I knew when I set out a few days ago to review World’s Finest #186 that it was going to present something of a dilemma. After all, as much as it was physically impossible for me not to post something as mind-bendingly awesome as S for Shakespeare, it’s just the first installment of a tantalizing two-parter, and without the following issue, it’s just not complete, which caused no small amount of wailing from my outspoken readership.
But tonight, wail no longer, friends! Thanks to the herculean efforts of ISB reader Julio Dvulture and the always-stalwart Shane Bailey, I have secured a copy, and while I can barely believe what I’m about to type, it may actually be crazier than the last one.
For those of you whose brains have been melted by the sheer Kanigherian madness of our last installment, I’ll recap: In an effort to find out who made a bust of Revolutionary War hero “Mad” Anthony Wayne–who surprised the heck out of me by being an actual person–in a Batman mask, Batman (his descendant) and Superman took a quick trip to the eighteenth century, where Superman:
1. Got in a fight with Anthony Wayne and his horse.
2. Said the single greatest sentence in comic book history.
3. Made a bunch of superstitious townsfolk think a sea-serpent had freed an accused witch.
4. Framed Batman for witchery.
5. Acted like a total jerk to Benjamin Franklin.
All caught up? Good. Let’s get on with it.
The story picks up the next day, and with Batman just about to be burned alive as punishment for his foul consort with the Man-Goat, Ben Franklin shows back up to make one last effort at getting the caped crusader a pardon:
Let this be a lesson to you from the Founding Fathers: We can’t go on together with superstitious minds.
Of course, this is Silver Age Superman we’re talking about, and if you think that a little thing like the pleading of the architects of modern democracy’ll stop him from having his best friend burned at the stake for witchcraft, then check your Bottle City at the door on the way out, buster. That’s just not how Kal-El rolls.
Why exactly Batman’s alleged demons would set themselves on fire, we may never know, but really: That’s the least of our problems here.
It’s at this point in the story that Batman–who has inexplicably forgotten that he’s fucking Batman and generally gets out of deathtraps more complex than a sheepshank around a log four times before breakfast–finally remembers that he can lie, and gives us what might be the second best panel ever:
That is literally all it takes to turn the town against Superman, thus setting a record for the most easily influenced townsfolk that would stand until the advent of the Springfield Monorail. Batman is freed from the stake, Superman takes off to join up with the British and crush the Continental Army once and for all, and we get a fantastic chapter break.
What follows is pretty much what you’d expect, given the circumstances. Superman joins up with General Henley and the British forces to track Mad Anthony down, and considering that he can fly and has X-Ray vision, it’s not long before he drags Wayne back to encampment, lays down his pimp hand…
…and then declares that Batman and Mad Anthony must fight each other to the death with their bare hands.
Normally this would be a cause for concern, what with the damage to the space-time continuum that would result from Batman killing his own ancestor, but in keeping with this issue’s theme of showing Batman at his most inept, he is immediately put face-down into the mud by Mad Anthony’s use of the “20th Century fighting tactics” of karate and judo. This is, as I’m sure you all expect at this point, never explained.
Before he can finish the job, though, Tony’s interrupted byt he arrival of his own sidekick, Robby, who (of course!) bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin and fights the British with his slingshot, which gives Batman the idea to hand over a chunk of Kryptonite hes been carrying around for the entire time and tell him to shoot Superman in the head with it. Robby does, and this is where things start to get crazy.
Once he takes the shot to the forehead, Superman stumbles around for a second wondering where he is, then singlehandedly defeats the entire British army in one panel, reuintes with Batman, and finally–FINALLY–explains just what the hell has been going on here:
(Click for a larger, more legible, and yet
completely incomprehensible version)
Oh, right. An afreet. Well that makes perfect–what?!
(Again with the clicking)
Sorry, Batman, but that does not explain everything. But if you’ll allow me, I think I might be able to clear things up here. So, why do Superman and Batman go back in time to the Revolutionary War, where Superman frames Batman for witchcraft so that he can save him from being posessed by a genie that also knows karate?
Because Bob Kanigher. That’s why.