“Elementary” – Part One
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Dan Mora
Color Artist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: Steve Wands
Review by Bryant Lucas
The Dark Night and Man of Steel investigate a murder, as Metamorpho comes under suspicion, in this month’s World’s Finest: Batman/Superman #13.
Wealthy businessman, Simon Stagg, has been murdered, and a local superhero had an axe to grind with him. Rex Mason, now known as the superhero Metamorpho, served as a bodyguard to the late Mr. Stagg despite their mutual animosity.
Rex fell in love with Stagg’s daughter, which did not sit well with the billionaire. So Stagg sent him on a mission to unearth the Orb of Ra; however, this was a pretense for Stagg’s henchman, Java, to murder Rex. Java pummeled Mason with the meteor, which happened to be radioactive.
Having been left for dead, Rex endured prolonged exposure to the Orb’s radiation thereby altering his body chemistry. Thus the brutal origin of Metamorpho led to understandable motivations to kill Stagg.
However, motive alone isn’t enough to prove guilt. Means and opportunity are also required, and that complicates the matter. When Batman and Superman arrived at the crime scene, they observe that Stagg had been poisoned, yet there was no apparent delivery system. Stagg was killed in a room that was locked and bolted from the inside. The average person wouldn’t be able to penetrate Stagg’s private suite, but a metahuman like Metamorpho could easily do so by transforming into a gaseous state. Accordingly, Batman and Superman search out Metamorpho in order to verify his alibi.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Olsen starts his own investigation for the Daily Planet, but Superman’s buddy comes to a starkly different conclusion that sends shockwaves through the superhero community.
Confession: I am a crime fiction junkie and love a good murder mystery. So, when two of my favorite genres collide, I tend to get excited. Mark Waid’s World’s Finest: Batman/Superman #13 is a stellar example of how to merge two genres well. He pulls on tropes from both the mystery and superhero tales and weaves them together seamlessly. The mystery is a “locked room” murder (a classic detective trope), and the main suspect’s potential motive ties to the classic, tragic, Superhero origin story.
All of this unfolds in a book that has embodied the spirit of the Silver Age. From its very first issue, Worlds Finest has been a wacky romp through the DCU of yesteryear. Batman and Superman might be the titular characters, but Worlds Finest has had an expansive cast of personalities, many of whom usually don’t see much screen time.
For this arc, Waid has decided to focus on Metamorpho, who’s not a character I’m overly familiar with, but Waid anticipated this problem. Therefore, he manages to work in Metamorpho’s backstory succinctly and naturally. By the end of the issue, I felt like I understood Rex Mason to the point that I could talk about him competently: a sign of excellent storytelling.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this issue ends on an explosive cliffhanger. The final page takes an unexpected turn and will likely leave readers frustrated that they have to wait an entire month for the next chapter.
Dan Mora continues to shine on this title. Each page sizzles with a vibrant energy and intensity that has become indicative of the run. One of the more impressive moments is the flashback sequence that explains Metamorpho’s origin. Mora draws an incredibly unnerving and grotesque image of Rex undergoing his transformation. It borders on horror, which simply shows that Dan Mora is a man of many talents. He can handle any setting or genre, and do so well. He jumps from superhero shenanigans, to pulpy adventure, to body horror at the drop of a hat. His range and flexibility are incredible. In short, Mora continues to prove himself as one of the best, if not the best, artists currently with DC.
Once again, this series does not fail to entertain. World’s Finest: Batman/Superman #13 starts a new arc that feels fresh and fun. Waid’s genre mashup is executed at a master’s level, and Dan Mora continues to keep pace with the incredibly bombastic nature of the title. This potent combination delivers a final product that is simply good-ole-fashioned fun.
Final Verdict: Look out Sherlock; you’ve got competition.
Images Courtesy of DC