Injustice: Year Five Annual #1 review

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Three stories from writer Brian Buccellato that take us back to Year Five–and possibly push us forward in some ways.  This is a nice little surprise, like an extra feature on a DVD boxed set where there is extra footage or alternate scenes not included in the original presentation format. Are these bon bons monumental in their consequences? Perhaps not, but they are certainly fun to read and will keep your appetite duly whetted for more Injustice action to come!

“The Clan”

Mike S. Miller is on art for this tale of Harley vacillating between her old life and her new post-Regime. I’ve often criticized Miller’s work as inconsistent and this effort is exactly the reason why: his work here is beautiful! Everything from the facial expressions to the body gestures works really well (and he uses a lot of body language with Harley throughout). Goes to show, perhaps, what a little breathing room can do for some artists. It’s impossible to know whether the creative team had more time to work on this than the bi-weekly digital (but I’m kind of guessing they did–and it shows!). This is the standard of work that has consistently set Injustice above so many other books.

As to Buccellato’s story, I really liked this one. Harley decides to go back to Arkham, where it all began for her, and explore the idea of returning to the psychiatric practice. She even dyes her hair back to blonde and suits up for the role, only to find Arkham occupied by a Joker gang (she just can’t escape her past). At first she fights the gang, but they come to mutually respect one another over their shared hatred of Superman and what he represents to them. In the end, Harley predictably, but satisfactorily casts off her normality once again to lead this new gang in her own battle in solidarity with the Resistance.

While there’s not much to this story, it is gratifying both because of the quality of the art and also just the crazy fun of Harley and a whole gang of masked Jokers. There’s also a brief interaction at the end in which Harley solicits the approval of the Batfamily. Can you guess Batman’s response?

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Heaven or hell, Harley? Love this nightmare fuel!

“Ares”

Xermanico takes over art for the second story in this trilogy and his work is solid as usual. I have to mention, though, that poor Damian looks more and more like the Winter Soldier every time he appears in this book. Otherwise Xermanico gets to play with some cool elements in this story, including the return of Ares from the lair of Darkseid (unmasked no less!), and a great ongoing battle between him and Wonder Woman (spoiler: he mostly gets his hat handed to him).

Storywise, this is the least cohesive of the three. We had a thread about Damian being put in charge of babysitting the Batcave at Wayne Manor (and resenting it), and then we have Ares in a contretemps with Diana and SuperJerk. The two are very thinly connected by a thematic thread of internal conflict and harnessing that rage into usable power, but the end scene with Damian and Ares felt a little random and forced to me. Could it bear fruit down the lane?

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He’s watching you, Bucky Damian!

“Reconstruction”

The final story is an interesting one in that it addresses the aftermath of the events of Year One in a way we haven’t explored in depth (and don’t explore enough in the superhero medium, generally). It’s about the restoration of Metropolis and the way in which superheroes are heroic in rebuilding instead of just tearing things down to avert some threat. It’s a theme that’s been getting more traction in recent years (and hit the mainstream in a bigger way in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. And it really is in some ways the heart of Injustice. Superman has burned this world down. How do they put it back together–and given that he’s the one in charge, can they do it in any way that’s not his image.

Points in this story too for bringing back Atom and Black Lightning. Given Superman’s paranoia, I was a bit skeptical about him just allowing these two to waltz in with their solution, but the story is interesting and Jefferson Pierce’s encounter with Batman was chilling–I love how this universe continues to make so many characters straddle the lines in interesting ways.

Marco Santucci is new as an artist to this realm but I hope we see more of him in the Injustice books to come. He handles the whole cast of Superman’s Regime quite nicely and spares no amount of detail in a story that largely focuses on the demolished city of Metropolis and all of its decimated structures.

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Don’t ask me: it’s…Science!

I’m scoring this on an average rating for each section. I give stories 1 & 3 a 9 and story 2 an 8. So really the score should be something more like 8.75. I decided to go with 8.5, however, because I think overall the book could have had at least one big wow moment that never really happened. Perhaps it will eventually? Events here could have impact going forward? Still, its small wow moments are well-worth the read.

Recommended If…

  • You love Injustice: more always seems to be better with this book!
  • You enjoy variety in your Annuals–three short stories instead of one long one.
  • You’re a fan of Ares or Black Lightning or Atom–characters we haven’t seen in this series for a while .

Overall

It’s great to have just a little more Buccellato on Injustice before the reigns go back to Tom Taylor. These three stories aren’t mind-bending or soul-crushing and their implication for the future of Injustice don’t seem to be that critical, but they are lots of fun and excellently well-rendered.  One of the three tales feels less conclusive on some levels than the others, but that doesn’t totally diminish the reading enjoyment as a whole. I had almost forgotten how much I have missed Injustice and this was just what I needed to reconnect to this amazing alternate world.

SCORE: 8.5/10

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