Year Four concludes in this final installment that collects Digital Firsts 23 & 24, “Last Stand” and “Between the Gods”. Let’s just cut to the chase: the first half of this book seems to be setting up some brilliant cataclysm, but the back end just doesn’t deliver.
It’s representative of the whole of Year Four, interestingly enough. Writer Brian Buccellato puts a lot of things in motion–and they stay in motion. Throughout the whole of the year you never get the sense that nothing is happening because the story seems to always be driving and there’s a ton of nicely heightened action sequences throughout, but at the end of the Year all of that build-up feels pretty much like just build up and little else. We’re left with a year lacking true consequence and another frustrating storyline in which our primary antagonists (Batman and Superman–and their merry bands of costumed sidekicks) get sidetracked from trouncing one another by mystical forces beyond their control. I said it before: we did that already in Year Three. And it wasn’t great.
But Injustice, for all of its flaws this Year, is still an entertaining book and maybe now with the underworld and the gods all out of the way, we can get back to the primary conflict in a meaningful way. For all my frustration with how Year Four ends, I am nevertheless looking forward to Year Five, so that’s worth something.
This march could be epic–or just really flat; I’m having a hard time deciding.
There are some nice dramatic moments throughout this issue. While the nuclear threat doesn’t actually feel like much of a threat, seeing how Superman’s team deals with it has a fun, throwback feel to it (at least they are battling with something real instead of magical thunderbolts for a change).
Superman also extends what appears to be an olive branch to Batman and they agree to a face-to-face. Excellent set up, but with no great payoff. I think what happens is the right thing to happen, absolutely, but it lacks a certain drama that this finale was really begging for.
Whereas most of the previous Years have had major character death toward the end, this issue surprises us with the restoration of a character who was lost earlier in the Year. It raises the question for me as to why we can’t have Deadman Dick back as well (Batman’s crew needs bolstering!), but whatever. We’ll hopefully see some power balancing out in Year Five.
Lastly, thumbs up to Bruno Redondo and Ulises Arreola on the cover art. It’s a striking image, even if the potential of it is unfilled in this particular issue.
Great Balls of Fire
The entire issue hinges on a deus ex machina of leviathan proportions. It’s probably not unexpected, but that doesn’t make it any less lame. The fight is essentially ended because the gods say so, bringing us right back to the status quo we had before the Year began. The side plot about the nuclear strike isn’t well enough developed for me to feel much invested in it, and the way Superman deals with the perpetrators less inconsequential (he’s already ruling the world anyway).
Likewise, Lex Luthor’s escaped science experiment in the Bacta tank feels sort of slapped on at the end for the sole reason of providing something like a cliff-hanger. It’s a shame since the thread of that story feels poorly developed at this point, but clearly will have a big impact on Year Five. Perhaps if the year had spent more time working out the details of these side plots instead of issue after issue of just big splashy fighting, it would have felt more overall cohesive.
Mike S. Miller and Bruno Redondo share art duties on this book and the contrast is pretty obvious as usual. Miller’s section in the first half is particularly strange this time around for having two pages with giant black gutters. The fact that these are action sequences makes the choice of composition even stranger, since it’s just a lot of wasted space and the gulf of darkness isn’t really bringing anything visually interesting to the reading experience. A similarly distracting panel is a sequence in which Wonder Woman counts down the airstrike and the side-by-side panels depict her changing expression. I get what Miller was trying to do here, but I don’t think it really works as it just creates a strange fracture in Diana’s face rather than suggesting movement or passing time.
The god left his machine at home, but there he is still.
This might be the lowest score I’ve ever given to an Injustice book, but I was just that disappointed, unfortunately. After so much bartering and dickering between the gods for 11 issues, I really thought something magnificent was going to happen, but what we got instead is just a serviceable stepping stone toward Year Five and not much more.
- You gotta finish the year out.
- You just straight-up like this alternate universe, regardless of its vagaries.
- Batman vs. Superman (no fisticuffs, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting).
Year Four has had some breakout moments, but its conclusion is a bit of a clunker. In a Year that focuses on the gods (old and new), it shouldn’t be surprising to have a deus ex machina ending, but that doesn’t make it any less unsatisfying. Coupled with explanations that include the perennial “I can’t tell you the answer because–suspense”, and a finale that’s mostly talk before a cliffhanger involving a side plot we barely know anything about makes for the weakest Year-end in the Injustice run. While disappointing, however, I’ll add what I’ve said before many times: a bad day’s read of Injustice is still better than many other books on their best days.