Injustice 2: come to see the reveal of Ra’s al Ghul, stay for some heart-tugging reminiscences of his petulant little grandson. Tom Taylor knows how to write emotional family dynamics and there’s no family more dynamic (and dysfunctional) than Batman’s.
This issue combines Digital Firsts 7 & 8 (“The Person in Charge” and “A Knight Alone”) in an arc that spans the emotional sliderule from fury to tenderness. Taylor knows how to play the character dynamics against one another and the final panel may even have you cringing a little at what depths Bruce may go to in order to protect his extended family.
But before we get there, let’s take a look at overall journey here.
Okay, perhaps the first half of this book strains credulity: Harley Quinn vs. the Demon’s Head? Is there nobody she hasn’t taken on throughout Injustice at this point? Tom Taylor manages to make it believable in a comic-booky fashion and there’s definitely logic to the argument Harley uses, but where concerns children there have already been so many killed, imperiled, and initiated into this fight it almost seems ridiculous to try to use an imperiled child at this stage of the game. At least Lucy doesn’t just come out of nowhere and there is something chilling about Ra’s revealing that car with the tutu, particular if you’re a long-time reader who remembers Lucy from, well, before Ollie met his doom.
The Demon vs. the Demented in a battle of wills
What does work in this moment, is that we get a sense of Harley’s wayward thinking: she never expected the Joker’s plot to actually work; they’re always thwarted, right? It just happened that this time Superman didn’t save the day and prevent the world from ending. It’s a nice moment and gives Harley and Ra’s something to bond over: this weird sort of backwards optimism about the fate of the world.
Otherwise, Ra’s rambles a lot about how man has mucked it all up with greed and tyranny, and Harley calls him out on speechifying, and ultimately perhaps both of them are just trying to look out for the future of their children in some bizarre fashion.
And speaking of children, Athanasia (Ra’s granddaughter) continues to be a weird presence (looking basically like Damian with a ponytail, I guess). Still not sure what to make of her. Thoughts from the gallery? Lover her? Hate her? Do we want to take bets on whether she survives this arc?
The second half of the book is more closely tied into the sentiment of the cover picture (great art from Bruno Redondo and Juan Albarran). I feel like we never really had a chance to properly mourn Alfred’s passing, and here Taylor takes the time to give Bruce the space to grieve a little. Connor offers to help Batman clean up his stupidly messy desk (because he can’t do anything for himself now that Alfred is gone: both pitiful and pitiable). This causes Bruce to flashback to early in Damian’s career as Robin and what unravels after is a simple story full of complex emotions as only Taylor can present it.
He’ll brood either way, Damian
This interlude is just a great overall read, even for those of you who haven’t been following Injustice: it’s a tale of a dad and his kid and about the difference between “winning” and “doing the right thing” (which is an even better kind of winning). Easily one of the most satisfying detours in the Injustice series overall and well worth the price of admission.
Daniel Sampere (pencils) and Juan Albarran (inks) once again join their mighty forces to bring a book full of nice visual overlays (like the Ra’s/Harley flashback panel above). They bring great energy to a young Damian, whom we have never really seen in this series (he’s always been a young man). Most importantly this youth and exuberance remind us that he was a good kid once upon a time–and that the jerk he grew up to be doesn’t have to mark the end of his story. This family is broken; Alfred and Dick are both dead, but maybe there’s hope for Batman and Damian yet–his reaction to being rescued was certain unpredictable.
Which brings us back to Bruce and Connor and–oh my good gracious just what is Bruce thinking?
- You’re a fan of that irascible immortal: Ra’s al Ghul himself!
- You miss Alfred in this story (of course you do!)
- A sweet story within the story about Bats and his son before said spawn became a no-goodnik.
The first half of this book is a mixed bag with some cool reveals, but the battle between Ra’s and Harl is kind of over-the-top. Nevertheless, the second half pulls no punches in the awesome department: in fact, it just rips your heart out and stomps on it until you’re squeaking for mercy like a pet toy being mauled in the jaws of a ferocious dog. Because no matter how rotten-awful Damian has been in this series (which is actually even more rotten-awful than he usually is in regular continuity), Taylor reminds us that he’s still Batman’s kid and that Batman loves him.