Print issue No. 3 collects the Digital Firsts 5 & 6, “The Coin” and “Xanadu”. If you’re still fencing-sitting about Injustice, this isn’t the place to jump in (start with Year Three issue No. 1, or, better yet, pick up the four trades leading up to Year Three first). My short summary: Superman has become an insufferable dictator, half the DCU as you know it has been killed, Batman’s leading a resistance that put Wonder Woman in a coma and is holding Flash, Cyborg, and Damian as prisoners. Now he’s teaming up with John Constantine, Zatanna, Dr. Fate, Klarion, and other “magical” characters to fight against the Spectre, who has inexplicably chosen to side with Superman. Oh, and there’s a pill that makes regular humans pretty much invincible. Got all that?

As with any series running of any significant length, all reductions are just merely reductions, however. Injustice is a smart book that always manages to balance horror and humor; even in the midst of so much death and tragedy, lighter moments shine through and the characters never lose their humanity (with one or two exceptions in the Superman camp–including Superman himself).

In this issue, Batman’s resistance is recovering from some serious resistance of it’s own in the form of the Spectre, who last issue took out Harvey Bullock and Jason Blood with impunity. Detective Chimp has been very seriously injured, but Harley Quinn and Klarion are working on bringing him back from the brink (unfortunately–maybe he will be the new vessel for Etrigan!). Meanwhile, Constantine ups the game by taking Batman to visit Madame Xanadu, one of only three people Constantine can think of who may be able to help them against a power as immense as the spirit of righteousness itself.

The Good

Another good first half from Mark S. Miller, who has a nice handle on Harley’s expressions, and is working well in the tighter shots. Some of his long/wide shots get a little sloppy-looking, which is less noticeable in the print edition, but can be glaring in the digital issues because of the ability to zoom in tightly. But his overall work is very good. Some cool details: Superman’s cape flowing behind him as he enters the Hall of Justice “throne room”, Spectre squeezing a helpless little Shazam, and Sinestro’s maniacal glee as he tortures a lowly cop for information.

In the second half, we have the team of art by Redondo, finishes by Xermanico, and inks by Juan Albarran. The different artists do well to match the look of Constantine. Whereas other characters often rely heavily on their exaggerated costumes for distinction, Constantine only has his smug mug and a trenchcoat. But the artists have done a great job of staying on model; his hair and age have been very consistent so far. The whole second half of the book is mostly one long dramatic conversation and I have to say Redondo keeps it interesting and the art never gets lazy. And while Batman is just there for backup, it’s great to see him engaged again (since all of Year Two he was sidelined).

The first couple of issues for Year Three have felt a little Superman-lite. Finally we get to see more of what’s going on in the Hall of Justice since the failed coup. And it ain’t pretty.

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Sinestro is really just having too much fun!

There seem to be moments where Superman is having second thoughts, but they are fleeting and frustrating (a testament to good writing, again, as we want Superman to see the error of his ways, but he just can’t seem to let go of his anger).

As always, Tom Taylor leverages a little humor into the mix with both Harley and Constantine (there’s a great funny moment when Constantine and Batman arrive at Madame Xanadu’s). Not sure I’m feeling the imminent threat of the Spectre with them running around in plain sight as they are, but I suspect they’re under a protection spell of some kind, perhaps.

Rose (Constantine’s daughter) also shows just a wee bit that there’s more to her than what she seems. I like how subtle this is. She doesn’t go in and suddenly heal the monkey or cast a spell or anything involving lasers shooting from her eyes. She just pulls a coin from behind Constantine’s ear and he plays it off like nothing, leaving Dr. Fate to remark on it, which gives us insight into Constantine’s rather dramatic feelings on the matter. That’s just darn good storytelling all in the span of 7 panels.

But let’s get to the stuff that will probably have all the tongues a’waggin: Madame Xanadu’s mesmeric prognostication!  Dropping this under the cut because I’ve added a few thoughts (nothing major, but form your own conjectures and then come back so we can talk!):

Spoiler

  • The Green will grow. We know from the solicits that Swamp Thing is coming.
  • Hellfire will burn. Probably refers to Raven?
  • A dead man will fall and a dead man will rise. Apparently Deadman will make an appearance judging by the collage, but who is the dead man that will fall?
  • Souls will be lost and traitors triumphant. We know people will die. We also know now from Spectre that Billy Batson is dangerously on the fence (will he be the triumphant traitor or is there a rat in Batman’s camp?).
  • The Empress awakens. The return of Wonder Woman! But we also already know this from the solicits.
  • The Emperor sleeps. Curious; it seems to refer to Superman, but not sure of the context.
  • The advisor banished… Curtains for Sinestro? Please? Not likely, though, so this one is curious.
  • The Joker returns. Does he now? Who else could “Joker” refer to? Any one of a number of tricksters perhaps?

The Bad

Batman and Constantine gain access to Madame Xanadu’s inner sanctum and a lengthy negotiation unfolds while Xanadu scoffs and Constantine wheedles. It’s kind of amusing, but we spend half this issue with the two of them quarreling and fussing with tarot cards (did Constantine think if he just told her straight up what happened she wouldn’t have believed him?). Scenes like this always call into question the limits of “psychic” prowess in characters like Madame Xanadu. To make matters worse, she then says she knew already. Erg.

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Tell me again why they’re flipping cards?

Worse than that, something seems to be going sideways here with regard to the Spectre, and I’m going to drop it below a cut just to vent.

Spoiler

So…Spectre’s really in Superman’s camp? I cannot fathom in what way this could be possibly credible. We discussed it a bit after issue No. 2 came out and I expressed in the comments a lot of sentiments about what the Spectre is as a spirit of “Old Testament-style” justice, and how one has to agree that Superman’s initial killing of the Joker is “justice” in order to follow a logical path that the war borne out of that action is likewise “just”.

But it doesn’t make sense. Even if somehow killing the Joker was just, Superman has done heinous dictatorial things ever since (even now he’s turning a blind eye to Sinestro’s torture). Batman has opposed Superman, but nowhere has Batman committed any deadly acts against Superman’s camp. Where Superman has not hesitated to kill (even Black Canary), Batman has always taken prisoners whenever possible. Even if I weren’t already inclined to side with Batman, I’d be hard pressed to judge Superman as more “just” than the Resistance that oppose his totalitarian rule. And I certainly can’t defend Superman as “righteous” in any sense of the word. Add to that the fact that Spectre could have smote Batman in the last issue, but didn’t, we get the sense that Batman isn’t necessarily “unjust”. Finally, if killing the Joker was righteous, that makes Batman a fool.

So I’m really struggling with this and hoping there will be some bigger reveal. Otherwise, I’m not buying into Spectre taking sides in the way that he appears to.

Share your thoughts! Does Tom Taylor have something clever planned in all of this, or is this a strange misstep in an otherwise brilliantly plotted series?

The Ugly

That cover! Come on, you knew this was coming. Not only is it completely jumping the gun, but Superman is still in his Yellow Ring togs in this story (and Swamp Thing is shown on a single page–and rather abstractly). It’s nicely executed by Neil Googe and Rex Lokus, but moments like this make me worry about the frenetic pace at which this series is being rolled out. A short break between Year Two and Year Three might have allowed for enough editorial opportunity to make an adjustment on this cover? If everything about it is deliberate, however, I’m calling “boo” on DC for such blatant mis-advertisement. Once again, there’s plenty that goes on these books that is sufficiently cover-worthy.

Recommended If…

  • You love Constantine’s wise-cracking smart-assery.
  • Madame Xanadu rocks your socks.

Overall

Always engaging, Injustice never shies from pairing up interesting character interactions and never fails to organically motivate the relationships in those pairings. But while things are working swimmingly for Batman and John Constantine, I’m feeling a little less sanguine about the Spectre popping by chez Superman to give his endorsements. Is it cruel to downgrade a book because I don’t like the direction of the story at the moment? Perhaps, but that’s based on what I’m perceiving as an illogical turn rather than pure subjectivity in the plot.

SCORE: 7/10