Whoohoo! So this is it! Brian Buccellato brings Year Five to a crashing close in the only way it really can end: a final full-stakes confrontation between Batman and Superman and the trigger that puts the events of the video game in motion.
“The Final Gambit” and “Real Justice” (Digital Firsts 39 & 40) is mostly one lengthy fight during which Batman attempts to stall for time while Batgirl and Batwoman desperately try to finish the process of dragging over Justice Leaguers from another dimension in order to give the failing Resistance one last chance at combatting the fascist evil that Superman has become.
In the process they realize they’ve got more problems than they bargained for: those Justice Leaguers are currently engaged in a massive battle with some very dangerous opponents, and, the Joker’s got a nuclear warhead. Zapping the good guys out of the picture will leave all that chaos unattended, so, of course, the Batgals decide they’ll just have to slurp everyone up in their bid to improve the conditions of both these worlds.
But the highlight remains this: a B vs S worthy of the clash:
Nothing quite like a well-motivated fight to make those stakes matter!
Among the ambiguities we’re left with in this book are the fact that Superman’s own support group is seriously questioning his methods, Catwoman has made her turn against Bruce (on the condition that he not be harmed–so much for that), and we have no idea who has been dragged where as a result of Lex and the Flash’s inter-dimensional travel experiment. It’s a lot that’s up in the air, but somehow it also all feels like it’s exactly where it needs to be.
One of the really nice things Buccellato does in this issue is to take advantage of the brawl to encapsulate all that has happened in the last five “Years”–to remind us that these two colossal enemies were once the closest of friends, and that the journey to where they are now has been filled with pain and tragedy and real horror. Mike S. Miller is on art for this issue and he even takes the opportunity to do a nice callback to the first volume of Year One with this split image of some of the key participants.
Flash is now the catalyst for the next big thing, so it’s right that he takes center stage in the floating line-up.
Miller’s epic fight is thrilling even if some of the action on the side might fall into a more lackluster column. Something in particular with his female figures feels off in this grand finale. Wonder Woman appears awkward in almost every panel–her proportions strained and her costume riding up weirdly. Batwoman’s ears also seem too long, so there’s some odd off-modeling throughout.
Nevertheless the action and the emotion more than make up for it: these two titans have fought before and Bruce has time and again tricked Superman into beating up on him to the distraction of some other plan he’s trying to set in motion, so it’s nothing new, but it is dramatically satisfying to finally hear Batman lay out all of Superman’s crimes so bluntly. And to include Alfred among them (to Hal Jordan and Wonder Woman’s shock) was particularly gratifying.
This has been a long journey, but it’s not over–rather than an ending, this issue serves more as a launchpad for the next Injustice story which will follow right on its heels. Will the story find a conclusion ultimately? Or is it just all marketing so that you’ll go and play the game, resolving this epic battle for yourself? What Taylor and Buccellato have given us has been so much more than just a crackerjack bauble to entice the buyer, and DC has got to know that the success of this series is solidly on the creative team that has consistently made it an entertaining and engaging read–with themes and arcs well worth the watercooler chatter. With Taylor returning to the next installment, I have no doubt it will continue in that same winning vein.
- You like the epic BvS trope: here’s a whole issue full of fisticuffs!
- You want to see the whole saga laid bare.
- The Joker is alive again! Well, no, not really, but he’s back even so!
If you were hoping to see the conclusion of this tale–as in anticipating closure here in Year Five, you probably haven’t been paying attention to the fact that the whole point of this series was to lead up to the chaos we encounter at the start of the video game on which this was based. So no: there is no final resolution here, just a springboard for the next thing. It takes away nothing from the Shakespearean scope of this epic, however: Buccellato’s work toward this summit has been an achievement, and the score of artists who have contributed along the way deserve all praise. Why wouldn’t anybody want to tune in for the next part of this outstanding adventure?