Buccellato is winning me over after Year Three’s less-than-spectacular conclusion by keeping the adrenaline pumping and the plot barreling forward. Two print issues in, the description in the solicits make it sound like we’ve been treading water, but actually there’s plenty in motion and much of it is still cloaked in mystery.

Digital Firsts 3 & 4 are titled “Vengeance is Mine” and “The Price” respectively. If you’re no stranger to Injustice you know that “price” is going to be dear. While the bulk of this issue is focused on the fight between Superman and Renee Montoya as she attempts to avenge Helena’s death by gobbling up green pills like they were PEZ, this issue also offers a couple of genuinely emotional moments and several intrigues that will no doubt be the focus for the year: one involving the gods, of course, as Zeus and Hera decide that Superman has too far overstepped and must be dealt with, and one involving Lex Luthor (whom we haven’t seen since Year Two, though it’s very clear he’s been busy since then).

The Good

Once again we get the advantage of a complete book with a single artistic team. Penciller and Inker Mark S. Miller and colorist J. Nanjan tell a story that ranges from the Alaskan bunker to Olympus to Smallville to Washington and nothing looks rushed or last-minute. From the details of the Kents’ farmhouse kitchen to the destruction of the Washington Monument, Miller looks like he’s having fun again and Buccellato gives him plenty to work with. In the past I have criticized Miller’s facial expressions as sometimes goofy or distorted, but here he does very nicely with some scenes that need nuance such as the confrontation between Superman and his adoptive parents, Montoya’s emotional farewell to Maggie Sawyer, and Bruce Wayne’s frustration and grief at the end. Even Montoya’s pill-inspired-roidlike-rage is pulled off believably without being laughable.

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Awkward family moments: Injustice Edition

Buccellato’s script has brought us back to a grounded sense of space and time. The war seems over for all intents and purposes, though the insurgents are still in hiding (well, some of them are), and Superman finally has a little time to reflect on everything that’s happened. Despite the ethereal nature of the gods, their own plotting is likewise grounded. We know Hippolyta owes Hera a favor for recovering Diana and we know Batman is conspiring with Ares, but the nature of these shenanigans has not been revealed just yet. Still, because the action mostly takes place on Earth, we feel solidly back in the realm of the original direction of the story (almost like Year Three was just a bad dream). And with the introduction of Lex Luthor hatching up what appears to be a clone of some sort in his lab, hopefully this is where the action will remain.

Also, I’d like to give a thumbs up to the characterization of Wonder Woman. Her level-headedness as of late has helped provide the teams with a little more balance and I’d like to think it was her influence that allowed Superman his one brief moment of compassion at the end.

The Bad

Not necessarily “bad”, but there are a few odd beans in the soup. I expect the business with Harley and Billy Batson is going somewhere, but it’s not yet integrated into the other storylines and therefore feels like a bit of a weird distraction.

The moment in which Catwoman revives in the (now landed) Bat plane is a tad peculiar. I had to read it twice before understanding that Montoya must have cold-cocked her. When she first got into the plane, it wasn’t clear that Montoya was stowing away rather than being deliberately taken. Which begs the question: where was Catwoman going anyway?

While I enjoyed (for lack of a better term) the fight between Montoya and Superman, it is problematic.

Spoiler
Despite knowing that it wasn’t going to end well for Montoya. I am a bit disappointed that her efforts were essentially wasted. She made threats, she vowed revenge, but all she did was get herself killed. She didn’t make a dent in Superman and presumably Cyborg and Damian are just fine as well. Although I don’t feel like the whole exercise was pointless, I do feel like Montoya didn’t exactly go out on a high note. She hardly needed Superman to destroy her when she so thoroughly destroyed herself.

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Montoya’s not killing anyone so long as she has a face full of gravel.

The Ugly Questions

Is Superman flip-flopping too radically here at the end? Does that final moment between him and Bruce Wayne at the very end make good story sense? Why are the insurgents (like Wayne, whose identity as Batman is globally known, and even Harley) just roaming around in the light of day without any particular consequences?

These are issues I have with the direction the story is taking, but I’m okay with seeing how they play out in the context of what’s happening.

One of the big irritations I’ve had with Injustice since the start was that Harley was initially squirreled away to protect her from Superman’s wrath (let’s face it, she’s as guilty as the Joker was in killing Lois and the Superbaby). But he seems to have forgotten that (and so has everyone else). Now she’s wandering around the city without even so much as a fake identity. This one is a bit hard to reconcile.

Recommended If…

  • You want to see Montoya get a few good licks in against Superman.
  • It’s about time the comic book started to actually look and feel like the video game (your mileage on this may vary).
  • It’s got Harley on a Harley. That’s gotta be worth something right there.

Overall

I’m enjoying this book again after feeling like closing out Year Three was too much work. We’re back to the essential relationships between Superman and Batman, the battle for justice on earth (even if through the interference of the gods), and behind-the-scenes plotting from mastermind Lex Luthor whose allegiance still feels like a wild card at this point. If you were feeling the fade-out before the start of this year, get back on board now. It feels like Buccellato’s got some surprises in store for us!

SCORE: 8/10