Print issue No. 10 collects the Digital Firsts 19 & 20, “Air Assault” and “Gordon”. And while I’m going to drop the spoilers under cuts, suffice it to say that if you have played the game, you probably either a.) have a fairly good idea of how things are going down in this prequel, or b.) can make an educated guess about who’s going to survive (and how). Not that Tom Taylor hasn’t delivered unexpected turns throughout Year One and Year Two, but in order for this story to ultimately intersect with Year Five (which is where the game starts), alliances will be solidified, power conditions will be met, and, well, more characters will die.

Up to this point we’ve seen a lot of destruction already: major players have fallen on both sides of the war with even fan favorites like Green Arrow and Nightwing being taken out of the mix fairly early (or so it felt). With the focus for Year Two being the Lanterns, the fight has gone beyond global now and it’s time for the creative team to start seriously thinning the herd down to our gameplay heroes and villains. With just two more issues before Year Three kicks off in October, I can’t imagine this storyline can get any better–this issue is seriously going to be a tough act to follow.

Because this is an issue in which heroes fall in terrible ways. Continue on if you want more of my semi-coherent distraught rambling, but trust me, you’ll want to read this issue first; then come back and we can commiserate and celebrate the pain and joy that is comics together.

The Good

We’re going to talk about the art first this go-round. The cover by Jheremy Raapack, Santi Casas, and David Lopez of Ikari Studios is brilliant. Look at that tortured expression on Hal’s face. Look at maniacal Sinestro’s cruel leer. Look at the green ring popping off to the right. And what’s that in Jordan’s hand? What’s that emanating all around Jordan’s hand? Players of the game know what it is and all of its terrible implications!

We kvetch a lot here about misleading covers, but this one gets everything right: it teases the story within in a dramatic eye-catching composition without necessarily spoiling the contents of the book and likewise without promising something it won’t deliver.

Inside the wrapper, Mark S. Miller serves up the first half of the pages with Bruno Redondo, Julien Hugonnard-Bert, and Xermanico on the second half. In past issues I’ve called out Miller’s tendency to stretch faces a little too much or go thin on the inks, but this book meets in the middle with a consistency of style that blends almost perfectly. Yes, you can still tell the artists apart, but nowhere is the change the least bit jarring; a truly well-matched collaborative effort!

The artwork itself throughout, is generally what we’ve come to expect for the series, but I’d like to draw some attention to some particularly well-done sequences. Unfortunately, talking about the art includes talking about the story it tells, so I’m dropping a couple of paragraphs behind a cut:

Spoiler

Mark S. Miller’s directional line work throughout the first half of the book gives the entire aerial sequence amazing zig-zag energy: follow not only the flight lines, but the explosion lines and the general speed/emphasis lines and you’ll see what I mean: the motion ratchets back and forth throughout–even Jordan’s mace to Gardner’s face angles right, juxtaposed with Sinestro’s hammer chopping to the left. And then the final motion lines we see in this sequence are plummeting straight down as Carol nearly pancakes on the runway. Composition can’t be understated in an action sequence and here it’s a frenetic ping-pong match while still guiding our eyes through an effective illusion of motion. Also a nice touch: as Sinestro offers Jordan the ring, we see Carol encircled within it, falling to her doom.

In Redondo, Hugonnard-Bert, and Xermanico’s half of the book, less spectacular (and less action-oriented) but equally strong visuals carry through. A triptych of close-ups on the eyes of Oracle, Batman, and Cyborg perfectly conveys the dramatic tension of the resistance picking up Cyborg’s trace and its implications. Later, on the space station, we see Cyborg’s mask clatter to the floor near Gordon’s broken glasses. Tight identical “shots” on Gordon’s and Batman’s faces (first in profile and then from the front view) link them as allies who stood together as one, and Gordon’s last line (a joke, of course) as he looks down–heavily shadowed–on a brightly lit planet Earth, evokes hopeful yearning despite its solemnity.

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That mace had to hurt and serious excrement has hit Ganthet’s fan

I don’t find myself very often moved to the point of tears while reading comic books, but this pushed me really darn close.

Spoiler
When Hal finds himself with the seemingly impossible choice to let himself and Carol die or “turn to the dark side” he makes the choice for Carol (and thus accepts the yellow lantern ring). And while I do think it might smack a little close to the betrayal of a certain Sith Lord, I don’t think that necessarily takes any power from it. Perhaps it’s all the more bittersweet knowing that Hal’s sacrifice is truly noble: he doesn’t want join the Yellow Lanterns, but does it for Carol’s sake. Subsequent issues will determine whether his decision to maintain that choice is ultimately one of cowardice. And boy, poor Guy Gardner; he’s just gets it from all ends!

But that’s not where the tears come from. If you can’t tell from the titles of the Digital Firsts issues or from my highlights in the art spoilers, then I’ll spell it out here: it’s time to say goodbye to Commissioner James Gordon. Yes, the super pills have put his terminal illness on steroids and it’s killing him by the second. He takes out Cyborg, however, and, left the sole occupant of the command center, we might presume that he will disable or destroy it. It’s not clear yet, however, if he will live long enough to do even that.

Part of my emotional reaction to this book may be due to the fact that Gordon has always been one of my favorite characters (most of you probably know that by now), but the storytelling here is so immersive that I can’t see how anyone could fail to be emotionally moved by what happens to Gotham’s greatest cop.

Even the choice to avoid an obvious death by violence (or even a visible death at all at this point), gives Gordon’s actions a dignified focus in its isolation. The opportunity in that moment of peaceful quiet to say his farewells was not only earned, but I would say owed (and respectfully granted).  

My criteria for handing out a score of 10 is that I wouldn’t change a thing (not one drawing, not one line of dialogue or narrative). So even though I had burning questions about what happens next that weren’t answered in this book (and might not even be answered in the next–or ever), I felt like any omissions here (storywise) were not only deliberate, but purposeful and impactful. For me this was a perfect book. Gut-wrenching, and even a little infuriating, but perfectly so.

Comic book discussion and reviews often strike me as fraught with hyperbole (earth-shattering! mind-numbing! the biggest event yet!), so I do make an effort to temper my language as much as possible (I get carried away too with a good book). Sometimes comics are just really satisfying and they don’t need to “blow the lid off everything you’ve known thus far!” Injustice, however, is a great book because it embraces that over-the-top tradition without the need for ubiquitous grandstanding. It consistently delivers on its promise of epic, consequential, thrilling, drama. And when a comic experience can do that and evoke strong emotions that honestly make you feel that hyperbole is actually warranted, you know it’s something special.

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Gordon makes his stand against Cyborg

The Bad

It’s gonna break your heart a little.

The Ugly

It might even break your heart a lot.

Recommended If…

  • You love comic books and have a pulse.
  • Oh heck, even if you’re dead, you should be happy to be cremated with this book under one arm.

Overall

Beautiful cruelty. That’s the best phrase I can think of to describe how painful and exquisite this issue is. One part epic tragedy and one part epic heroism, this issue’s events will resonate well into the upcoming Year Three. Ultimately heroism has the most meaning–the most power–when the odds are at their lowest and when the sacrifice is at its highest. We probably haven’t seen the bottom yet, but this feels devastatingly close.

SCORE: 10/10