Bucky Barnes visits the Batcave and…oh wait, sorry, character models are a bit mushy here. That’s Damian Wayne in all his long-haired black-and-red glory. Digital Firsts No.13 “Taking Sides” & No. 14 “Casting Shadows” tells the story we were promised two weeks ago as Injustice takes an almost all-Bat-all-the-time issue to delve into this nearly forgotten thread of of the larger story.

The best thing about this issue is that Brian Buccellato really does a nice job of reintroducing us to Damian’s storyline, his relationship with Alfred, his conflict with his father, and the way he’s come under Superman’s influence. This whole Year Buccellato has spent most of his energy driving the story forward, but here we get a nice character development break with some emotional depth and a nice surprise (at least it was for me) at the end.

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Damian is there to debate Batman V Superman [snicker]

Supporting characters of note are Catwoman, who’s making her defection clear (and we see the seeding of her liaison with Team NotAlwaysSoSuper), Harley Quinn, who gets to play a minor role in the action, but a fun one, and a whole slew of Bat villains (including Scarecrow and Black Mask among others), who get to duke it out with the caped crusader’s kid who’s all grown up now!

That’s gotta be one of the fun things about this series too: the fact that actual measurable time has passed and Damian may have started out as a kid, but he’s fully a man now, and conflicted between the world his father brought him out of (and up from), and the world he’s aligned himself with under Superman. Buccellato does a great job demonstrating that conflict and yet keeping Damian in all his character cockiness. In the first half of the book Damian confronts Catwoman and Harley in the middle of a robbery. He thinks he has it under control, but Selina proves the wiser, which lets us know right away that Damian may be an able fighter and not just a kid anymore, but he still has a lot to learn.

If you pay close enough attention to the design details (I didn’t), you know right away who’s narrating the second half of the book. The bulk of this half is the fight between Damian and all the Bat villains (Man-Bat and Mad Hatter too!). I can see the ‘plaints about Damian taking all these guys on at once, but I was satisfied how he managed to pull it off in the end:

Spoiler
With an assist from Deadman Dick Grayson, who we haven’t seen for Years (I thought he was a goner!). Was very excited to see him come to the aid of his little brother, though it raises more questions than it answers. What’s his endgame? And how do we all feel about Damian taking on the Nightwing persona? I mean, we knew it was going to happen, but it seems like Dick has given his consent? Curioser and curioser.

Mike S. Miller does art duties on both halves of this issue and I’m sad to report that the work is really uneven. I was very distracted by Catwoman’s costume in the way that he drew her positions during her chase sequence with Damian. Harley’s hooters are way outta control–like Dolly Parton level crazy. And Damian is just sorta mushy-faced in numerous sequences, like Miller wasn’t quite sure what the model should look like. Particularly in his final scene with Superman, his facial features seem all over the place–and the second to last panel in the book in which Superman is cuffing him is just all-around awkward-looking.

That said, much of the other fight sequences are nicely rendered for the most part, though the villains seem to lack a lot of detail in their costumes.

And even though Batman was on the cover, I wasn’t disappointed that he wasn’t in the book. In fact, having Damian talk to Alfred first was actually kind of nice, though I did wonder why the Batcave was still intact (you would think Superman would have destroyed it). Ah well. Some of the logic in this series is always going to be a little fuzzy, I guess. The important thing is that this is an entertaining read and sets up some interesting dynamics as we head into the second half of Year Five!

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Somehow the guy in the black T-shirt says it all: No, Damian, you can’t win

Recommended If…

  • You want to see Damian all grown up and out on his own!
  • A Bat-centric Injustice is the way you like to roll.
  • Catwoman vs. Damian. Yeah, it’s cool!

Overall

Despite some disappointingly off-model artwork, Buccellato brings back some true emotional depth to the conflict of Injustice by reacquainting us with Batman’s estranged son, his relationship with other Bat-related heroes and villains, and his newfound purpose in Superman’s regime. Damian’s got a secret angel on his shoulder, though we don’t know if there’s a plot hatching with regard to this interloper, and it will be very interesting to see how this plays out when (hopefully) Damian comes face-to-face with his father!

SCORE: 9/10