Year Four comes out of the gate swinging with the collected issue of Digital Firsts 1 & 2, “The Gods Themselves” and “What Fools these Mortals Are”. With Buccellato now driving the story entirely, we will get to see what he can truly bring to this series and he gives us an aperitif that’s definitely got my attention. It’s been some time since the climactic battle in Year Three but Superman is stewing about the fact that the insurgents are still loose, Wonder Woman is feeling guilty about having killed Huntress, Batman is hiding out in the lead-lined bunker eating macaroni and cheese, and Renee Montoya is drunk and angry while Harley Quinn, bored out of her gourd goes off to find a playmate in Billy Batson.

There’s a lot about this opening that feels already more grounded and compelling than the mystical mess that Year Three became. Superman appears to have lost the last vestiges of his humanity as he begins to treat the heroes who supported him rather shabbily.

 Injustice_Y4_01_02Superman deigns to speak to the little people

Meanwhile, Ares is stirring up trouble on Olympus, goading Hercules to enter the fray by calling him out as a useless prop in the pantheon who has been supplanted by these “new” heroes. To complicate matters, Ares is also conspiring with the Dark Knight.

The Good

There’s an excellent balance of characters and sides thus far in issue no. 1. One of the problems with Year Three for me was that it felt very much tipped toward the Bat-side of things and that made it easy to be dismissive of Superman’s court and concerns. Here we get to see more interaction on the Superman side with great scenes from formerly Green (now Yellow) Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Damian who boasts to Cyborg that if anyone will bring in Batman, it’s going to be him.

The entire issue is a Bruno Redondo and Juan Albarran collaboration that has great energy and excellent characterizations. The fact that the same art team does both digital issues is actually rare, but welcome for the sake of consistency. The story opens with a very nice establishing shot of Olympus (with wonderfully dreamy colors from Rex Lokus) and returns our heroes to good ol’ earth where we’ve traded the vague forest battle setting of the interstitial House of Secrets/Mysteries for the Washington Monument mall. I like the fantasy worlds as much as the next person, but the stakes always feel higher when the characters are “home”. In the second half of the book the artists give us a great flashback/dream sequence with Montoya and Sawyer in a gritty, desolate Gotham. I really have missed these fully rendered environments. And this background flashback is a nice character development moment for Montoya who clearly is being given a significant role in this Year (or at least in its opening moments; my prediction is that her actions will precipitate the overriding events). It’s nice to see Maggie, too, and to get more information on the dynamic between Batwoman, Huntress, and Montoya.

Injustice_Y4_01_01

Time among the mortals is always welcome in Injustice

I have to say Buccellato also writes a wonderful Batman and Alfred scene–his prior work in Detective Comics has given him a strong feel for their relationship. Although I have to laugh a little at the plate of food Alfred serves (seriously, that’s straight-up 29¢ macaroni and cheese right there), I really enjoyed their interaction. Redondo’s expressions for Alfred really sell the scene and that final moment in which Bruce gives him a lingering look is truly wonderful.

Lastly, a deserved nod to the very nice cover art from newcomer (to Injustice) Howard Porter and Rex Lokus. Maybe Wonder Woman’s face is a little strange, but the composition is dynamic and the contrast of the pale, muted (almost ghostly) gods behind the brightly colored capes and armor really makes the elements pop. I am curious that only Batman is included among the superheroes as far as the insurgents are concerned. Can’t assume yet that it’s a purposeful choice, but it will be interesting to see if it carries deeper meaning.

The Bad

Honestly, there’s not much to complain about here. I thought Ares’ opening monologue was somewhat stilted and not really “in voice”, and that moment in which Harley presses her face against the window at the school was kind of weird, but otherwise this was a solid introduction for Year Four and it was nice to see Buccellato acknowledge, for example, that Damian has aged a bit since all of this began. I also really liked how Montoya, a mere mortal, is nicely center-stage for a change (even hopped up on the indestructibility formula). While I have reservations about Hercules, I enjoyed his interaction with Ares in the beginning and am invested in watching this scheme unfold.

The Ugly?

No ugly! The Injustice team is off to a strong start with this opening. While I still feel a little trepidatious about the introduction of the gods into the narrative, I feel like Buccellato is motivating events well and not losing sight of the “little people” on the ground so far.

Recommended If…

  • You’re a fan of Renee Montoya and Batwoman.
  • You are curious about the role of the gods in the Injustice pantheon.
  • You want to see Superman throw away the last shreds of his humanity.

Overall

Buccellato brings Year Four out of the closet locked and loaded–he sets up the impending interference of the gods, sets the stage for where the characters have been since the conclusion of Year Three, and gives us juicy stakes with a confrontation between Montoya and Damian that’s sure to get the attention of both Superman and Batman. If Year Three shook your confidence in the Injustice world a little, let this new beginning restore your faith.

SCORE: 8/10