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101
Superman Elseworlds
by Benjamin Grose
Well, after weeks of computer problems, I'm finally back online and ready to continue my series of Superman Elseworlds reviews. As usual, instead of grading these stories solely on the quality of the writing or art, I look to see if these stories accurately represent Superman's character. This being a villains issue, I thought I'd review Book One of Elseworld's Finest since it features two major DC villains.

My Rating System:
1 – "This is a Superman story?"
2 – "Would Superman do that?"
3 – "Seems like Superman to me"
4 – "Superman would probably do that"
5 – "That captured Superman's character perfectly"

Elseworld's Finest
Writer: John Francis Moore
Penciller: Kieron Dwyer
Inker: Hilary Barta

Book One

Metropolis, Spring 1928. Sitting on the steps of a Suicide Slum brownstone reading the popular Captain Marvel comic strip in the Daily Planet is 12-year-old Jimmy Olsen. Gathering around him are "Big Words," "Gabby," and other boys from the neighborhood. This week's adventure, "Lizard Men of Atlantis," reminds Jimmy of his task. He's late to deliver the Sunday paper to Professor of Archaeology Thaddeus Lang over at Shuster University. As he dashes into the Professor's office, he discovers two thugs threatening to kill him if he doesn't give them what they want. The Professor tells Jimmy to run, and in the chase that follows, he falls into the street in front of a truck. Luckily reporter Clark Kent of the Daily Planet is there to pick him up. As the driver wonders how his truck was damaged, Clark and Jimmy head off to the Planet.

Clark tries to get more details out of him, but he is distracted by artist Raymond Beck of Captain Marvel fame. When Jimmy finally tells his story, Perry White sends them both back to the University. They arrive to find the Professor missing, his office ransacked, and Inspector Dan Turpin investigating. Jimmy tells him of the attack, but they can't figure out what the Professor had that was so valuable. As if in answer to the question, his daughter Lana arrives. After saying hello to Clark, who she knows from Smallville, she looks in her father's desk and tells them that the Argos Codex is missing. It is a Greek scroll that supposedly reveals the location of the lost city of Argos. Turpin shoos Clark and Jimmy away so he can ask Lana some questions.

As they escort Lana back to her hotel, two men throw opiate powder in their faces, grab Lana, and drive away. As Clark recovers, Jimmy says they were the same men who took Professor Lang, and Clark sets off to catch them. He somehow reaches the car and grabs the rear axle, causing it to screech to a halt. He rips the off the door, much to Lana's surprise. Clark grabs one of the men, but he refuses to talk and suddenly bursts into flame. Before he is consumed, they see a tattoo on his hand of the Demon Head, symbol of the League of Assassins. Lana says that if they have her father, only one man can help him. As they fly across the Atlantic, their pilot, Captain Jordan, brings in Jimmy, who stowed away with the cargo.

On the rooftops of Paris, a chase between two dark figures ensues. The pursued is Selina Kyle, who grabs the ledge of a roof when she falls. The pursuer is Bruce Wayne, who pulls her up and takes the necklace she took from him, which belonged to his mother. As he sits in a Paris nightclub with his friend Alfred, he reflects on how he lost his family fortune by living a life of adventure after his parents were killed. He then notices Lana Lang and her companions entering. After the introductions, she tells him of her father's kidnapping. He refuses to help, until he hears of her father finding the Argos Codex, and wants to be a full partner in any expedition to Argos. They did not know that their conversation had been overheard by Selina, who then gives the information to a mysterious red-bearded man.

Bruce takes them to Egypt to meet archaeologist Carter Hall, who is in search of the burial chamber of the wizard Kha, hoping that he could lead them to the League of Assassins. He tells them that the League is led by Ra's Al Ghul, who some believe to have lived for hundreds of years. During the night, Clark has a strange dream of what appears to be an ancient city. He sees a cloaked figure running, and as he approaches, the city crumbles beneath his feet. When he awakes, a cloaked figure leaves the camp unseen. They leave before sunrise, leaving Jimmy, to his objection, and approach the League's camp in time to see what appears to be a burial in some kind of liquid. Bruce overtakes the guards while their friends continue the ceremony. They find the Professor, who insists they take the scrolls Ra's had given him to translate.

Disguising themselves with blankets, they continue to watch the ceremony as the liquid begins to boil. Emerging from the pit is a maddened Ra's Al Ghul, who proceeds to kill several of his followers. Clark sees a woman in his path, and, to Bruce's objection, jumps in Ra's way to protect her. He brings his sword down on Clark's neck, and it breaks in half, snapping him out of his madness. The woman is Ra's daughter Talia, who he tells to take care of the dead and wounded and prepare him a bath. Afterwards, he invites his guests to dine with him, and says he is in fact as old as they heard. Bruce scoffs at this, but Ra's says it's no less unbelievable than a sword breaking on a man's neck.

He reveals that he has traveled around the world looking for Argos. He found an ancient scroll in Afghanistan, which claims that Argos was created and destroyed by a device called the Godstone. He needed Professor Lang to translate tablets that he believes will lead him to Argos and the Godstone, which he will use to destroy and recreate the world. Clark is the first to object. Ra's wants someone of Clark's character and his strength to help build his new world, and asks him to marry Talia. Before Clark can answer, Bruce answers an enthusiastic yes for him.

After Ra's servants dress him in red and blue clothes, he reluctantly enters Talia's tent. He politely tells her he can't marry her, and she asks if he is in love with Lana. He says no, not anymore, but he does not agree with her father's plans. Before he can finish, Bruce grabs Talia to use as a hostage for their escape. Clark apologizes to Talia and asks him not to harm her. After dealing with the guard, they make their escape, but are soon followed. When they reach a fork in the road, Bruce, with Talia, tells them to go ahead while he leads their pursuers down the other path.

As they proceed down this path, they soon see that the only exit is a dark cave, which Bruce leaves Talia to enter. The guards soon pursue, but Bruce knows that it is important to be prepared. Using a rope from his army belt, carrying various odds and ends, he trips the first two. The third is intent to catch him, as he killed his brother in Morocco. During their struggle, Bruce is stabbed, and the cave floor collapses. His attacker does not survive the fall, and Bruce has a broken rib. He staggers down a dark passageway, and when he lights a torch, a swarm of bats flies above him. He has always hated bats, after spending a night in a cave full of them below this family estate. As he proceeds to escape them, he comes across the burial chamber of Kha that Carter Hall was searching for. He is there long enough to see Kha's bat-like armor before he collapses.

Clark and company are aboard a steamer headed for Panama. As Lana worries about Bruce, her father reveals that he has decoded a copy of Ra's tablets, and now knows where Argos is. Clark then spots a torpedo a moment before it strikes the ship. During the panic that ensues, Jimmy falls overboard, screaming that he can't swim. Clark dives to save him, and sees a giant object under the dark water. As they enter the lifeboats, a massive metal ship emerges from the deep. A red-bearded man, the vessel's captain, steps onto his deck and addresses the passengers. He announces that he is a pirate and will salvage anything valuable from the sinking ship. He also invites Professor Lang and his companions aboard his ship. His name: Alexi Luthor!

I must admit, when this series was released, I wasn't very interested. But I'm not disappointed with it at all. This story has a very "Indiana Jones" feel to it. The art and coloring is also appropriate for this type of story. The expressions on the characters' faces are very realistic. I'll give a rating next month on the entire story.

Have you been enjoying my Superman Elseworlds reviews? Are they too long? Should I not give this much plot information? What should I change? I would greatly appreciate any feedback, good or bad.

Next month:
The conclusion of Elseworld's Finest!

All characters and scanned artwork are ™ DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by Benjamin Grose.
All artwork is © 1999 by their respective artists.