Print issue No. 5 collects the Digital Firsts 9 & 10, “The Road to War” and “The First Battle”. There’s been a lot of ramp up to this point with what has felt like a lot of exposition, but this is the moment in which the payoff starts pulling into the station and we get a delicious taste of the inevitable massive cataclysm that is at the heart of this whole series.

Green Lantern Kilowog leads a substantial force to extradite Superman to Oa for trial on charges of being a hostile force in the universe. Though Superman gathers some muscle of his own for the meeting, he admits to Shazam that there might be “too many” of them to handle. Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice, Lex Luthor and prisoner Sinestro are about to come to a very sinister understanding that may tip the scales in the Superman camp’s favor.

Seriously: Superman is simultaneously scary and hypocritical in this book--it’s awesome
Seriously: Superman is simultaneously scary and hypocritical in this book–it’s awesome

The Good

If you’ve seen the preview for this (and most of you have) you know that once again Injustice doesn’t shy away from serious consequences, no matter who the character might be–and yes, another one will be making an exit here.

This is the continuing power of Tom Taylor’s epic story: this is a world in which there is serious fragility (rest in peace, Ollie), and death doesn’t ever feel cheap. In lesser hands it could be another throw-away Elseworlds, but Taylor works hard to ensure that these are characters you know, recognize, and love. Their ties to one another, so deftly established, give them an emotional weight that’s hard to simply shrug off. Perhaps Superman himself is the weakest link for being an almost irredeemable villain, but you can suspend disbelief for the degree to which he acts out of character simply because the story is so dang compelling. Other books have explored the question of what would happen if Superman (or some other powerful hero) went rogue but I don’t think any of them had the ambition to do it on this comprehensive a scale–and successfully.

Andrew suggested last go-round that Batfans who don’t care for Lanterns might be a little miserable with the Lantern-heavy storyline thus far, but I don’t like Lanterns and I’m still loving this book, so don’t discount it on just those grounds. And while Batman makes no appearance (in fact our one tenuous tie is an off-panel bit of dialogue from Oracle), the Batman camp is nevertheless gathering its own forces and the conflict they’re headed for is going to be a doozy–you’ll want to have been along for the ride. In addition to Lex, Shazam and all the Lanterns there are also appearances from Cyborg, Hawkgirl, and Black Canary (showcasing her new super-strength in an amusing sequence with Guy Gardner).

Bruno Redondo’s art is noteworthy in its consistency (he and inker Julien Huggonard-Bert are producing a lot of art at a phenomenal rate!). The inks are a bit heavy but have a nice clean line style that lends itself to both the humor and the action. Compositionally, the panels are well-suited to the pace set by Taylor’s tightly-written scenes; another page turner in a series full of cinematic cuts. Redondo is equally effective in the tamer domestic shots (schoolrooms and apartments) as well as the high action in the Great Salt Desert of Utah.

“Koooooom” is the issue No. 10 echo of “Krakooooom” which closes out digital issue No. 9; either way, it’s a great explosion!
“Koooooom” is the issue No. 10 echo of
“Krakooooom” which closes out digital issue No. 9;
either way, it’s a great explosion!

The Bad

Redondo’s Superman and Shazam are like the dullsville twins. And yet his rendition of Sinestro is perfectly diabolical, and both Ch’p and Kilowog exude personality, so if there’s a deliberate choice there, it doesn’t feel deliberate enough. Rex Lokus is still colorist, helping to tie in the art across issues, setting tone through texture and values, but some of his backgrounds are a bit cheap here: flatted in skyscapes look especially weak (Redondo can share the blame for that, perhaps).

Also, the combining of the digital issues makes for a weird splice in the middle of the book where we have a deja-vu detonation and we lose the digital issue No. 10 title and the establishing shot description. The losses are minor and otherwise I think most people would be hard pressed to know that this wasn’t written directly for print, but the weird redundancy of the explosion is just that: weird.

The Ugly

I will admit this is a pet peeve of mine, so bear with me. This issue features another great cover from Jheremy Raapack, but even though it’s chock-full of dynamic expressions and has an excellent battle composition, it’s ridiculously misleading. It may prove to foreshadow action yet to come and I know comic books have been doing this to sell since the dawn of the medium, but I’m a fan of covers that pitch the actual spirit of the actual content of the book and this one feels off the mark. Aside from the basic theme and slug line: “At War with the Lanterns”, don’t go in expecting to see Kryptonite chains and Supes duking it out with Guy Gardner. Score loses half a point just for that.

Recommended If…

  • You’re ready for the whole Lanterns storyline to explode (literally)–whether you’re a Lantern fan or not!
  • Seeing Superman get his hat handed to him by a squirrel sounds like a good time.
  • You want to find out if you’ve heard the last of “Poozer”.

Overall

The ongoing set-up of the first four issues starts to pay off now that open warfare has begun in earnest. Strap yourselves in: it might be a good time to jump on the wagon if you haven’t been reading so far. The next issue promises an escalation, so start now to maximize the impact of the siege-to-come.

SCORE: 8/10