Tom Taylor plays with the lives of the Injustice characters like a cruel and merciless god who occasionally has a good day and decides to do something kind for a change. So while this book deals lots of death blows, it also reaffirms a few lives in that surprising and wholly organic way that Taylor knows how to pull off just right.

Digital Firsts 39 & 40: “Long Night” gives us Zod: freshly escaped from the Phantom Zone, killer of teen favorite Tim, and out on a tirade against a world that’s held him hostage.  Batman, of course, is not going to tolerate that, and quickly poisons him with Kryptonite in a way disturbingly reminiscent of how Joker originally poisoned Superman into thinking that Lois Lane was Doomsday.

Only Zod doesn’t see Doomsday, he sees his own mortal enemy, Superman himself.

And just when you think Batman is going to cross that line and take Zod out, we have the strange and sudden appearance of a surprise intervention from Ras Al Ghul.  Or maybe it’s not so much of a surprise since Amazo is basically splashed all over the cover.  Don’t you just hate when they do that?  And Injustice is probably more often guilty of it than many.

Thwarted! But it’s not over yet!

Still, the interiors are worth it, despite the minor spoiler. The intricate way in which Taylor has set up the plotline with Ras still out there plotting away, goes far to keep this moment from feeling like some cheap deus ex machina. And besides, though Ras is definitely Batman’s sworn enemy, he’s not about to let Zod even have a chance at threatening the dominion Ras claims as his own.

In a scene curiously reminiscent of a certain controversial film moment, Zod has a little accident with his neck (and then Taylor takes it a little bit farther just for giggles and goes ahead and separates Zod’s head from his shoulders entirely).

It seems like a shocking quick turnaround (just as Tim’s was), and as if to add inquiry to the injury, we leap from that violence straight to Batman pulling the plug on Ted Grant, who has been hospitalized since the failed assault on Ras’ bunker.

Love the contrast of the Dark Knight in such an everyday setting

Taylor knows just how to ramp up the drama in this scene, giving us a Batman who appears to be still-grieving for Tim, and dredging Dick’s death into this as well. The despair is palpable as he apologies to the former Wildcat and then sends him spiraling to his death.

But this is Batman, right? So you know, of course, that something much more clever is going on–and something is!

Bruno Redondo did the layouts for this book and they are gorgeous as always.  Juan Albarran followed with the finishes. The action in the hospital is actually some of the best sequential art of this series so far: Redondo can make a big splashy fight look great (and always goes–here with Zod and “Superman” it’s no exception). But to take a moment like this in a hospital setting, and with just some crazy dramatic angles, close up reaction shots, flashing alarms, and a heart monitor, he manages to pull off some seriously intense drama.

Given the ups and down with the storyline and the cast of hundreds, the artwork in Injustice–its clarity and consistency over the years–has always made this book outstanding. As much as I would love to see Redondo’s work in other books, I also never want him to leave this one. And his partnership with Albarran continues to be an exceptional collaboration. Also just want to call out Rex Lokus’ colors in this issue too: the contrast of Batman’s grey-blacks in that otherwise pale, sallow hospital room (and then juxtaposed with the glaring red alarms), is pure eye-candy all around.  I know a lot of people like their Dark Knight lurking in the shadows, but there’s something wonderful about Batman in the light of day.

Recommended If…

  • You didn’t really want to see a whole arc with Zod anyway.
  • Avenge Tim!  Somebody!  Anybody!
  • Did someone say they wanted to see Dr. Mid-nite?  How about return of Wildcat? Or maybe Conner Kent?

Overall

There’s something about the never-ending tumble of life and death in Injustice that makes the book both sublime and absurd and this issue perfectly captures that. From Tim’s unfortunate and untimely demise last issue, we double down on the doornails in this issue, with Tom Taylor managing to pull off some life out of death business that feels wholly organic and doesn’t require too much silly magic to stretch credulity. Well, it’s superheroes, so that’s always going to be a tall order, but I think Taylor admirably balances a lot of elements here that in the hands of a clumsier writer might come off rather hackneyed. But in Taylor’s hands it’s just one edge of the seat to the other with surprised and exhilaration. This book remains the best-written use of a massive universe of heroes and villains on the stands today.

SCORE: 9/10