Injustice: Ground Zero #3 review

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After reading Harley Quinn No. 11, this felt like the dark mirror opposite of that book in some weird way. Whereas in Harley’s solo series she was booting Mistah J out the door, here we have her leaping right into his arms (well, after a pretty violent kerfuffle, of course).

Shrieking schizophrenia, folks, what a time for these two books to wind up on the shelves. Harley as a character was never more diverse.  Ironically, Injustice’s “The Joke’s on Harley” (Digital Firsts 5 & 6) is the relationship I’ve been hoping to see between these two, but in terms of characterization, humor, and execution, the solo series beats this one hands down.

Storywise with Injustice we’ve got double trouble on all fronts now that Batman and the League from the alternate universe has arrived. Sometimes I have enough trouble with navigating 40 years of continuity (and non-continuity), let alone having such a mash-up in a single series.

So Batman (not Injustice Batman) has been captured by the evil Superman Regime. Injustice Batman, meanwhile, now has to deal with not Injustice Joker who was transported to this world by accident.  Fortunately nobody in the story is confused about who is “real” to their world and who isn’t. And to be honest, Brian Buccellato and Christopher Sebela do a fine job of keeping it all straight for us too (as a reminder, Buccellato plotted Ground Zero, but Sebela is the one actually scripting it).

It does also help that there are costume distinctions to cue us in along the way.

We get some splendid action in this book as these disparate factions clash. It’s not only Superman against Batman now: we’ve got Harley and Joker causing their own chaos in the streets now. And who better to jump into the fray than the “new” Nightwing, Red Damian himself. This set of panels in which the Joker gang dog-piles onto Damian is probably my favorite thing in the book.

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And Harley just lolls about to tease him!

Most of this issue is about Harley’s inner turmoil over being reunited with her beloved Puddin’ (even though he’s not really “her” Puddin’). Harley is still the narrative voice driving this and one of the interesting things Sebela does with the narrative here is that he keeps it in a total counterpoint to the action we’re witnessing. Harley says she knows this is all a bad idea and wrong and she’s stupid for following the Joker all over again, but frame by frame we watch her do it all anyway: defending the Joker against her own loyal gang, wrecking the tenuous trust she had just started to leverage with the Resistance.

It’s absolutely like watching a junkie fall of the wagon: just as tragic and just as revolting.

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Well aren’t they just the happy couple?

We have an art mix here this go-round. I was getting so spoiled with the art consistency in Year Five that it now turns my head when there’s so much as a slight mismatch.

Pop Mhan (first half of the book) and regular Marco Santucci (second half) are a fairly well-matched pair. Even in the fact that neither of their Jokers are on model–Pop Mhan’s is generally closer, but he seems to be pulling in influences from other sources instead of sticking to our game face. Santucci’s Joker is way out in left field: he lacks menace entirely.  Harley also looks off: pure animé in the first half and likewise weirdly stretched in the second half (she’s just overall lacking the bubbly round features she is typically associated with).

There’s some nice bits in the book too, but I found myself distracted by the art, which is never a good thing. There’s one strangely panelled section where Joker extends his hand to lift Harley up. There’s a panel squeezed in of them touching hands that gets lost in the dialogue and narrative and is at a peculiar angle to track naturally. What makes it especially weird is that there was plenty of room of the page but the artist (in this case Mhan) just left a big blank white space.

We have some interesting interactions between Superman and not Injustice Batman, but overall I feel there there are weird story and action moments that test our patience. We first see Superman tormenting Doomsday by making him do dumb things. I have no idea why this is in the book and it seems so petty as to be beneath even evil Superman.

And then there’s that whole sequence where Harley has a double-barrell shotgun, fires it once, then it vanishes and she attacks Joker with a hammer? This one I actually couldn’t find an excuse for. We see her attack him with the gun but she never loses it, and then there’s the hammer, which she didn’t have before….

I don’t know. I can get over a lot of things, but this one bothered me because the action just doesn’t make sense. I know this is taking its cues from the video game, but I seriously doubt the intention is that we’re to have magical select-a-weapon properties here.

Recommended If…

  • You’ve been waiting to see the Injustice gameplay brought into a comic book form: we’re there–the battles are on!
  • You welcome the Joker back with open arms just like Harley!
  • 2x the Batman = 2x the book!

Overall

Buccellato and Sebela are doing some interesting things narratively with Ground Zero, but this issue falls short on the art and in some of the way the action doesn’t track or seems a bit illogical. I hope this is a fluke because this could really be a super fun book about a major trifecta of war chiefs between Superman, Batman, and the Joker.

SCORE: 6.5/10

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