Brian Buccellato takes us to a dark place with Injustice this week. Real dark. Issue no. 4, which combines Digital Firsts No. 7 “Street Fight” & 8 “Rage” is one of the most brutal issues of this comic to date. I was excited about the return of the Thanagarians (Katar Hol and Shiera have been missing in action since Year Two when they decided Earth’s problems were not for them to interfere with). Well, Shiera has had a change of heart and returned to help Superman’s faction clean up their escaped supervillain problem. Her husband finds out and let’s just say he’s not pleased.

The other half of this book (the less physically brutal half, but maybe more emotionally brutal), is Batman’s confrontation with a newly liberated Catwoman. Last issue, Batman, Batwoman, and Harley Quinn took on Superman outside of Wayne manor to buy time for Batgirl to find and rescue Selina from where she was being held captive by Killer Croc.

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Supes and Bats never get tired of this, do they?

Well the distraction pays off: Batgirl and Catwoman escape from Croc with the help of their ever-dwindling supply of little green pills, but Batman’s reunion with the Cat is not all wine and roses. We know she’s going to go to the “Dark” side eventually, but first she’s gotta make a break from the “Light” and this is the issue in which that appears to happen. Emotionally broken by her torture at the hands of Killer Frost, Selina begs off any further involvement in Bruce’s Resistance. And frankly, you can hardly blame her.

This is Where it All Goes Down

The factions themselves are starting to fragment. Batman’s team has always been somewhat tenuous (the loyal Batfamily members have hung tight but everyone else has gotten killed or defected from the outset (like Damian). Now Batman is recruiting new members, but their loyalties seem questionable and Selina’s exit is going to rattle things up.

The same thing is happening in Superman’s camp between Superman and Wonder Woman, who are currently at odds, but holding it together, and now between the Thanagarians. This doesn’t put Hawkman immediately in Batman’s camp, but you gotta wonder where he’s going from here. And do we really want him in Batman’s camp? His behavior toward Shiera was appalling (and Cyborg too), though I have to say that seeing Wonder Woman clean his clock was one of the more gratifying things I’ve come across in a comic book in recent years.

What do you think?

The Artists Ratchet the Action Up

Mike S. Miller is on the front half of this book and he nicely closes out some Superman vs. Batman action to whet your appetite for the coming movie. We saw this fight began last issue, but Miller brings it to a satisfying conclusion with Batman taking quite a beating in a bid to stall for time as Batgirl rescues Catwoman. Meanwhile, Harley Quinn and Batwoman double-team Wonder Woman. The fight has to winner because once Batgirl is clear, Batman and his gang flee the scene, but Buccellato writes a good exchange as the former friends rehash the grudge that’s now going on five years. The nice thing about this scene is that it’s expositional and helps ground newer readers while also reminding us of some basic things from Year One that might have been lost in the ensuing adventures. And it manages to do this without feeling like retread, lapsing into flashbacks, or sacrificing the forward motion of the story.

Miller’s women occasionally look a little long-necked throughout this sequence, but otherwise there are some very nice action pieces and the heavier dialogue scenes are well-paced and free of awkward forced angles, which is something Miller’s been prone to in the past. J. Nanjan does colors for both halves of the book and nicely contrasts the golden glows of Thanagar with Gotham’s moody night and the underground lairs and bunkers also featured.

Iban Coello draws the second half of the issue and does a great job with what is largely a story of Hawkman rampaging against the Superman crew and being a belligerent jerk. Especially effective is the silent fight sequence between Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Even the absence of sound effects (for the most part) keeps your eyes focused on the projection of motion, strategically implied with the use of flight lines and the blur of weapons. Coello also uses strong silhouettes for contrast, which is something Injustice mainstay Bruno Redondo has regularly employed.

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Love the superb tracking on this set of panels!

I’m not usually much for the big splashy long fights, but because Buccellato motivates these plot points so well and integrated great characterization, they work like gangbusters. If I have to read a comic about people just whaling on each other, this is how it should be!

Recommended If…

  • You love big splashy action.
  • You want to see Wonder Woman trounce someone (someone who deserves it most especially).
  • You love the Thanagarians–but be forewarned: you may not love them here!

Overall

Is it really so bad to admit something this brutal and rather mean-spirited can be so entertaining? Injustice has, from the beginning, shown us moments of horror, shock, terror, and awe. Tom Taylor set the tone for this comic in Year One, and Buccellato echoes the high drama we’ve come to expect. There’s a lot in motion right now with this title and still plenty of time to develop all these pieces toward an explosive finale. If the book keeps up at this pace, it should be quite the holocaust.

SCORE: 9.5/10