This issue follows two distinct storylines: Digital First 19 presents us with “Stupid Tartarus”, which is the best title yet in Year Four. This half features Harley Quinn, Billy Batson, and Hippolyta as they attempt to escape from the Prison of the Damned. Digital First 20, “Retreat”, returns us to Themyscira and that crashing wave that’s taking its time destroying the island at Poseidon’s hands.

And speaking of Poseidon: did you really think being eaten by a shark was going to be the end of him? He’s a god. While this feels like it’s missing a bit of a transition, I feel like it’s time to trust that writer Brian Buccellato knows what he’s doing here. At least in terms of working with these characters and their properties/personalities.

Gods in Their Glory

I feel like there was some editorial mandate somewhere in which it was dictated that Harley Quinn was becoming too soft and needed some edging-up because both this book and her own title (issue no. 20) feature a Harley hell-bent on chaos. She’s always had a good bit of edge in Injustice, but this issue really ratchets it up several notches as she, Billy, and the queen fight their way out of Tartarus. There’s a moment when Billy asks Harley why she didn’t take the green pill before on their way down and Harley sort of shrugs. It’s a moment of convenient storytelling, but given that its Harley, it’s not entirely unbelievable.

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Classic Harley roiling in guts and not copping to why everyone else is horrified

Some other great moments to look for:

  • Flash giving an assist on the evacuation.
  • Superman and Batman almost having something like a civil exchange. It’s so brief don’t blink or you’ll miss it, but it’s sure nice to see them talk to one another without seething.
  • Batwoman just being awesome as usual.
  • Superman gets his hat handed to him by Zeus. Always a pleasure here.

Bruno Redondo and Juan Albarran are on art duties and as usual the book looks great for it. I will quibble, however, with how much cut-and-paste there is in the city evacuation scene, however. Some of it is used to great cinematic effect, but could have been much strengthened by even small changes (like the flow of Batwoman’s hair from panel to panel as Batman swoops in).

Gods Gone Wrong

The first half of the book is a lot of fun, but the major plot advancement is the acquisition of Ares’ mother box. The acquisition of the box is no great feat of achievement, however. He basically drops it on the floor. Not exactly jockeying for greatest mastermind of evil in the cosmos, is he? It’s a bit of buffoonery that doesn’t really work and could have been easily fixed given they all make contact with him in the fight.

The second half of the book is more problematic all around. We begin with narration from Artemis setting up what’s happening, but Artemis gets lost in the shuffle later on. Feel like it would have been a better place to use Catwoman or Batwoman (and probably the latter). If Buccellato had as least brought the beat full circle and given Artemis some closure, it would have worked. As-is, it just feels weirdly intrusive here.

Next, there’s a wave that’s already hit Themyscira and carried everyone at ground zero into its vortex. But somehow the city is still fleeing. Has no one working on this book seen an actual wave of this magnitude hit a city? Did no one watch The Impossible? You can’t run from a wave like this. And if it’s struck the city, which it appears to have done, the casualties should already be astronomical. And okay, the Batwomen were getting people organized to flee, but they are trying to evacuate an entire city through a narrow pass. I know Amazons are smart and capable, but a city-wide evacuation in literally minutes is pushing it. Also, Batman needs to blow the pass but they’re not through, but kablam! and I guess they made it. I think we’re supposed to get that Flash helped, but the way it’s drawn is that he saves Batwoman and the other warriors. What happened to the remaining civilians? I don’t know because even though the problem is introduced, it’s not solved on the page. Presumably Flash saves them all? This kind of storytelling can work when the solution is obvious, but here it’s just a little glossed over. Could be a problem of the art. The civilians are shown fleeing, leaving the guards (to do what? stand and watch the wave hit them?). I feel like they were going for epic, but it’s just not great.

The other thing that happens storywise, is Zeus comes thundering down (literally) to eject Superman from the ballpark. Why he didn’t do this earlier feels like another bit of convenient redundancy. It works, though, because circumstances have actually changed. We’re traveling in a circle, but definitely on a new arc. I just hope Buccellato has built in enough momentum to fling us out of orbit in the next issue leading to the finale because right now the build up has gone on a bit longer than the current plot warrants.

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We need to talk about Clark….

Recommended If…

  • You’re in it to the finish!
  • You want to see possibly the biggest, baddest jail break from hell ever.
  • It’s about time the gods took things into their own hands and the mortals started plotting together against them, regardless of affiliations.

Overall

I’m feeling a little frustrated with this title because even though it still has flashes of great art, fun character moments, and awesome action, it feels a little like it’s lacking heart. Year Three also suffered from this, so I hope it’s not a problem with Buccellato and that this Year will end with some serious emotional impact. Despite my frustration, I continue to have all faith, however, so I’m definitely still invested in the book.

SCORE: 7/10