If watching members of the Justice League punch each other to bloody pulp is your thing, than digital chapters 9 & 10, “Willpower” and “Mayhem” is sure to delight you. Superman and Wonder Woman have been matched for judgment by combat at the will of Zeus, who is kind of irritated at how things on Earth have progressed up until this point. If you’re wondering why it’s Clark and Diana duking it out, it’s because Batman had the privilege of choosing his champion and he was too smart to pick someone on his own team (how’s that for sly?).
This is a challenge to the death and I think we all know already that neither Superman nor Wonder Woman is going to die in this combat, so how is it all going to play out? Last we saw, Wonder Woman had the upper hand (literally–she broke Superman’s arm), but the tables are about to be turned.
That is one scary, ticked-off Kryptonian!
The Gods Celebrate
Brian Buccellato opens up a great big can of almost non-stop action in this collected issue. Even though the focus begins on a fight between two comrades, it escalates throughout the book. In many ways this is to be expected and very little of it is surprising, but that doesn’t mean any of it less entertaining.
He also works in a couple of flashbacks and integrates them very well. There’s been some kvetching about how none of the other Leaguers would be a match for Superman, but historically that’s never been true and Buccellato illustrates one of the reasons why in this issue. Once his arm is broken by Wonder Woman, Kal-El unleashes the full brunt of his fury and we get to see the Man of Steel on that tightrope between dominating super-tyrant and the big blue Boy Scout. Driving the point home is a lovely flashback in the second half of the book that has Clark and Diana having an overly-friendly sparring match, much to Batman’s disapproval. This is a great scene not only because we briefly get to see the triumvirate whole and united again, but because we see Superman’s true weakness: his compassion for others and lack of fear due to his own supposed invulnerability. I especially love Bruno Redondo’s subtle expressions for Superman throughout the scene. He manages to make Clark look humored by Batman’s lecture without being smug–just wonderful.
None of this is new. It’s a theme that’s kicked around the Superman titles for years, but Buccellato makes the most of it here, demonstrating why Superman’s “powers” may seem to fluctuate, why he has vulnerabilities, and why, when he finally decides to get angry, he’s a truly scary force to be reckoned with.
Redondo and Juan Albarran are like a lovely old married couple on this book: their work has defined and set the expectations for the art on this title for the last three years and they continue to find fun and interesting ways to keep the book looking fresh and lively. Redondo’s use of half-pages to maximize the action has always been top notch. As a digital release, the artists have to do the best they can without being able to rely on splash pages and double-spreads. While that limits the page dynamics, it’s never hampered this art team from turning out a good-looking book that, for the most part, you would never guess was being produced with these restrictions. Kudos too to Rex Lokus for his nice muted palettes on the flashback sequences. This tends to be a bright book and when we get a major shift in tone, it helps make those time transitions work, particularly when they are integrated concurrently with the present-day action (such as the first set of flashbacks).
Meanwhile, Batman looks like he wouldn’t mind knocking his son for a lulu.
The Gods Lament
Spoilers here, so go no further if you haven’t read it–I just didn’t want to have to drop this whole section into a cut.
As mentioned before, I guess we had to know that the fight wasn’t going to conclude (or be to the death), but I was a little surprised to see it be Sinestro who breaks up the party. That cover, though nicely rendered by Tom Raney and Rex Lokus is not only a disappointing spoiler in and of itself, but it’s also a little misleading, unfortunately.
At any rate, Sinestro’s interference feels premature and foolhardy on his part (why would he just jump in rather than calculate his move?). I suppose there is a chance he was just playing it for the gods, but that isn’t how it feels. Worse still, the dialogue that ensues with Hal after his interruption felt a bit silly. Magenta, pink, who cares really?
It was therefore gratifying to see Superman flick him away like a gnat, but to see the plot turn on such flimsy intercession felt a bit facile.
The other thing that nearly had me laughing (not in a good way) was the final panel of Apollo making his challenge. I thought the arrangement of the “big” gods, replete with nameplates, was so throwback silly. The image is very flat: they don’t look menacing at all. And I’ll admit I’m not that familiar with the powers of the gods in the DCU, but Eros in particular just struck me as goofy and very non-warrior-like. I feel like this panel should have had more power, more weight, more threat. And we could have gotten their names later rather than with videogame-style callouts. All-in-all an unfortunate way to end what was otherwise a strong book.
- You’ve been waiting for the return of Sinestro.
- You want to spend a scene with Bruce, Clark, and Diana in a past never to be reclaimed (this is the gem of this issue).
- You’ve been waiting for the gods to throw down!
Last issue, I made a point of saying that Injustice is always going to be a good read, even when it has weak links. This issue is no exception: a roller coaster of action with just a few hitches in the ride. I love that Buccellato is exploring the relationships of the principal characters more without sacrificing any of the momentum that he’s begun to build. It looks like all-out war is on the horizon for the next issue, perhaps with Team Supes and Team Bats having to combine their forces to keep the immortals from taking the planet from them by force. You’ll definitely want to pick up the next issue to see what midpoint turn this story might take. There’s still plenty of issues left for lots of exciting things to happen. What do you think Injustice has in store?