For Year Three’s Injustice Annual we get two stories: “A Proper Mage” and “Fall of the Titans”. Both are filler stories that happen before the events of Year Three even begin, so it might feel a little strange reaching back into the recesses of memory to place these tales in their proper context.

“A Proper Mage”

written by Ray Fawkes, art by Xermanico.

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Ray Fawkes is no stranger to the character of John Constantine, having written his regular series since Hellblazer closed up shop and the new Constantine opened its doors. Here he tells the story of how Constantine first got involved with the problem of Superman, how he came to imprison Raven, and, as is par for the course with John Constantine, get all his allies killed in the process.

This is a fun story and Xermanico does some great work: the full page splash in which Raven unleashes her power is a stunner and there’s a wonderful contrast between the action and the more subdued conversational pages (even the shift in tone with the colors from cool greens and blues to overheated reds and yellows contributes some wonderful flavors to the pages). But ultimately I don’t feel like the story really provides much of a contribution to the overall Injustice universe. Some characters gets killed and we see some backstory on Raven and Wonder Woman, but none of this is really new or vital information.

What is interesting is the use of Dr. Occult in this storyline. For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Occult predates Batman by 4 years (and is celebrating his 80th birthday this year!). He is currently the oldest DCU character still active.

DrOccult

Leger & Reuths were the pen names of Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel

We don’t see much of Dr. Occult in the DCU (or Rose Psychic, his sometimes daughter/partner who, after Neil Gaiman did some rewriting became one half of the Occult personality in The Books of Magic [1991]). Dr. Occult most recently made a solo appearance in Justice League Dark in which he was unceremoniously killed.

Poor guy just can’t catch a break.

“Fall of the Titans”

written by Brian Buccellato, pencils by Sergio Davila, inks by Juan Albarran.

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New Injustice writer Brian Buccellato takes a crack at visiting the past world of Injustice in this tale of what happened to the Teen Titans way back in Year One. The events of this story take place starting at the point of detonation: the Joker’s bomb goes off in Metropolis in the opening scene, taking out two of said Titans in the blast and leaving Conner (Kon-El, a.k.a Superboy) deeply and traumatically affected.

This story has a lot of potential, but I found it problematic in the one way that Year One never was for me: Superman behaves so far out of character it’s not only inconceivable, but, frankly, kind of offensive. Over the course of the past two years in Injustice we’ve watched Superman take a long slow slide into despotic evil, but here he’s irredeemably awful within days of killing the Joker.

The story starts with the deaths of Bart Allen and Beast Boy in the nuclear blast and follows the Titans as they are informed by Nightwing of the situation (after which Nightwing leaves, which should be your cue that something not-so-wonderful is going to occur to the Titan team).

Conner takes the leads in the story of might-makes-right vs. turn-the-other-cheek and we have some nicely affecting scenes of him arguing with Superman and with the Kents about the wrongness of Superman’s decision to kill the Joker (let alone declare an international police state over the world), but ultimately his fight with Boy Scout Gone Bad defies credibility. I’ll drop the reason under the cut because some of you may still want to read this.

Spoiler
Superman straight up kills Conner. Kills him for defying him and trying to banish him to the Phantom Zone. Okay, so he saves him by tossing him into the Zone himself, but to add acid to the open wound, he sends all the Titans over as ransom for saving Conner’s life. That’s Goebbels-level evil. Absolutely unpalatable, I tell you. It doesn’t make any sense this early in the game (so to speak).

The Good

The Injustice universe is a rich one and its central conflict is always going to ensure that any stories coming out of it will be ripe with drama (and a high probability of death). While these side stories aren’t must-reads, they are entertaining in their own right and generally well-produced. Xermanico’s artwork in “A Proper Mage” is especially good and the book overall does not exhibit the rushed sensibilities (heavy digital inks, ghosted or flat environments, and predictable page composition) that Digital Firsts sometimes suffer.

The Bad

The cover for this issue features recycled art from Year Three issue no. 1. Dr. Occult and Batman are new, but Constantine is slopped in (as you can see here). I’m amazed that the editor would approve of this. It not only looks bad, but it’s just a lazy bit of business overall. Maybe Neil Googe didn’t have time to do something better, but I wish they at least hadn’t just collaged old art in with the new. This is an annual, after all. It feels like it deserved a little more special consideration in its presentation.

The Ugly

Superman’s solution to Superboy’s anger and the Teen Titans who support him is too heavy-handed and out of character.

Recommended If…

  • You’re a fan of the Teen Titans and you want to see where they are in the Injustice world.
  • You like all things occultish in the DCU.
  • You want to fill in some Injustice holes that you probably didn’t actually have questions about in the first place.

Overall

Year Three’s annual is about what you might expect after a somewhat lackluster finale to Year Three. Injustice is still a great title and well worth the read, but there’s nothing “must-buy” about this pair of filler tales and the second one I found pretty shocking for all the wrong reasons…which made it especially disappointing for what was a really promising premise. The next year of Injustice kicks off digitally next week, so I hope you are collectively clicking your heels and wishing good things for the coming Year Four.

SCORE: 6.5/10