The stage is set and plot threads are coming together for the finale in the thrilling penultimate chapter of the “Justice Lords Beyond” crossover event.
Another World: “Sacrifice” and “Razor’s Edge”
Written by Kyle Higgins
Illustrated by Thony Silas
Colors by Emilio Lopez
I really like Kyle Higgins as a writer. I’ve been rereading his run on Nightwing to prep for the debut of Grayson next month and it was really solid work, energetic and fun while still having weight and strong storytelling. It was frequently a tad exposition-heavy, but that could have just been an in-house mandate to keep things together. His work here has everything good about that run, perfectly distilled into clean, snappy, economical dialogue and breakneck storytelling. These two installments in particular move quickly, introduce some new elements into the universe, and set the stage for the inevitable final showdown with Lord Superman and the rest of the Justice Lords.
With so much back and forth storytelling in this crossover, it’s hard to talk about much without going into spoilers, but there’s still enough to talk about without giving too much away. First off, as I said, the writing here is great. Terry has grown believably from the Batman Beyond TV series, the alternate reality T is a well fleshed-out character in his own right, the counterpart to Dick Grayson is equally deep and conflicted, and above all Lord Superman is brutal. This isn’t just “bad Superman” who is evil because they need a villain; this is a guy with a history, someone whose world changed with one tragic event that just sent him over the edge and he never returned.
Of all the tired tropes in comics, “what if Superman became evil?” ranks right alongside “what if Batman had to kill?” as one of the most overused. Needless to say, “evil Superman” stories have to be done really well or else they just fall flat.
Thankfully, Higgins and Christos Gage both really draw on the established history of the Lord Superman character to make a villain who has a motive, as twisted and unsympathetic as he may be. That was one of the problems I had with Forever Evil: Ultraman and the Crime Syndicate could have been anyone. They were just over-the-top exaggerations that were almost written to one-up each other on how evil they could be. There wasn’t any dimension or depth to the conflict, it was just “some
bad Evil guys show up and do some bad Evil things.” Lord Superman is a twisted version of the familiar Superman, but he was changed by one tragic event and is living with decades worth of consequences from his dictatorial actions. He may not personally feel a single shred of remorse, but the fear, doubt, and weariness of living in that world are clearly being seen in the actions and plans of its inhabitants.
These Batman Beyond installments move at a really fast pace and are great reads. Pretty much everything worth talking about is spoilery, so I’ll discuss more in the tags. Just know that, from both a storytelling and visual standpoint, these two entries are more than worth the cover price.
- I will admit that the ending of “Sacrifice” was kind of a cheap cliffhanger. I don’t doubt for a second that it was something Lord Supes would do, but the dude’s name is on the cover. It wasn’t going to stay that way.
- That does open up, though, all these crazy abilities the new Batsuit has. It’s almost too much at times, but then again, that timeline’s Bruce had every reason to be paranoid. The victory is in the preparation after all, chum.
- This Dick Grayson gets some nice moments and is pretty interesting. I kind of hate that he seems to have it together and ended up marrying Barbara, but he’s not the “true” Dick.
- That synthetic Kryptonite mode for the Batsuit, at the very least, explains what all those seemingly unnecessary lines were, but man what a cool visual. There was an issue of Superman Beyond where synthetic Kryptonite is discussed and Kal says that it doesn’t effect him as much as the real deal, and I doubt they’ll go the route of killing the villain this time around, so I don’t know the implications of the synthetic Kryptonite powering the suit.
The Return of Wonder Woman: “Dynasty” and “World War”
Written by Christos Gage
Illustrated and colored by Dexter Soy
Additional colors by Veronica Gandini
More answers this time around as we discover the nature of Zod’s true parentage and set the stage for the final showdown.
As always, Gage’s script is solid, if a little dialogue-heavy. It’s necessary here, though, as the first half of the story takes us through the history of the “one solution” to unite the world, as Diana puts it: the heir of Lord Superman and our Diana, the one who would be Zod. Given the characters’ mutual loathing, this development could have carried some incredibly disturbing implications, but without going into too many details it’s handled fairly well and very comic booky. It ties things back to some previous stories and opens up new directions in which young Zod can be taken, so it will be really interesting to see where the character goes in the future.
As much as this part of the story needs to be told and in such a satisfying way, Gage really shines in his portrayals of the rest of the League. That’s not to say his Bruce, Diana, and Kal are weak by any means, they’re just such well established characters at this point that we know them. The younger characters like Flash, who I would read a solo series of in a heartbeat, and even older characters with more history like Mister Miracle and Barda are handled well.
Marrying the great characterization with Soy’s solid art, the perfect example of their fantastic mutual storytelling skills is in a simple conversation between Miracle and Lady Barda. The dialogue is full of pathos and regrets, with Lady Barda lamenting her own lost husband and Mister Miracle sympathizing due to the cold treatment he’s been receiving from his own wife, who isn’t ten feet away during this conversation. Like that intense splash page in the previous issue where Diana goes from sorrow to rage in an instant, the character’s facial expressions and body language could communicate everything we need to know without any of the dialogue at all. It’s truly impressive work, and it culminates in one of the most simple, effective escape scenes I’ve seen in some time.
Like the last issue, this is all definitely build-up for what will no doubt be an explosive final chapter, but it’s still gripping material on its own.
- Man I loved that prison escape. You’d think, “this is Mister Miracle, world’s greatest escape artist. Of course he’ll escape.” The manner in which he does, though, was so smart and unexpected. Kind of cold, but it illustrated both how great of an escape artist he is and how deep the love between he and Barda is, no matter how rough things get.
- Who do we think will survive this big battle? With both Lord Superman, Black Adam and an incredibly ruthless Orion on the Justice Lords’ side I wouldn’t be surprised to see some casualties.
Overall: A thrilling penultimate chapter, it introduced some new elements and explained some backstory to add further weight to what will no doubt be an epic, possibly even tragic final chapter.
- Recent crossovers and events have left you cold.
- You like good villainous characterization.
- You love the DCAU.