Review by Frank Plowright
When starting his run on Superman in Man of Steel, Brian Michael Bendis wanted a signature shocking moment, and settled on destroying Kandor, the Kryptonian city in a bottle Superman maintained. Cheap shock it might have been, but both the beauty and curse of superhero comics is that there’ll always be another writer prepared to revisit an event, and over the opening chapters of World’s Deadliest Joshua Williamson constructs a worthwhile story from that premise. As seen to end Who Are the Secret Six?, General Zod has approached Ra’s Al Ghul, the man with resurrection pits concealed around the globe, which is a great idea well handled, with the proviso that it may antagonise some Superman fans still further. Surely no-one, however, could take issue with Nick Derington’s impressive art. His is a name to track.
It’s a rare Williamson story without clever ideas, even if the outing as a whole never matches the ideas, and that’s the case for three chapters featuring the Ultra-Humanite. The reason this doesn’t hit the heights is because Superman may believe Batman to be transformed and be greatly concerned, but the readership is well aware any tinkering with Batman is short term at worst, and certainly not life threatening. Clayton Henry’s not always at home with drawing people, but the remainder of his pages are expansive and imaginative (sample spread left).
Another clever idea leads into Batwoman and Steel having to rescue Batman and Superman. There’s a real artistic treat from Max Raynor (sample spread right), who designs robot versions of their foes before Williamson heads into a revised version of a threat Batman and Superman faced when teaming-up back in the day. Dangerous, but ridiculous then, Williamson beefs it up, as he does by hinging the entire story on the necessity of understanding, but having to figure that understanding out during a pitched battle.
A series of battles between Batman and Superman drawn by different artists is the result of Bat-Mite and Mr Mxyzptlk creating stories to determine which would come out on top if they fought each other. There’s a smart ending and some funny moments, but the randomness wears thin.
The final outing concerns what’s in effect a living bomb. Andrei Bressan’s a great artist, but with a style too refined for the grime needed to sell the story. His version of a swamp looks as if it’s just been cleaned for Batman and Superman’s arrival. It’s another of Williamson’s stories constructed from good ideas, but never quite gelling. He sometimes has problems providing Batman with the right voice, and there are a couple of occasions here.
Creativity ranks highly across World’s Deadliest, as does most art, and Williamson ensures a variety missing from Who Are the Secret Six?, making for a better collection.