This penultimate issue for Year Four includes Digital Firsts 21 & 22, “Going Dark” and “Darker Sides”. And while it’s got some big action that’s sure to please, Year Four’s weakest point hasn’t been a lack of action or stunning battle eye-candy–it’s been a lack of genuine surprise and awe. Ironic, when you’re dealing with a storyline that includes multiple layers of immensely powerful deities.

Early years with Injustice established a world in which no one was safe and anything could happen. But as the cast has been whittled down to relatively small teams mostly certain to escape the apocalypse before game-year number Five, tension has dropped considerably back into your average Elseworlds sort of run-of-the-mill rivalries.

All that said, Injustice is still an entertaining book and Xermanico especially brings Superman’s battle with Darkseid vividly into each splashy panel. If you love your comic book fare to be riotous and bombastic, this is the place for you.

The Gods Favor

Superman’s history with Darkseid in this world is particularly acrimonious because of the blue Boyscout’s deadly handling of Kalibak. It had been so long since that happened, I’d nearly forgotten it, but writer Brian Buccellato does a good job of providing all the essentials without wasting a lot of time on the particulars.

Once Batman gets his hands on the mother box, he’s off scheming new schemes, this time with the New Gods’ Highfather out in New Genesis.

Some background on the New Gods for those of you unfamiliar (this is an aspect of DC’s universe with which I’m not terribly familiar, so I had to go rooting in the interwebs to figure out what’s what. Basically the New Gods was a Jack Kirby thing from 1971 (which, let’s face it, anyone who knows Jack Kirby could have guessed). The New Gods live in the Fourth World on the twin planets of Apokolips and New Genesis, ruled by Highfather, who is modeled on the Biblical prophet Isaiah. We don’t see much of Highfather in the DCU these days, though his antipode, Darkseid of Apokolips, has spent a lot of time and energy carousing with Superman. He also had a variation in the animated Gods and Monsters series (and was voiced by Richard Chamberlain–which is awesome).

Anyway, he’s kind of less awesome here, but we only get a brief introduction as Batman attempts to recruit him into the battle currently raging both on Apokolips and on Earth. It’s an interesting dynamic, and it’s always fun to see Superman off being the punch-now, talk-later bruiser while Batman opts to save his energy by engaging his mind for battle first.

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Also, the Batgirls plot in the Batcave +1!

The Gods Disdain

I worry that the set-up between Darkseid/Superman and Highfather/Batman will basically lead to the two New Gods cancelling one another out in the big final fight (sorta like Zeus and Poseidon did earlier in the Year). All during Year Three I feel like we watched alternate powers meddling in the squabble and the two main factions basically caught in the crossfire (between Trigon and Mxyzptlk) while pursuing their own petty quibbling). Year Four has unfortunately followed that pattern but with fewer real consequences. The action has been good, but I’ll say it again: basic dramatic tension is lacking [/spoiler]…even as nuclear warheads are launched![/spoiler]

Artwise, Tom Derenick contributes some nice action in the first half of the book, but his inattention to details and laziness with the architecture can be maddening. The mother box changes size and dimensions every time he draws it, and once again, his smaller figurework tends to be blobby and indistinct. There’s just no excuse for this, especially in a digitally-drawn medium where corrections can be done quickly and the size of the page is never an issue. Points, however, for his lovely renderings of Batman, who looks very cool against the snowy backdrop of the Himalayas in Derenick’s closing scene.

The cover choice here is yet another bizarre “must have been approved before the script was fully worked out” or some other editorial lapse-like thing. While rendered very nicely by Neil Googe (with colors by Rex Lokus), and while its content reflects a little of the action in this book, it’s really not the major action. What a missed opportunity to put Superman and Darkseid on the cover of a book. Okay, maybe that would have been the more obvious choice and the artists should be lauded for delivering something more unusual (and more all-inclusive since these characters have really gotten short shrift this Year). But perhaps the fact that they’ve gotten short shrift actually makes the dedicated cover even weirder.

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They always go for the back, don’t they?

Recommended If…

  • You can never get enough of the Superman/Darkseid punchfest.
  • Enough with the old gods, time to bring in the new.

Overall

I’m hanging in with this and it’s still a mighty entertaining read, but I feel this push toward the finale is lacking a certain amount of consequential umph at this point. The battle between Superman and Darkseid is well rendered and full of exciting choreography, but do we really wonder who will win? And I want to be excited about the cliffhanger ending, but to be honest it feels a bit cliché. With Year Four wrapping up in the next issue, I’ll confess I don’t have high hopes that it’s going to blow us away.

SCORE: 7.5/10