Remember when Injustice: Gods Among Us was basically a book about Superman against Batman and the two teams (with a few rogue exceptions) were easily discerned based on who approved of Superman’s death-dealing blow to Joker after he accidentally killed Lois?

Since the advent of Year Four, the lines have gotten increasingly blurry. Not only because there seems to be a lot of double dealing going on in the background, but the introduction of the gods has created a whole new level of complications insofar a allegiances.

So when Poseidon throws a wall of water at Themyscira and Aquaman and Mera appear to attempt a deflection, I literally had to take a moment to figure out who was motivated by what in this fresh new catastrophe, and whether any of them could so easily be aligned to the Supes and Bats camps.

My conclusion at this point is that all bets are off. So many characters are acting purely in their own interests at this point that the idea of dual camps is pretty obliterated. I suspect it will all fall out on one side or the other at some point, but for the time being it’s a welcome melange of “anything can happen”.

So what does happen in this issue? Lots of major spoilers under tags below as we’re winding up toward the finale here.

Injustice_Y4_09_02

But it’s not going to wait forever–run!

The Good

The collected issue of Digital Firsts 17 & 18, “Making Waves” and “White Horses” throws the baby out with the bathwater in some ways by introducing Poseidon as a rogue god out to punish Themyscira for Zeus’ shenanigans. If the supporters of Zeus (i.e. his children) shelter on the island and refuse to rebuke their father’s meddling in the ways of mortals, Poseidon is going to be put out and drop a white cap the size of Australia on them. All bets are off at this point.

Then something weird happens and if you’re like me, you’re going to spend the first half of the comic trying to make sense of it:

Spoiler
Poseidon and Superman have teamed up on this rampage, with Superman naively thinking that a threat against Themyscira will force Zeus to back down. Now, I believe Superman is this naive. He’s always relied on goodness and strength to get him through his fights and well, let’s face it, he no longer has the goodness advantage. He’s not a tactician like Batman and without Batman to advise him, he’s perfectly apt to make stupid moves like this. I think Brian Buccellato does a good job here with the character because Superman isn’t being evil, he’s being a poor thinker, which is a more complex and more interesting choice. All of Injustice depends on his poor judgment time and time again. His decision-making was compromised when he killed Lois and he hasn’t been able to make good choices since. That’s a pretty powerful Achilles heel for a character who can so easily control the world, and is the reason that absolute power can be absolutely corrupted.

Kudos also to Buccellato for having Batman beg (and manipulate) Aquaman back into the fight.

Injustice_Y4_09_01

Aquaman talks tough, but you know he’s a softie

Aquaman doesn’t want to take sides and has managed to keep out of it for the last three years, but he’s forced to act against Poseidon, leading to possibly the best moment in Year Four so far:

Spoiler
Yeah, Arthur just made chum out of the god of the seas. I don’t care about the man vs. god believability of the scene; it was just straight up comic book awesome.

Some other great moments in this issue:

  • Our “dead” heroes from last issue are making their way toward Hades in a fun scene on the River Phlegethon. It makes sense, I guess, that if you’re smited directly by the gods you would go to their just rewards. And that could be an entirely different existence as opposed to being killed by other forces. I was worried about how Buccellato was going to resurrect these characters, but this works well without being a convoluted mess.
  • The fight between Poseidon and Aquaman and Mera is pretty awesome and constitutes Mike S. Miller’s best work in the second half of the book. Visually it scans well and the money shot with the shark is well composed.
  • A great cover from Tom Raney and Thomas Mason. Aquaman skis in on giant angry sharks? Get outta town. I’d pay twice for that just to rip one off and hang it on the wall.

The Not Great

Minor quibble: Ares is plotting against everyone at this point including a mysterious third party in some other galaxy (guess who). While this works, I’m finding it exhausting to keep up. Luthor’s keeping an eye on him and everyone’s literally got bigger fish to worry about, so it’s fine stewing as background, but I really hope that part of the story coalesces in issue no. 10 because it’s been on the burner since Year Four began.

Perhaps even more minor: That wall of water has been threatening for some minutes while all this talk is going on and Aquaman shows up. In all that time Themyscira wasn’t already mobilizing and/or evacuating? I would hardly think a warrior-race needs Batman’s Bat-and-Cat Gang to figure out they should flee.

Less minor and more major: This issue has some of the biggest, baddest action in Year Four so far and Miller gives us a good fight, but it really should have been epic. I’ve given pass after pass on Miller’s work because of the production nature of the Digital First, but when Redondo and Xermanico consistently put forth great work and then Miller turns in panels that feel half-finished with characters poorly articulated, misshapen, and lacking in dramatic detail, I’ve got to put my foot down.

Look at this:

Injustice_Y4_09_03

Battle of the Sea Kings

It’s not that it’s so horrible that it can’t scan or we don’t recognize the characters and their emotions, but compare it to Redondo’s work in the first half of the book, above. Miller had an epic fight to work with, but even though his compositions are excellent, the execution is more flat that the book deserves. And especially working digitally, there is never any excuse for a face like that on Mera. Miller just doesn’t seem to give enough attention to the backgrounds or the wide angles. In a digital medium readers can scan each panel in high resolution and everything within the borders matters.

I want to stress that the work in the second half of the book isn’t horrific. It’s just a little disappointing.

Recommended If…

  • You’ve been waiting to see the Atlanteans get involved in the fray.
  • You can never get enough shark action in comics (who can, really?).
  • You want to see what happens when Themyscira and all her inhabitants (including Batman’s motley straggling Resistance) try to fight a wall of water.

Overall

Year Four had been doing a great job of matching its artists in each print issue, but this one misses the match and the difference drags it down. The building storyline in this book gets a full 9/10, though, and overall this is an awesome addition to the Injustice saga. Despite my quibbles, this book has me excited again after a long drought.

SCORE: 8/10