Digital chapters 7 & 8, “Bargains” and “Broken” combine to bring full light to the underhanded dealings that will set the major action of this Year in motion. We finally see what’s motivating Lex Luthor, Batman’s deal with Ares, Hera and Hippolyta’s contretemps concluded, Diana’s negotiation for a Death by Combat to resolve the problem of the gods vs. Superman, and the selecting of champions for which Batman declares…Wonder Woman??? You sneaky bat, you.
Was that part of the deal, Ares? From the very start? Or was this all Bruce’s idea?
Praise from on High
Brian Buccellato is hitting his stride in this issue. Though the book feels a little bit like a see-saw with the back and forth in the wheeling and dealing, the revelations are pertinent enough to warrant the flashbacks. The forward action of this issue isn’t that great, but the tension is palpable and the stakes are definitely rocketed to new heights. Not just in terms of the challenge and what it will mean for a fight to the death between Wonder Woman and Superman (who only last year were showing some coziness toward one another), but also for Lex Luthor who has positioned himself between Superman and Batman in a way that’s going to lead nowhere good. Buccellato writes a strong dialogue between the two as Superman talks of his sense of disconnect and expounds on the trust he’s lost, while we, as the audience, know that he’s pouring out his frustrations to the man who’s actually scheming behind his back.
We finally get to see Zeus enter the fray in person, which is actually pretty cool. I had reservations about the involvement of the gods in this Year, but so far, they have been intriguing and mysterious, and apart from the human interaction, which has made them more believable in some ways. Even when Zeus thunders down from on high, it’s only to insist on fair play.
Because Wonder Woman is not pleased.
The big event of this issue, of course, is the opening blows of the combat between Wonder Woman and Superman and it does not disappoint. In fact, it’s almost too brutal with both of them in a no-holds-barred frenzy to take their opponent out. We get a cliff-hanger ending, so we won’t know the outcome until next week (if you’re following the digital releases), but I’ll be really interested to see how this battle get resolved!
Also want to give a little shout out to cover artist Yildiray Cinar, new to Injustice I believe, though may have contributed in the long past, who provides us with a really strong wrapper (colored by Rex Lokus). The inclusion of a wee little Batman there off to the side wasn’t necessary, but hardly detracts from the central image of our two titans who should be fighting on the same team but instead are pitched against one another. It’s an excellent fresh angle for a book that feels like it’s had a lot of static posing covers lately.
Beneath the Gods
Mike S. Miller and J. Nanjan are on interiors this go-round and there are some wonderful, amazing panels splashed throughout the book as a whole (that classy opening half-page of Superman suspended in mid-air half-way through the book is just gorgeous). Also, all of the action sequences are excellently choreographed.
But Miller still occasionally doesn’t know what to do to make a talking heads panel more interesting and so lays it on its side (look at that strange composition of Superman and Lex, with Lex hitching his pants weirdly). And the faces. Oh dear, so many bewildered faces throughout. Everyone seems to have the same “ooooo” expression panel to panel as each new piece of information is dealt. Wonder Woman is chosen as challenger? “Oooooo!” Zeus appears? “Ooooo!” Zeus is Wonder Woman’s father? “Ooooo!” Other weirdly rendered panels have Batman and Hera grinning like idiots and Yellow (formerly Green) Lantern and Wonder Woman with anatomy so stretched they look like they descended from dachshunds.
So no, unfortunately, not a strong offering from Miller this time around, especially given the weight of the writing. Too often these “off” expressions or panels will pull you right out of the action and the emotional investment, and that’s too bad. I continue to feel like Miller is working too fast and not getting the editorial oversight that he may need. When he renders well, he’s awesome, but this feels rushed and unless the characters are angry or neutral, they seem goofy and/or confused.
Also, try as I might to figure it out, I can’t think of a reason for Hal to be putting up a wall between the two sides. It looks like he’s blocking his own teammates from the fight (and maybe that’s what he’s doing?) but it struck me as weird.
- You want to see Superman and Wonder Woman fight to the death (though no one has died yet).
- You’re interested in a deeper understanding of the relationship between Lex and Clark.
- You enjoy watching the gods shuffle mortal (and somewhat immortal) pawns around on their chessboard.
Injustice is always going to be a good read, even when it has weak links. This time around, the art seems to suffer a bit, but the story soars. I feel fully reinvigorated for this series and hopefully, if some of you dropped off in the last six months, you’ll be willing to get back on board. The action is really ramping up for Year Four and I feel strongly that Buccellato will be able to keep this momentum going given all the intrigues he’s set up in these first four issues.