The killing spree continues here in print issue No. 5, which collects Digital Firsts 9 & 10, “Dead Man” and “Death of a Deadman”. But I asked for some light of hope in my last review and we get that too, so this is an issue you don’t want to miss!

Superman threatens to kill Constantine, Shazam intervenes, and Constantine is rescued by Boston Brand (a.k.a Deadman). If you can’t guess what happens next based on the titles of the digital issues, you’re just not paying attention. But if you think you know the particulars, you really haven’t been paying attention because, well, this is Injustice and any time you think you might be one step ahead of it, it’s going to pull the rug up from under you (in a good way!).

This issue includes additional appearances from Sinestro, Green–er–Yellow Lantern (Hal Jordan), the Goddess Rama Kushna, Zatanna, and Swamp Thing. Plus one character I doubt anybody saw coming. SPOILERS ahead; it’s impossible to review this series without having to drop all the surprises under cuts, so I’m just not going to bother (except for maybe one major reveal).

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Everyone’s got glints in their eyes, but not the good kind!

The Good

Year Three has been a strange journey so far. We’re not quite to the halfway point and things are gradually developing in an interesting direction. It’s been a little frustrating not seeing the big picture, but Madame Xanadu’s predictions are starting to come to light–and the way they are being fulfilled is interesting to say the least. Some of them so far have been expected, but others are less so (but always in a good way!)

The million dollar question, of course, is who is possessing the Spectre? Put your thoughts in the comments below and let’s see if anyone can guess! Madame Xanadu may have given us a clue, but I’m actually feeling like it’s too early to tell.

Bruno Redondo does the layouts for the first half, with Juan Albarran doing the finishes and the inks. Their Spectre with that gleam in his eyes is wonderfully spooky.

Meanwhile, Mike S. Miller delivers a second half with a nicely rendered Swamp Thing and an exceptionally emotional end scene with Deadman. I would have to say Deadman’s somewhat lingering demise was a solid choice that allowed us to grieve a little this time. It’s also a good contrast to the sudden unexpected death syndrome (SUDS) that has wracked this series all through Year Three. And even though Deadman only just arrived to be so quickly dispatched, his death was not in vain. That wonderful moment in which he passes on his power nearly brought tears to my eyes. Well done, Injustice team. Well done! So who got the power?

Spoiler
What do you think of Deadman’s choice? Does it make sense? What will Nightwing bring to the team that might be currently lacking? Were any of you thinking/hoping he’d bring back Rory/Ragman? Were you disappointed? Thrilled? So many questions!

Neil Googe and Rex Lokus also provide a nice dramatic cover. I love the epic faceoff between Superman and Batman, with the equally epic face-off between Constantine and Swamp Thing in the background. It’s less of a literal cover and more conceptual, but it works. It telegraphs the spirit of the interior contents in an abstract and interesting way.

Lastly, a word (or many) about Swamp Thing. I cringed when I learned from the solicits that Swamp Thing was in Superman’s camp, but Tom Taylor makes it work by falling back on Swamp Thing’s prime directive: to protect the Green. The conversation he has with Constantine and Batman harkens back to the good old days of Swamp Thing Vol. 2 when it was still a Vertigo title and under the authorship of the likes of Rick Veitch, Nancy A. Collins, and Mark Millar. I am continually amazed at how well Taylor understands these characters, their nuances, and their motivations. Swamp Thing’s relationship with Constantine has always been acerbic (a necessary evil), and though Swamp Thing and Batman have crossed one another’s paths often enough to know that they are each, in their own way, doing as they feel best, they have never been what I’d call “friendly”. I love that Swamp Thing isn’t interested in getting involved and won’t make a fuss if they stay out of the Green. I also love how Constantine reacts to this by determining that he’s too much of a liability to let live.

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Batman’s deductive reasoning in full swing.

The Bad

Compared to Redondo and Albarran’s Spectre in the first half of the book, Miller’s Spectre seems less threatening and less scary. Part of this is in the way Albarran casts Spectre’s face in dark shadows, obscuring his eyes, but there’s also something sterner, more controlled in his overall expression–whereas in Miller’s art he comes off a little slack-jawed and soft. Miller has no problem making Swamp Thing scary, though. The avatar of the green sends Constantine and Batman packing with nary a cordiality throughout their conversation. This is one muck man they don’t want to mess with (but then it’s Constantine, so you know that messing with him is definitely in the cards). Swamp Thing’s scariness, however, underscores Spectre’s lack of power by comparison, which is unfortunate. Year Three is all about the darkest and most powerful entities in the DCU. Even if Spectre is currently not himself, he shouldn’t ever not look terrifying.

The Ugly

In the second half of the book, Miller does one of those cut and paste panel sequences where only a few details of vines and the smoke from Constantine’s cigarette are altered in the first and then Constantine is altered in the second. I confess I have a real bias against this sort of thing. It can be effective, but most of the time it just comes off as an artistic shortcut that ends up calling attention to itself instead of the story.

Recommended If…

  • It makes you cry to see a good band break up (why can’t they all just get along?)
  • You love Swamp Thing (and who doesn’t?)!
  • Grayson isn’t cutting it for you.

Overall

With a couple of major turning points occurring in this book, issue no. 5 might be low on action sequences, but it’s high on drama! This is the book that’s giving this arc the launch forward it’s been gearing up for. If you’re like me and have feeling a bit tentative about Year Three, this is definitely the sign that this title continues to live up to expectations.

SCORE: 8.5/10