf runs off. Batman tells her to stay above where she is needed, then he heads for the Batmobile.
From the Batmobile, Batman receives a call from Alfred. There was a telephone call to Bruce Wayne from a woman named Monica Zehringer, who once received an archaeological grant from Wayne. Alfred patches it through. She has information on who is causing the darkness that covers not only Metropolis, but also it turns out, Gotham City as well. Thinking she is speaking with Bruce Wayne, she informs him the man responsible for the darkness is doing it with Wayne's money. Monica lives in Metropolis, so Batman goes to her apartment, telling her Wayne sent him. She tells Batman that the man he wants once accompanied her on a Wayne-funded dig in Mexico. On his own, he took a belt they uncovered and went deep into the hills, where he met an old magician who told him about the belt's purpose. The belt has the power to bring the darkness of night and even command over the creatures of the night. She had dismissed the story of the belt as legend until now. Then she gave Batman a picture of the belt and the old shaman.
Nightwolf has now appeared to the public, showing them Superman lying on the ground with his phantom wolves holding him at bay. Nightwolf was about to give the wolves permission to destroy Superman, when he and the wolves sense the presence of another with them. Out of the darkness, a light glows until it finally reveals the old shaman. Nightwolf wants to know what he wants and why he's here. Sensing he's there to recover the belt, Nightwolf says "You can't have it, do you hear? I wield the power... I control it... and soon will control... EVERYTHING!" Nightwolf sends his wolves to attack, but as they are about to pounce on the old magician, he disappears. Nightwolf yells at his wolves "Track him down, he could be anywhere!" Right behind Nightwolf, the shaman re-appears and gives him a whack on the neck as he says "You got THAT right!" He grabs the belt from Nightwolf and the wolves vanish. A moment later the shaman is revealed to be Batman. He realized that even though the wolves were magical, their vision could be blinded with smoke, that he created from chemicals in his utility belt. Nightwolf's reign of darkness and chaos has finally ended.
A little while later, an unconscious Superman wakes up in the hay-filled stall of a stable. He remembers the smell of hay growing up in Smallville. He mentions that he spent a lot of good times living around places like this this, when a voice from the darkness says "You almost died in a place like this". It's Batman. Superman starts to thank him, when Batman cuts him off saying "Save it, I don't want to hear it!" He then proceeded to reprimand Superman for the way he handled this situation. "You wouldn't have to be thanking me if you'd handled the situation a little differently than you ALWAYS do! You're faster than a speeding bullet... SLOW DOWN... and use that super-brain once in awhile. The night, the shadows, those are my domain. The backstreets and back alleys... they're MY territory. Leave them to an expert". He ends the scolding by saying "I'll save your neck anytime, but I won't write your epitaph. Think about it!"
The final page shows Superman flying off in one direction, while Batman swings on the bat-rope going the opposite way. The story ends with these words:
"The bonds of a friendship are forged of the mightiest steel...
tempered in a flame that burns brighter than a thousand suns.
For half a century, no man, no war, no cause,
has ever shattered those bonds...
But this day, they have discovered a crack in the metal...
We can only hope... it is not beyond repair."
Story - 2: Evidently, the crack in the metal was beyond repair, because this story was the last issue of World's Finest, and the Superman-Batman post-crisis relationship was never the same again. I quote from Sean Hogan's 3-part special report of World's Finest (I recommend reading it):
- "Since Superman continuity was re-started with The Man of Steel mini-series, and Batman became more of a reclusive loner following Frank Miller's redefining work in The Dark Knight Returns, stories have emphasized the contrast between the two. There is respect and friendship of a sort between them, but nowhere near the best pal's status that they enjoyed previously."
Joey Cavalieri was a writer at DC for not only World's Finest, but also The Huntress, and The Flash. He also spent time at Marvel, including the Marvel 2099 series during the mid '90's. That may well be true, but to me, this story probably doesn't represent his best work. This is not a bad story premise and set-up, but there really wasn't that much depth to it. A mysterious darkness shows up. Superman investigates it, gets in trouble, Batman finds out who's behind it, saves Superman's bacon, and then lectures him. As a villain, I thought Nightwolf was not particularly engaging, and Powerbroker was even less so. This was the second appearance of Powerbroker and we never see any more of him after his brief appearance early in this story, nor do we ever find out who he really was. I am still confused about the wolves. They were magic enough to take down Superman, a man who can change the course of mighty rivers and bend steel in his bare hands, but a smoke batarang is sufficient to distract them? I just think there's a disconnect there somewhere. This story, with a slightly different ending, might have worked better in an earlier issue of World's Finest, but this was just not the way to bring to a close the greatest working friendship in comic book history.
Art - 4: To the best of my remembrance, this is the only story I remember reading with art by the team of Delbo, Alcala, and Hoolahan. Aside from this story I was unfamiliar with their art. I discovered that Jose Delbo has done work for DC on Wonder Woman, and for Marvel on the Transformers comic series. Alfredo Alcala has, according to one website, "worked for nearly every company from Marvel to DC to Dark Horse, etc., and has worked on characters as diverse as Conan, Man Thing, El Diablo, Star Wars, and Swamp Thing." Their art was, in my opinion, the bright spot of an otherwise lackluster story. The pencilling uses a lot more thin lines, rather than bolder ones to illustrate facial features, as well as shading, musculature form and movement, and the combination with the inking produced a style that worked very well for me. I may have to go back and see if I can find more of their story art collaberations. I wouldn't quite put it on the same level as Curt Swan's work, but I did like it a lot.
Cover Art - 3: There are by my count, at least three different ways the artists wanted readers to know from the cover that this was the final issue of World's Finest. First, it says "Farewell Issue" in the upper left hand corner. Secondly, the orange setting sun says in big solid black letters "THE END". And third, the two characters are waving to each other, presumably waving goodbye since they seem to be going in opposite directions. Cowan and Giordano don't just tell you it's the last issue, they practically break a board over your head to get it across to you that there ain't gonna be any more issues of World's Finest. They did a nice job on Batman and Superman, but to me the rest of the cover is kind of bland, and it gives you absolutely no clue what the story is about. In this case, maybe that was a good thing.
Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews
- Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
- Action Comics #2 (July 1938)
- Action Comics #3 (August 1938)
- Action Comics #4 (September 1938)
- Action Comics #5 (October 1938)
- Action Comics #6 (November 1938)
- Action Comics #7 (December 1938)
- Superman Archives: Volume 1 (1939)
- Superman #1 (Summer 1939)
- Action Comics #8 (January 1939)
- Action Comics #9 (February 1939)
- Action Comics #10 (March 1939)
- Superman #13 (November/December 1941) - The Archer
- Superman #19 (November/December 1942) - Case of the Funny Paper Crimes
- Action Comics #60 (May 1943) - Lois Lane - Superwoman
- Superman #30 (September/October 1944) - The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk
- Action Comics #80 (January 1945) - Mr. Mxyztplk Returns
- Superman #38 (January/February 1946) - The Battle of the Atoms
- Superman #42 (September/October 1946) - The Death of Clark Kent
- Superman #45 (March/April 1947) - Lois Lane, Superwoman
- Superman #53 (July 1948) - The Origin of Superman
- Action Comics #124 (September 1948) - A Superman of Doom
- Superman #60 (December 1949/January 1950) - The Two Identities of Superman & Superman Fights the Super-Brain
- Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - The Mightiest Team in the World
- Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - Superman's Lost Brother
- Superman 3D (1953) - The Man Who Stole the Sun, Origin of Superman and The Man Who Bossed Superman
- Superman #87 (February 1954) - The Prankster's Greatest Role
- Superman #88 (March 1954) - The Terrible Trio
- Superman #89 (May 1954) - Captain Kent the Terrible, Superman of Skid Row, and One Hour to Doom!
- Superman #91 (August 1954) - The Superman Stamp and Great Caesar's Ghost
- World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes
- Superman #115 (August 1957) - The Midget Superman!
- Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse
- Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - The Super-Duel in Space
- Superman #123 (August 1958) - The Girl of Steel
- Superman #127 (February 1959) - Titano the Super Ape
- Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - The Menace of Metallo and The Supergirl From Krypton
- Superman #129 (May 1959) - The Girl in Superman's Past
- Superman #130 (July 1959) - The Curse of Kryptonite!, The Super-Servant of Crime!, and The Town that Hated Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal
- Superman #134 (January 1960) - The Super-Menace of Metropolis
- Jimmy Olsen #42 (January 1960) - The Big Superman Movie!, Perry White, Cub Reporter!, and Jimmy the Genie!
- Jimmy Olsen #44 (April 1960) - The Wolf-Man of Metropolis
- Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960) - How Luthor Met Superboy
- Jimmy Olsen #46 (July 1960) - Jimmy Olsen, Orphan
- Superman #141 (November 1960) - Superman's Return To Krypton
- Superboy #85 (December 1960) - The Impossible Mission
- Jimmy Olsen #51 (March 1961) - The Girl with Green Hair
- Jimmy Olsen #52 (April 1961) - Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man
- Superboy #89 (June 1961) - Superboy's Big Brother!
- Action Comics #279 (August 1961) - The Super-Rivals
- Superman #147 (August 1961) - The Legion of Super Villains
- Superman #149 (November 1961) - The Death of Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #57 (December 1961) - Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl
- Superman #155 (August 1962) - Superman Under the Green Sun and The Downfall of Superman
- Justice League of America #13 (August 1962) - Riddle of the Robot Justice League
- World's Finest #129 (November 1962) - Joker-Luthor, Incorporated
- Superman #158 (January 1963) - Superman in Kandor
- Superman #160 (April 1963) - The Mortal Superman
- Superman #161 (May 1963) - The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent
- Superman #162 (July 1963) - The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue
- Superman #163 (August 1963) - Wonder-Man, the New Hero of Metropolis and The Goofy Superman
- Justice League of America #21 & #22 (August/September 1963) - Crisis on Earth-One! and Crisis on Earth-Two!
- Superman #164 (October 1963) - The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman
- Superman #165 (November 1963) - The Sweetheart Superman Forgot
- Superman #166 (January 1964) - The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons
- Superman #167 (February 1964) - The Team of Luthor and Brainiac
- Superman #168 (April 1964) - Luthor - Super Hero and Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor
- Superman #169 (May 1964) - The Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life
- Action Comics #314 (July 1964) - The Day Superman Became The Flash
- Justice League of America #29 & #30 (August/September 1964) - Crisis on Earth-Three! and The Most Dangerous Earth of All!
- Superman #173 (November 1964) - The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac
- Action Comics #318 (November 1964) - The Death of Luthor
- Action Comics #319 (December 1964) - The Condemned Superman
- Superman #175 (February 1965) - Clark Kent's Brother
- Superman #181 (November 1965) - The Superman of 2965
- The Legion of Super-Heroes - Archives Volume 4 (1965)
- Superman #184 (February 1966) - The Demon Under the Red Sun
- Action Comics #338 (June 1966) - Muto - Monarch of Menace
- Action Comics #339 (July 1966) - Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow
- Superman #189 (August 1966) - Krypton Lives Again
- Action Comics #346 (February 1967) - The Man Who Sold Insurance to Superman and The Case of the Superman Imposter
- Superman #194 (February 1967) - The Death of Lois Lane
- Superman #196 (May 1967) - The Star of Steel
- Superman #199 (January 1967) - Superman's Race With The Flash
- Superman #200 (October 1967) - Super-Brother Against Super-Brother
- The Flash #175 (December 1967) - Race to the End of the Universe
- Justice League of America #63 (June 1968) - Time Signs a Death Warrant for the Justice League
- Superman #211 (November 1968) - The Name of the Game is Superman!
- Superman #215 (April 1969) - Lois LaneŠ DeadŠ Yet Alive
- Superman #224 (February 1970) - Beware the Super-Genius Baby
- Action Comics #393 (October 1970) - Superman Meets Super-Houdini! and The Day Superboy Became Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #133 (October 1970) - The Newsboy Legion
- Action Comics #394 (November 1970) - Midas of Metropolis and Requiem for a Hot Rod!
- World's Finest #198 (November 1970) - Race to Save the Universe!
- Action Comics #395 (December 1970) - The Secrets of Superman's Fortress and The Credit Card of Catastrophe
- Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970) - The Mountain of Judgement!
- World's Finest #199 (December 1970) - A Race to Save Time!
- Superman #233 (January 1971) - Superman Breaks Loose!
- Jimmy Olsen #135 (January 1971) - The Evil Factory!
- Superman #234 (February 1971) - How to Tame a Wild Volcano
- Jimmy Olsen #136 (February 1971) - The Saga of the D.N.Aliens
- Superman #235 (March 1971) - The Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp
- Superman #236 (April 1971) - Planet of the Angels and The Doomsayer
- Jimmy Olsen #137 (April 1971) - The Four-Armed Terror!
- Superman #237 (May 1971) - The Enemy of Earth
- Superman #238 (June 1971) - Menace at 1000 Degrees
- Jimmy Olsen #138 (June 1971) - The Big Boom!!
- Superman #240 (July 1971) - To Save a Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #139 (July 1971) - The Guardian Fights Again!!!
- Superman #241 (August 1971) - The Shape of Fear
- Superman #242 (September 1971) - The Ultimate Battle
- Jimmy Olsen #141 (September 1971) - Will the Real Don Rickles Panic?!?
- Jimmy Olsen #142 (October 1971) - The Man from Transilvane!
- Jimmy Olsen #143 (November 1971) - Genocide Spray
- Jimmy Olsen #144 (December 1971) - A Big Thing in a Deep Scottish Lake!
- Superman #247 (January 1972) - Must There Be A Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #145 (January 1972) - Brigadoom!
- Jimmy Olsen #146 (February 1972) - Homo-Disastrous!
- Jimmy Olsen #147 (March 1972) - A Superman in Super-Town!
- Jimmy Olsen #148 (April 1972) - Monarch of All He Subdues!
- Superman #292 (October 1975) - The Luthor Nobody Knows!
- Action Comics #458 (April 1976) - Make Me a Super-Hero! and Masquerade of the Nutty Kid!
- Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (Spring 1978)
- Action Comics #484 (June 1978) - Superman Takes a Wife!
- Superman #328 (October 1978) - Attack of the Kryptonoid
- Action Comics #489 (November 1978) - Krypton Dies Again and Where There's a Will... There's a Fray
- Superman #329 (November 1978) - I Have Met The Enemy... And He Is Me! and The Secret of the Talking Car
- Superman #330 (December 1978) - The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!
- Action Comics #490 (December 1978) - No Tomorrow For Superman
- Action Comics #491 (January 1979) - A Matter of Light and Death
- Superman #331 (January 1979) - Lockup at 20,000 Feet
- Action Comics #492 (February 1979) - Superman's Secret Afterlife
- Superman #332 (February 1979) - The Eternity Cage
- Action Comics #493 (March 1979) - The Metropolis UFO Connection
- Action Comics #494 (April 1979) - The Secret of the Super S
- Action Comics #495 (May 1979) - Attack of the Ultimate Warrior
- DC Comics Presents #14 (October 1979) - Judge, Jury... and No Justice!
- The Superman Story (1979) - The Life Story of Superman
- DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) - Days of Future Past
- DC Comics Presents #67 (March 1984) - 'Twas the Fright Before Christmas
- DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984) - With One Magic Word
- Superman: The Secret Years #1 (February 1985) - Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud!
- Superman: The Secret Years #2 (March 1985) - Reach Out and Touch
- Superman: The Secret Years #3 (April 1985) - Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #80 (April 1985) - A World Full of Supermen!
- Superman: The Secret Years #4 (May 1985) - Beyond Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #85 (September 1985) - The Jungle Line
- Superman Annual #11 (1985) - For The Man Who Has Everything
- World's Finest #323 (January 1986) - Afraid of the Dark
- DC Comics Presents #97 (September 1986) - Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter
- Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (September 1986) - Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?
- Showcase Presents: Superman Family - Volume 1 (October 2005)
- Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons (December 2007)
- Not Brand ECHH #7 (April 1967) - The Origin of Stuporman
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