Thursday, December 13, 2018

World's Finest Comics #175 (1968) - "The Superman-Batman Revenge Squads - To the Victor Comes Death!" Review

Suicide Squad

Written by: Leo Dorfman
Art by: Neal Adams
Publication: May 1968 

What’s worse than a revenge squad? Who two revenge squads of course! Yes, this is the tale of two rival revenge squads who hound Batman and Superman. What event must have transpired to bring these two nefarious forces together I hear you ask?! Why that’s correct, it’s the annual Batman vs Superman crime-solving competition (...and Zack Snyder is nowhere to be seen). 

Yes, this high spirited tale is from way back in 1968 and gives us a welcome competitive alternative to the Superman/Flash sprint race. Here we get DC’s top two heroes going head to head in the spirit of friendly but competitive rivalry to win the contest; a battle of wits and ability. In their activities they are assisted and ably supported by Jimmy Olsen and Robin, extending the competition to a team affair, adjudicated by Jim Gordon (it being Gotham’s turn to host the annual event). So far so good. Little do they know however that the event is in peril from those with a desire for revenge on their minds…

Yes, looking on at the competitive event with an eye to disruption are the Batman and Superman Revenge Squads. Initially, they view the annual competition as an opportunity but soon develop a rivalry of their own, not least in terms of the uniforms they don in a twisted homage to the sources of their respective obsessions. It doesn’t prevent them from bringing their nefarious plans to fruition, however, and it is not long before Superman and Batman are left to contend with their deadly scheme. 

Story-wise this tale is pretty tight, with a decent scene-setting opener, before the twists and turns of the substantive adventure. There are fun supporting roles for Jimmy Olsen, Robin, and Commissioner Gordon, and the Batman Revenge Squad steal the show on the villain front with their funny “stock villain” repartee. We also get a neat little plan hatched which is foiled at the last minute by our heroes. In terms of the art, I read a digital version of this issue within volume 1 of DC’s Neal Adams Anthology series. Dated from 1968, it already has many of the trappings of Adam’s classic style. The coloring isn't clearly credited so I’m unsure as to whether there has been some digital enhancement, but some research has shown that there were very clear color guides left by Neal Adams and that they were used for a reprint of the story in Super-Team Family issue 1 in 1975. Regardless, the coloring in this version has been handled pretty well, and the digital rendition of this book was sophisticated in tone and not at odds with the art style which can happen in some of the modern print to digital processing.

Bits and Pieces:

If you are getting dragged down a little by the current direction of DC comics and are craving some classic incarnations of Batman and Superman, pre-1980s realism, then this is a light and relatively breezy read. All characters are rendered in the classic stylings, although Jim Gordon has a well-established but different look during this period. Look out also for Jimmy Olsen’s signal watch, a feature that will be familiar to fans of the Supergirl TV series version of that character. If you want a classic one and done, that’s a bit of vintage fun, then you could do worse than this far-fetched tale of the friendly rivalry being tampered with.


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