There’s something very uneven about Ground Zero that is making me nervous.
Issue No. 5 combines Digital Firsts 9 & 10 (“Muscle Car” parts 1 & 2) in a rather crackpot adventure in which Harley, determined to get back on Batman’s good side, sets out to steal back the Batmobile from where it’s kept under a security shield around the crumbling remains of Wayne Manor.
This sounds like a great premise, but I found the execution overall rather clumsy.
One of the things Christopher Sebala has done with Brian Buccellato’s story has been to show the disconnect between Harley Quinn’s mental perception of events and what’s going on in reality. Where that gets tricky is that it requires a clever narrative overly in direct juxtaposition with what’s going on in the pictures–and without causing confusion in the process.
For the most part they have made it work by keep the images well-grounded while Harley’s monologue and flashbacks tend to go off the rails. In this issue, however, the lines are blurrier, and it creates some serious discord.
To begin with, the nodding and winking at the audience, breaking that fourth wall, and being self-referential is just too much here. Worse still, there’s tons of exposition to catch readers up on events that not only happened in the regular Injustice series, but in Ground Zero events that just happened. This is a lot of frustrating recap overload–some of which is somewhat necessary as, for example, Batman updates the new arrivals as to what’s been going on, but there’s just a lot of filler too. Ground Zero has already spent an inordinate amount of time orienting the readers to the events of the previous Injustice books. We need to make more progress on this story now and let readers catch up as they can.
This is the extent of the kind of explanation we need
Weirder still there are some meta-moments in this book that just don’t work. Harley has an argument with Batgirl and we see Babs playing a fight game on her computer after she shuts down the comm. Yes, it’s kind of funny, but it’s so completely out of character that you question whether we’re in Harley’s head or if this is really happening.
For me, there’s enough disconnect between future Harley on the bench telling the story in the costume from the original Injustice series and Harley with her blonde hair and Joker shirt who is technically in the past. I keep thinking there’s something clever going on with the multiple dimensional layers, but it’s more frustrating than interesting at this point.
Later, Shazam is also seen playing a video game on his smart phone. Another intentionally meta moment? A goofy wink to the game players? Or is there some narrative point to this?
Yeah, that line of Damian’s doesn’t really work, does it?
If you can get over the silly way Harley convinces Shazam to disempower himself, you’ve got this Batcave adventure to look forward to (replete with a hanging Man-Bat), which is another moment so random and cracky I keep looking for a white rabbit in a waistcoat with a watch. I enjoyed the confrontation with Damian as the guardian of the cave and it’s a well-executed moment, but there’s just so much else swirling around it that the narrative feels simultaneously kitchen-sinked and impenetrable.
Tom Derenick (1st half) and Jheremy Raapack (2nd half) combine forces for a book that looks wonderful. It’s fun to see the “new” Justice League with their very different costumes, and the fight sequences are excellent from beginning to end. I also feel like Raapack did some interesting things with the Joker masks: they’re more menacing than ever, and there are lots of nice moments when the character beneath them (Jerry Terry Larry whoever) lift them up or pull them aside, so we’re constantly reminded that these are just ordinary citizens playing at being the boogeymen.
As mentioned before, the distinction between future Harley and past Harley is starting to bother me more and more as we progress into the story. The characters look so completely different it’s hard to reconcile them and I don’t understand the choice (but hopefully it’s somehow purposeful). If this turns out to be one of those “all a dream” type scenarios, I will be very…put out.
- You enjoy the dorky Harley/Shazam dynamic.
- Damian Nightwing is your jam.
- An escapade in the Batcave sounds like a fun adventure!
Despite all my kvetching, the story is making progress and I’m really looking forward to Harley and Batman having a confrontation over her antics (it must be imminent)! Other things in this world are not feeling very well shored-up however. The cross-over characters have been allotted very little time and both the Resistance holdouts and the Regime standbys seem a little out of character. Injustice is always a fun read, but this one was just a little frustrating and feels on the slippery side of the silly slope.