Digital Firsts 17 & 18 (“Extinction”) gets us into the jungle and to the gates of Ras al Ghul’s fortress. Seriously, is there anywhere left on earth where some superhero or super-villain has planted a super-secret hideout full of high tech, an army of legions, and…a petting zoo?

Okay, Ras al Ghul doesn’t actually have a petting zoo, but that’s a funnier thing to imagine than a wildlife preserve for the breeding and reintroduction of endangered species. Either way, it’s an impressive spread for what probably constitutes only a small portion of the empire of which Ras is the despot-in-residence.

But before we get to the jungle zoo habitat, we’ve got Batman putting people into place to protect the incoming President. This strikes me as somewhat weird–last we saw, Batman couldn’t be bothered to attend Dinah and Ollie’s wedding even knowing a strike was imminent because he had to deal with Damian digging up Alfred at home. Now he seems to have have no particular urgency about going after the kidnapped kids, leaving Steel and Aqualad to cover the President while he and Black Lightning go do…something mysterious.

Batman’s kind of annoying me at this point.

Ollie, Dinah, Blue Beetle, Batgirl, and the Plastic Family are off to save the kids. But Ollie and Dinah are just driving the plane? What? I guess they’re compromised because it’s their kid, but it’s a weird arrangement. Batgirl says something vague like: “if he sees you….”

That means nothing. If Batgirl can infiltrate, then so can they. If he sees any of them it’s a huge risk.  Whatever, convenient plot, just do your thing.

One highlight is seeing Batgirl take the lead on the ground mission here. Seeing her be challenged by the Blue Beetle and put Jaime in his place was strangely satisfying. It’s the best bit of character development in this particular issue.

This isn’t creepy at all, is it?

On the other side of the fence, Animal Man lectures Damian about the world-wide extinction of so many animal species. His speech is heart-felt and sincere–when he recalls his encounter with African horn hunters the righteous rage is well-motivated. And in particular, his testament to the loneliness of these dying species is heart-breaking. But in the end, I confess I’m not convinced it’s enough to reasonably cause any sane person to cast their lot with a genocidal madman like Ras al Ghul.

It’s clear Damian is continuing to struggle, but I’m, curious about why it’s Animal Man who is counseling him here. When it’s his fealty on the line, seems like his mother or father should be taking lead on this. Especially when you consider the staggering importance of fealty to an organization like the League of Shadows.

 

And then there’s poor Alfred in his semi-vegetable state and the idea that it could take him as long as a year to show improvement since his resurrection in the Lazarus Pit. It’s disturbing to see Damian’s clear loyalty there, though at least Daniel Sampere rendered Alfred a little less corpse-like this go-round.

Does Damian do diapers, you think?

Speaking of Sampere, he and Juan Albarran combine their awesome forces as penciler and inker (with the equally awesome Rex Lokus on colors again). This is yet another solid issue of Injustice 2 through and through. Sure, I could kvetch a little that Ras al Ghul doesn’t look as menacing as I’d like, but that’s peanut skins compared to other cool moments, the highlight of which is Plastic Man and his son Luke making themselves into an ersatz flight suit for Batgirl and then transforming into a hang glider so that they can drop safely into a jungle on their mission to rescue the kidnapped children.

Despite my quibbles with certain plot points here, this is always a highly readable comic book and the art always pulls its own weight–it’s a collaboration perfect for the medium!

I wanted to give this an extra half point for the incredible cover by Dale Keown and Jason Keith, but as incredible as it is, Batman is not in the jungle at this point, so it’s rather misleading. Still awesome though!

I feel overall like the story is getting over-cluttered in a way that Injustice has managed to avoid in the past. Taylor has always moved his people around effectively, but I’m starting to feel like I am losing sense of who is in the periphery. Like, I don’t even care about Ras’ daughter–why is she even a thing here? And I’ve lost interest in what Batman and Black Lightning are doing (for the moment).  Hopefully the pieces will begin to fall more neatly together soon.

Recommended If…

  • Father and son bonding time for Plastic Man and his boy tugs at your heartstrings.
  • Animal Man and his environmental concerns are dear to your heart.
  • You want to watch Batgirl take charge.  Blue Beetle: “eat your heart out”.

Overall

This issue of Injustice 2 seems to have some uncommon pacing and plotting problems quite unlike Tom Taylor’s regular work. The story opens with Batman plotting, continues with Batgirl plotting, and we get lots of Damian and Animal Man plotting as a side dish. There’s action in there, but a strange lack of urgency throughout. Fortunately it all feels like it’s leading to a big cataclysm with the League of Shadows, so I’m still looking forward to the next issue!

SCORE: 7/10