Print issue No. 9 collects the Digital Firsts 17 & 18, “Absolute Freaking Carnage” and “Ground Assault” all wrapped up in a gloriously simple, yet awesomely ominous cover by Stéphane Roux.

Tom Taylor’s written a series you never want to see come to an end. Last month I felt a little eh about some minor pacing and plotting and curious choices in female gear, but this month you can banish all ehs, behs, and fehs: this is a truly exceptional comic book that proves issue after issue that it’s still possible to tell really fresh and impactful stories about characters we maybe sometimes take for granted.

This issue: Absolute. Freaking. Carnage. An assault on the Hall of Justice! Mogo the living planet! Cyborg! Flash! Damian! Catwoman! So many great cameos! So many exclamation-point-worthy moments!

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Nobody messes with Mogo

The Good

It’s impossible to wax rhapsodic about this issue without spoiling everything (I feel like every page has a new turn or juicy tidbit that you’ll want to experience for yourself). So I’m dropping it all beneath the cut.

How do I love this book? Let me count the ways:

Spoiler

  1. Guy Gardner tries one last time to broker peace but Superman shows himself to be a Superjerk leading to:
  2. The living planet Mogo, who opens up a can of disintegrating whup-ass on the Sinestro corps, obliterating a quarter of them. Ghoul that I am, I was particularly gratified to see actual carnage floating around in space; body parts galore!
  3. Black Canary is given the Kryptonite bullet to take out Superman. The contrast of Batman’s determination to deal with Superman humanely vs. Superman’s horrific treatment of Guy in this issue is heart-wrenching.
  4. Pure Awesome: Harley turns herself into a living bomb to gain access to the Hall of Justice. In the process of blowing herself up, she blows up her clothes and so replaces the court-jester-panty getup with classic Harley Quinn red and black tights. That’s right: her original collared costume (and she looks so fabulous I’m giving Rex Lokus a pass on the fact that her hair flips colors after the costume change).
  5. Catwoman takes out Flash and schools Damian. We don’t see what she actually does to the Boy Bluster, but I’m imagining in my mind a good spanking for sheer humiliation. Her verbal dress-down alone, however, is enough to have me cheering in my seat (man, this would make a great movie).
  6. Cyborg has clued in that someone is tapping in on team Superman’s communications. Once the resistance takes the Hall of Justice, Lex warns Gordon that Cyborg’s going to trace Oracle (showing his alliance at this critical juncture and offering to help Gordon get aboard the Justice League station at great risk).
  7. Gordon reveals he’s dying anyway and doesn’t care about the risks (I see a terrible self-sacrifice imminent).

This time around, Mark S. Miller does the lead pencils and inks for the first half, then Bruno Redondo and Julien Hugonnard-Bert follow with part two. Miller’s faces suffer a bit. Guy’s expressions are a bit too exaggerated as he pleads with Superman, but in the same scene, he deals nicely with Superman’s reaction to the power of Mogo. His Bruce also looks a little off-character (too young, perhaps?), but it’s nice to see Bruce, even if he’s still in a wheelchair (rather than Batman needlessly wearing a cowl at this point). Redondo’s work is (as usual) fabulous throughout. If I had to offer any criticism it would only be that there’s one overhead shot of the Hall of Justice assault that seems too sparsely populated for the epic battle that this represents. I would have loved to have seen a bigger melee rushing in. If it’s meant to convey that the Resistance has low numbers, then I would still have liked to have seen a greater opposition meeting them on the steps.

Rex Lokus’ backgrounds in space are lovely, even if they are sometimes a bit overkill with the gloriously spinning cosmos, but the green glow of Mogo is a wondrous and terrifying thing (bask in it!). Lokus also uses color to great effect as we see Black Canary gearing up. Are the washes a bit predictable? Perhaps, but they work emotionally and that’s what matters here. They don’t take us out of the scene or jar us with the unexpected–and in a book paced this fast, you can’t afford anything that’s going to trip you up along the way.

I want to mention also that seeing Jim sweat throughout this book was an interesting piece of visual storytelling. I even had a moment of wondering: what’s with Gordon? Nobody else looks all fevered about the assualt. So when the end reveal came (see spoilers, above), I was already pretty wound up (this book can be emotionally crushing), and the details there paid off.

I’ve also mentioned Wes Abbott several times in my reviews of this book and here I’m going to do it again because he continues to do amazing things with his sound effects. When I go through this book, I scarcely even notice they are there, but I definitely hear them. On third read (yeah, I soak in this puppy three times through at least), I pay closer attention to what those effects really are and maybe it’s a combination of Taylor scripting the “crck” with no “a” or the “clck” with no “i” and then Abbott fitting them right where they should go, but it’s definitely a recipe for true cinematic/sensory storytelling. You don’t just read this book, you experience it.

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I love that Harley’s wearing Joker’s overcoat and fedora in this scene; telegraphs an even better change to come

The Bad

Oh man! We’re only three issues (and six weeks) away from the end of Year Two! Horrible! Thank goodness Year Three will commence immediately.

The Ugly

Ugly? Who am I kidding? The only thing ugly here is the way in which you’re missing out if you’re not reading this series!

Recommended If…

  • It’s time for you to jump in just as the heat goes supernova; c’mon, it’s not too late to catch this bus, and you’ll be well-informed for Year Three!
  • You like the idea of Sinestro taking some payback for last month’s crumball behavior.
  • The Gotham gang finally gets into the action and you want to be right there with them!
  • You’ve always hoped to say: oh thank you, thank you, thank you creative team! Let us never see those wretched panties again!

Overall

Last month we were told there would be carnage and this issue delivers! This story not only satisfies that promise, but at long last we see Batman’s Resistance start trying to take back the planet, leading a full-out assault on the Hall of Justice. Reading this book is a highly emotional experience and the tension has been incredible. Brace yourselves, though, because the pedal is about to hit the metal: lives will be lost, sacrifices made, and friendships destroyed forever as we careen toward the finale of Year Two.

SCORE: 9.5/10