Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #11
Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 17, 2023
Cover date: March 2023
“Strange Visitor” – Chapter Five: “Key to the Kingdom”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Dan Mora
Cover: Dan Mora
Variant Covers: Jonboy Meyers, Juni Ba, and Claire Roe and Jordie Bellaire
Reviewed by: Tony Parker
A flashback reveals that thirty minutes previously, Key had injected Boy Thunder with a truth serum, in order to find out where the Fortress of Solitude is. David tries to resist, but Key seems confident that the boy won’t even remember the conversation…
In the present, Batman confirms that Joker is still alive, despite the brutal beating David gave him. Aqualad and Superman call him out, despite his claims of it being a mistake, saying it’s not his choice to make. Batman sends the titans to take Joker to the medical bay at Arkham, and plans to pick up the Key’s trail with Robin, but first takes a sidebar with Superman. Batman tells Superman that David isn’t ready, and that he should get the contingency Clark himself planned. Clark sadly agrees, and Robin follows.
At the fortress, the contingency is revealed: Kandorian tech that will use red sun energy to nullify David’s powers. David is vehemently against it, but Clark believes that David needs counseling, and being a normal boy would help with that.
Except Superman decides it’s the wrong thing to do. It’s his own fault, not David’s, and he will do better for him, to teach him properly.
Suddenly, the heroes hear a stampede! Superman’s wildlife refuge of lost creatures have escaped, and they all instantly deduce it’s the Key’s fault. Superman sends Boy Thunder and Robin to find Key while he stops the animal rampage. The boys find Key too easily, and are right to be suspicious: He has brought reinforcements (Bag O’ Bones, Acid Master, Dr. Phoenix (the Abominable Snowman), Ferlin Niyxly, and The Zebra-Man). Key also overheard Superman’s plans, and uses the red sun tech to temporarily weaken the Man of Steel!
Robin and Superman are struggling, and after getting saved and briefed on everything by Clark, Boy Thunder decides he’s had enough and tries to lay down the law on all the villains. A thunder explosion erupts, and in the flare, Robin loses sight of David, though he happily concludes that the villains are only burnt.
Meanwhile, Key is trying to get away with David’s escape pod, and David comes to stop him. Key uses the paralysis command he instilled in David’s head and freezes him with just a word. With David no longer of any use to him, Key is about to dissolve his matter into scattered atoms, killing him. Superman and Robin spot them, but are trapped by Zebra-Man.
Just when it looks like all hope is lost, as Key rants about all Superman’s done to him, and how taking away David from him would be payback, Batman arrives just in time to kick Key to the ground, which distracts Zebra-Man and frees Superman and Robin. Using a trick he learned from Talia Al Ghoul, Batman resets David’s paralysis, but the boy immediately tries to kill Key. Superman, however, tries to appeal to his soul, to his better nature, to the hero inside the broken shell.
And he just about manages to.
However, The Key has managed to get one last laugh. He managed to activate David’s ship, which due to its sharing a specific vibrational signature with the boy, will send him to another universe. The heroes don’t know what to do, as Flash and Kid Flash are unavailable, and no one knows how to work the ship. David gives up, deciding he wasn’t worth the trouble anyway, though Superman heavily objects, stating he was everything he could hope for, that he would find him, somehow, someway. David thanks them for all they taught him, and he disappears in the ship. Robin reassures Superman they’ll find him, and the heroes leave for now.
Meanwhile, in a different world, David meets Gog, and we learn that he’s actually Magog…
To Be Continued…
Story – 5: So, without any hyperbole, this was one of the best DC stories I’ve read in years, one of my favorite Superman arcs, and I am hoping James Gunn adapts this at some point.
I cannot recommend this enough, this is TRULY the sleeper hit of 2022/2023.
A story that balances fun with serious so well, you’d think DC actually learned how to make comics again. Art that never ceases to amaze and induce feels, writing that feels true to the characters, never self serious, never goofy.
David Sikela (now revealed to be Magog, my DC fan status in danger from not knowing that XD) is insanely compelling, a Superman family addition I demand in the future. He’s not at all what you’d expect of a Superman sidekick, which kind of makes it perfect, Superman having a surrogate son who struggles with everything he stands for, but never letting that hurt their bond.
Key proves once more that just because a villain might have silly powers, monikers, or looks, they can be compelling as any A-lister. Sure, deep down he’s just a monster, but he inspired fear and proved he can be brilliant and calculating.
Batman, Robin, the Titans, Supergirl, all played excellent supporting roles, never feeling like afterthoughts or fanservice vehicles.
And Superman, well… He was Superman. And that can bring a tear to my eye.
I don’t really know what to say, I am just gobsmacked by the quality. A modern superhero story that has a great lesson, an open ending that doesn’t feel like a cheap tease, an idea that could genuinely improve the current continuity, and enjoyment even at it’s saddest moments?
Perhaps the best issue I have ever reviewed for this site. Please, buy this book.
Like David, it deserves your love.
Art – 5: See above. Dan Mora is an ARTIST. He draws faces like no one else right now in DC. His choices are effective, his emotions gripping. A superman of pencils. And praise to the entire coloring and inking department too, they set a bar!
Cover Art – 4: Classic half and half cover, cool poses and design, if perhaps a little misleading, what with Joker in the background. Not the most representative but I like it for what it is!
Variant Cover Art – 2: A pretty standard Huntress cover. Not really that great, though dynamic in movement.
Variant Cover Art – 2: Same as before, Power Girl’s cover is also just kind of basic.
Variant Cover Art – 3: A cute little cover of a Superman Batman playing card, thanks to the work of Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite.
Variant Cover Art – 3: A nice little vintage cover with Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman. Decent golden colors.
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