Print issue No. 2 collects the Digital Firsts 1 & 2, “Gathering Forces” and “Spirit of Vengeance”. Constantine has collected his world’s greatest detectives and the Resistance reconvenes at the home of Jason Blood as they try, with the added help of Klarion, to discern the nature of the malevolent psychic force that is bearing down on them (did you all guess what it might be? Or were you surprised?). Meanwhile Superman tortures people for information and is generally yellow-ring evil incarnate. Yes, these are fun times.
The story is moving at breakneck speed. Most of you who are reading Injustice seem to be reading it digitally, so you typically already know what’s happened before my review hits the site. But for those of you who are getting this in floppies, waiting for the trades, or just idly passing through, I gotta say, it’s harder and harder to write these reviews without making them all just big spoiler cuts, so I’m going to try to talk about this issue somewhat obliquely, but consider yourself forewarned that there be SPOILERS ahead!
We’re only two issues in, but we seem to have left Superman’s camp on the sidelines for the time being. Just a brief stop-in to see what heinous things Supes is doing with Sinestro at his back, while most of the action is focused on Constantine and Batman’s Resistance. This issue pulls all the remainders of the rag-tag dwindling ensemble together and outside of the magic-wielders, it’s starting to look like a weak bunch (even with their pep pills).
Harley and I must share a taste in men. Er…sometimes.
Harley Quinn continues to provide a few laughs, though the tone of this book overall (set firmly by Superman’s torture scene) is fairly serious. While Tom Taylor has a finesse that can pull off the humor even under the darkest of circumstances (I totally laughed at Batman’s reaction to Constantine yelling in his face and Redondo’s perfect form and angle in the panel that follows), there is a terrible pervasive gloom here. The Resistance is trying to regroup, but it’s on the run as well. Not only from Superman, but now the Spectre has reared his angry head and he appears to be looking to smote a superhero or two.
Artwork this time around is by Mike S. Miller (first half), then Bruno Redondo and Xermanico. Worth noting: Miller’s work in the first half shows impressive improvement from much of his Year Two effort: his characters are consistently well-drawn and show little sign of facial expression troubles he’s had in the past–his female faces in particular show more balance overall. Meanwhile, Redondo and Xermanico nail the second half from a wonderfully frightening Etrigan (and a moment of hilarity as he face-tosses a minor demon in frustration), to a truly harrowing Spectre. If I had to quibble, I’d say my my my isn’t Mr. Constantine looking mighty buff in these pages (a physique he’s certainly never carried in any other incarnation), but since this isn’t Earth Prime, we’ll just accept that he’s a chiseled bodybuilder in this world. And really, what’s to complain about?
And speaking of JC and his familiar characteristics, Taylor has really got a handle on not only Constantine’s acerbic wit, but his forked connivery as well. There’s a moment of brilliant irony in which he marvels at the size of Batman’s coconuts when he himself is sporting a clanking pair given his own audacious act just moments before. It’s one of many highlights in this uniformly fabulous latest installment in the Injustice series.
Really Bats? A cellar?
If you’re a big fan of the Gotham mortals who have made it this far, you might feel a little shocked and appalled at how blithely one of them is done away with. To make matters more complicated, the sequence of panels is not very clear. I must have flipped the pages back and forth several times saying “wait..did that just happen? Who…?” Not sure if the ambiguity of the moment is intentional (what purpose could it serve but to frustrate the reader?), so overall I think the composition could have been stronger (and therefore given the moment more weight, rather than confusion). Later we’re treated to the bloody aftermath of this encounter but there’s really no time to process anything because the characters are under such duress that fleeing is their only option. While I think it feels right given the circumstances, I can see how others might feel like a carpet was ripped out from under them.
I continue to feel tentative about what’s going on with the magic here. Batman confronts the Spectre, but we’re robbed of their conversation, so we don’t know what’s got Spectre’s little green shorts all twisted in knots (though I suppose we could guess). I am curious, though, whether Spectre’s choosing a side or just out to wipe out the world. While early on (Year One) there was some ambiguity about which camp was in the “right”, I’d say about now that there’s no question as to Superman’s absolute corruption. So why is Spectre coming after the Resistance? It remains to be seen, but at the moment it has me scratching my head in concern.
Also, I have to say this cover by Trevor McCarthy and Rex Lokus has been my least favorite in a long while. There’s nothing wrong with it conceptually. The execution is just kind of ugly. Batman looks like he’s laughing, Dr. Fate is doing a dive-bomb, and it feels sort of messy and jumbled. On the shelf it doesn’t stand out with any particular feature, which is always unfortunate. Especially for a book as good as this.
I see dead people. More specifically people with the flesh being flayed from their bones. But really, why can’t that be beautiful?
- You want to see Batman attempt to stare down one of the most powerful forces in the universe.
- Killing off comic book characters has become the number one bloodsport for you.
- …it’s Constantine being a jerk to Batman. And Batman’s response. You know you have to read it!
Year Three is wasting no time obliterating characters in horrific fashion. Two of our Resistance heroes take a final bow (one of whom we were only just seeing for the first time!). But this is Injustice, so death is pervasive and almost no one is safe. The good news is that Batman (with a little help from John Constantine) is front and center as the head of the Resistance again; he’s had a long road to recovery, but he’s looking ready to take the fight to the next level.