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SUPERMAN & BATMAN: WORLD'S FUNNEST (2000)

Written by Evan Dorkin. Illustrated by Various

Evan Dorkin has a quirky view of the universe. Not our universe, mind you, but the one (or, rather, the ones) inhabited by the heroes of DC Comics.

Dorkin explores (or, rather, deconstructs) the parallel DC universes in an Elseworlds one -shot called World's Funnest, a spoof on the various incarnations of the Superman and Batman World's Finest team-ups over the years. Joining writer Dorkin on the project is an impressive list of 21 artists, including Frank Miller, Alex Ross, Jaime Hernandez, Dave Gibbons and Stuart Immonen.

The book begins in a classic Silver Age scenario, expertly drawn by Gibbons, with the jovial trio of Superman, Batman and Robin taking Lex Luthor and the Joker into custody once more.

In pops Bat-Mite, the extra-dimensional imp who worships Batman, followed by Mr. Mxyzpltk, the extra-dimensional imp who torments Superman. Their rivalry turns into a full-fledged war as they first slaughter the heroes, then move on to destroying parallel worlds where Batman and Superman (and a variety of variations on the theme) also exist.

That's the real joy of this book -- in rapid-fire succession, we see subtly different incarnations of the imps as they move from one universe to another, each time leaving only destruction in their wake.

Dorkin takes us through the World War II-era Justice Society of America (drawn by Sheldon Moldoff), Earth-3's Crime Syndicate of America (Immonen and Joe Giella) and the flag-waving Freedom Fights (Frank Cho). Hernandez handles the artwork for the world of the smarmy Marvel Family, Scott Shaw provides the environment for Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, and Stephen DeStefano takes us briefly into our superheroless world. Jay Stephens recreates the 1970s TV cartoon of the Super Friends, and Glen Murakami and Bruce Timm respond with with Adventures of... storyboards from TV in the '90s.

Two special treats are the incursion of the magical mites into Frank Miller's gritty world of The Dark Knight Returns and Alex Ross's Kingdom Come. They hit the modern DC Universe with Doug Mahnke and Norm Rapmund, and enter the Crisis on Infinite Earths (in which all these parallel worlds were supposedly eliminated) with Phil Jimenez.

World's Funnest isn't to be read with even a slight hint of seriousness -- but wow, what a fun book it is! Credit to Dorkin for coming up with such a nifty idea!