In “Surgical Strike” and “Barbarian at the Gate” (Digital Firsts No. 31 & 32), artist Marco Santucci (with colorist Rex Lokus) brings us another issue of almost wall-to-wall combat that never gets boring. After five “Years” of Injustice you would think these battles would just get redundant, but there’s something about watching Batman and his team (in this case Batwoman and Batgirl) holding up against Cyborg and Hawkwoman with the clock ticking and circumstances feeling at their most desperate.
How it is that Brian Buccellato continues to raise the stakes on this story is a testament to the intricacy with which he’s set up Year Five’s plot: Batman’s Resistance has been desperate before, but that was before Alfred died and Superman started all but openly killing people. While this is a book in which anything can happen, it never stops being surprising when it does.
Yes, more major character death. Some of you might be glad to see this one go. I think it was probably a mercy and frankly, this one was just asking for it. Thank you, Buccellato for putting at least that one lost soul out of his misery!
But let’s back up a little and see where our Regime and Resistance are at the opening of this book. While Superman is off pressuring Raven to give her allegiance, things are looking a little sallow back home with his “loyal” members.
One of the most important new developments is that Hal Jordan and Barry Allen are talking. Last we saw of Flash, he was sort of on the outs with the Regime for saving Batman and defying Superman. Now he and Hal confer in private on top of one fabulous looking bridge (absolutely spectacular–Santucci has a particular gift for architectural establishing shots and backgrounds).
They both agree that things have long since gone off the rails. Hal still has his suspicions about Victor Zsasz, and they also discuss the Joker Underground (several hundred civilians snuffed out in a blaze and both former Justice Leaguers suspect that Superman had something to do with it. Flash has already made his displeasure known and is treading very thin ice. Hal is about to strap on his skates and join him.
This whole sequence is visually gorgeous
Meanwhile, Batman is putting his plans into action. The first step: kidnapping Cyborg. Victor, of course, is not so easily subdued, even with the EMP charge that Batgirl concocts to help knock out power. But just when they get him down, Superman arrives (of course he does!). Fortunately, Batman’s backup plan also arrives: Katar Hol storms the Regime’s headquarters having used the kryptonite he acquired from Mongol to enhance his war mace.
This wasn’t part of Batman’s plan.
This incarnation of Hawkman has always been a surprise in Injustice. He’s jealous, mean, and frankly, a bit insane. Furious with his wife for humiliating and leaving him, he’s determined to take it out on Superman and the two become embroiled in a death match. Batman’s disappointed, but the distraction gives him the opportunity to escape with an unconscious Cyborg in tow, leaving Hawkman and Superman to settle their grudge.
Sorry, but I gotta call boo on this buttshot: totally unnecessary
It case it’s not obvious, the grudge gets settled, even as Superman is compromised by the kryptonite, and Flash actually helps the Regime by saving Superman at the last minute (no doubt to the exasperation of everyone who can’t wait to see this Boy Scout Gone Bad put down like the mad dog that he’s become.
Santucci maybe has a questionable panel here or there, but overall, he’s an excellent match for this series. I especially like the heavy contrasts he uses on the character’s faces–a style Bruno Redondo set in Year One, which Injustice’s most successful artists have replicated, built on, and exemplified. I already mentioned the cool exchange on the bridge between Hal and Flash, but Santucci’s fights also deserve praise. There are a lot of characters coming and going from the panels in this issue, but the action tracks well–even when Wonder Woman, Flash, and Shazam crash a party packed with three Bat People, a very angry Hawkman, Cyborg, Sheira, and Superman. Props too to Rex Lokus for his colors, also particularly noting that bridge scene; the lights and shadows, the glare of the lamps, and the texture of the water below all add to the atmosphere of that moment.
- You want to see a once-proud Thanagarian brought to an ignoble end.
- Batwoman, Batgirl, and Batman team-up: always a win!
- You take ghoulish pleasure in seeing this Superman get hurt (I know I do!).
Superman’s Regime may be fractured, but they still stand together (albeit on wobbly legs). Those legs may take a hit soon, however, as the slippery inseams of the Man of Steel’s dastardly dealings look like they may be coming to light thanks to Batman’s plan to expose him (with an able assist from the former Oracle herself, Batgirl!). We already know Hal Jordan and the Flash are leaning over the fence; will the revelations to come finally push them to the other side? Meanwhile, former ally Katar Hol comes back with a vengeance, but even Batman’s not interested in aligning himself with this bird who’s unfortunately flying much too low over the cuckoo’s nest.