Last issue we were promised a battle royale between father and son as Batman and Damian face off over the fate of Victor Zsasz after a heinous murder that has left the Bat Family reeling. We get the bonus of watching Batman and Superman once again come to blows in what almost feels like a final showdown–but this book is still full of uneasy allegiances so never underestimate the emotional pull of old friendships in the face of impending doom.

Digital Firsts No. 25 & No. 26, “Choices” (part 1 & 2) is a great follow-up to the events of the last issue. I predicted Zsasz would take a dirt nap, but surprisingly he’s almost forgotten in the midst of the struggle of these titans. And worth forgetting for the real drama that erupts.  Even though they are ostensibly fighting over Zsasz’s life, this battle is obviously bigger than that.

This is the first time we’ve had an issue No. 13 for an Injustice year. A typical digital “season” has lasted 24 issues, but we’re getting some bonus time with Year Five, presumably since it’s the big finale before we enter “game time” in terms of the source material. You’ll get no complaints from me; Brian Buccellato has really made this year special by focusing on the relationship between Batman and Superman, the Bat Family at large, and the Justice League’s allegiance to Superman as things continue to deteriorate. It’s been the most grounded Year since probably Year Two before the action went into outer space and other realms.

And Injustice has definitely been at its best on the ground: a scrappy fight in the heart of the city (Gotham, Central, the ashes of Metropolis–take your pick).

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BvS Injustice-Style!

Once again, Buccellato delivers big with Mike S. Miller providing the art this go-round. For those of you who can never get enough of seeing Batman and Superman pounding on one another, here’s a book chock-full of glorious well-rendered violence. But it’s better than just that; we’ve got some interesting layers of stakes:

  • Zsasz’s life/fate obviously hangs in the balance.
  • Damian’s allegiance could possibly be swayed by the outcome.
  • The war could literally end right here, right now.

Fortunately for Batman, he’s saved a little green pill for just this occasion, and we’re reminded once again that in an even battle, Superman’s fight prowess is no match for the Bat. In fact Batman beats down Damian (even without a green pill) and takes out Superman so easily, you may wonder why this fight hasn’t been over long before this. Still, it’s thrilling and Miller indulges in lots of splashy action that leaps off the page with every punch.

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Father, Son, and Superman!

In the end it comes down to the same moral question that Injustice has been buffeting around for all five “Years”: is it right to kill a defenseless opponent for the good of the future of the whole? Batman challenges Damian to make his choice, but it must be a deadly one: if he’s to rescue Superman, he will have to kill his father.

Guess what Damian chooses.

Spoiler
Well, there’s been no love between these two from the start, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Damian actually attempts to kill Batman–but again, ultimately, the kid is no match for the Dark Knight.

The fight ultimately gets thrown out of balance when Superman’s former Justice League cronies horn in on the action. With Hal Jordan and Flash and Wonder Woman to back Superman and Damian up, of course Batman loses his physical advantage. Heck, even Zsasz wants a piece of the Bat, and his life is practically forfeit no matter who wins!

But Batman never loses his moral advantage and one of Superman’s loyalists does the right thing. What’s more, Buccellato introduces an interesting new twist to the possibility of prolonging this series (indefinitely in a Groundhog Day sort of way). While I don’t think that’s the track this story will take, it will be interesting to see if Batman’s rescuer may take him on Batman’s suggestion to fix the problem once and for all.

And yes, I’m being deliberately vague because you should just read the book. Although this is technically an Alternate Universe from the mainstream DC canon, it is doing fun and interesting things that tie in thematically with what’s happening in Rebirth right now.  It’s exciting to see what Buccellato might come up with next!

Miller’s work on this issue is fabulous. When he gets to write big lush fight sequences, you can see his enthusiasm in each stroke, but I’ve often criticized his awkward conversation layouts and angles. This book has none of that; the dialogue is dramatic enough and active enough that the panels flow well and there aren’t any strange tilts or needless upshots. As a (very minor) criticism, I would only point out that one splash of Batman and Wonder Woman is a bit of puzzle as the sound effect prominently displayed on the page doesn’t match what’s being shown in the picture. But again. It’s minor in a book that is otherwise beautiful to look at.

Recommended If…

  • You still need more BvS in your life (the good kind, not the bad kind).
  • You want to see Batman bat Damian down like a flea (I admit this was very gratifying for me personally).
  • You want to see some heroism from heroes who haven’t exactly been acting very heroic in a good long while.

Overall

Finding ways to extend this war through the “Years” has meant going to some extremes throughout this series, and also recycling ideas from the regular DC canon on occasion. But Buccellato is keeping this fresh even after all this time and even while borrowing “outs” from other storylines. For some of you it might be clichéd or retread, but I think the combination of the great dramatic writing, the nuances of the Injustice relationships, and the solid art make this book a win almost every time. Besides, there is nothing new under the sun (as the saying goes–thank you Ecclesiastes 1:9), so it’s all about the shiny new packaging–and the whole Injustice teams continues to package this puppy with a really great shine.

SCORE: 9/10