Since issue #1 I have been having mixed feelings about this series. There are things that I enjoy, and then there are things that I really dislike. This third issue doesn’t do anything to change my overall opinion on the series so far, as it manages to entertain me about as much as it manages to annoy me. So, let’s not waste any time and jump straight into the review.
Let’s start with the positive. Marquez once more returns as the series’ artist, and though I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: this is great art! There are various panels in this issue that are rich in detail, such as a close-up on Gordon’s face, when Batman sees, for the first time, that Gordon is one of the infected. Gordon’s entire face is twisted as he grins and stares with pitch-black eyes into Batman’s—and the reader’s—soul. This rendition of Gordon captures how far gone he is at this point. He doesn’t look anything like the incorruptible commissioner that he used to be; he is a demon now and there is no denying that. Marquez’s inking in this panel is somewhat smudgy, which makes Gordon look somewhat grimy, which in turn can be seen as a visual cue that he is totally twisted now. The coloring, by Alejandro Sanchez, also accentuates these grimy elements, as Gordon’s face is pale and the area around his eyes is reddish. There are other panels like this that show close-ups on infected characters, and every time such a panel is presented, it stops me in my tracks. The story freezes for a moment and the panel has my full attention. While the idea of heroes becoming corrupted and turning into evil versions of themselves has been done to death in comics, it’s, in this case, the art that really makes it work because of the impact that each of these panels has. It’s really scary to see a supposedly incorruptible character like Gordon in this state; not because Gordon himself poses much of a physical threat to Batman and Superman, but because if BWL can get to Gordon, he can get to anyone.
What’s more, the art tells the story in a linear way. It doesn’t do anything particularly unconventional, like using certain panel shapes or experimental page layouts. But this book doesn’t need any of that. Marquez chooses various angles to allow us to look at the events from different perspectives, which makes this a very dynamic comic. He also makes sure that every panel sets up the next effectively, and even when it’s not fully sequential—as in, creating a flowing sequence over the course of several panels that depicts a specific action—it’s still clear what’s happening in the moment and how we got to that moment. I think this is one of Marquez’s strengths: knowing how to construct a narrative through visuals, besides just being able to draw cool-looking characters in costumes. Of course this is the name of the game in comics and any artist should be capable of this, but Marquez makes it look easy and, along with Sanchez, really carries this story.
However, as much as I enjoy the art, I can’t say that I’m a fan of the writing. In my previous reviews on this series I’ve complained about the characters talking to each other like arguing teenagers that don’t want to admit their own mistakes. While that is no longer a problem in this issue—because Batman and Superman are working together well and their dynamic is much closer to what you would expect from a typical World’s Finest story—the dialogue still frustrates me. What makes it hard to read for me this time is that a lot of the dialogue is bluntly interrupted by Superman’s “hahahas” as he tries to hold himself together and keep himself from succumbing to BWL’s infection. I don’t have a problem with a writer writing “haha” in dialogue necessarily, but in this case those “hahas” really interrupt the flow of the dialogue and completely take me out of the story. Seeing as Superman isn’t suffering from a natural infection, his dialogue also doesn’t have to sound entirely natural, but as it stands his dialogue looks so forced to me that I am unable to get immersed in the story.
Speaking of the dialogue, there are various lines in this issue that I think are just badly written to a point that I wonder why DC’s editorial board approved of the script. I don’t feel like I’m reading a sinister horror story or an exciting superhero adventure, and neither can I see this as comedy. The truth is that many of these lines sound incredibly edgy to me, and I just can’t take them seriously because of it. On top of that, even though these various lines are uttered by different characters, they all sound exactly the same. Yes, these characters are infected by BWL, but they’re not all versions of Bruce Wayne, so I think they should still have some of their own characteristics. Ultimately, with characters uttering lines like these, any sense of threat just disappears for me because, frankly, they sound like sixteen year old edgelords instead of dangerous opponents. If you want some example sentences to get a better idea of what I’m talking about, I’ve collected a few lines and you can find them in the spoiler tag below.
- “How about we go upstairs and kill everyone in the hall of justice?”
- “Why would I want to do that? Life is so much easier this way. And after you’re dead…I’m going to pay dear Barbara a visit.”
- “This is for every time you disappeared off the rooftop!” (sick burn, Gordon)
- “Surprise, $%*^$@@, it’s your old pal Jaime Reyes, the trusty Blue Beetle! My tech’s handed your fortress over to me. Cool, right?”
A final point that I want to make before I wrap this up is that so far I’m not feeling the stakes. I think that the reason is because I’m still not entirely sure what BWL’s plan is. Sure, he’s infected these heroes, but hero versus hero fights have also been done to death by now, so I’m just not too impressed with the way this story is unfolding as of yet. The way that I see it, this story needs a really good plot twist soon to make me more interested, because so far it’s simply been fight scene after fight scene with little plot progression. Even the plot twist that is in this story simply leads to another confrontation with an Infected hero (although, to be fair, we’ll have to wait until next issue to see how that confrontation will play out exactly). That said, I like the cliffhanger because it promises an exciting showdown in the near future. The question is, however, whether or not this showdown will actually happen or if this turns out to be nothing but a marketing trick to get people to buy more Year of the Villain comics.
- So what if the dialogue isn’t up to par—this has art by David Marquez and Alejandro Sanchez!
- You want to see Batman and Superman’s interaction be more like a classic World’s Finest team-up.
- You’re just here for the highly entertaining action scenes.
Overall: The art team does a stellar job at creating a steady pace, entertaining fight scenes, and beautifully horrific renditions of the Infected. Without a doubt, they are the real stars of the issue. The writing, however, just isn’t up to par. The dialogue is awkward, many of the lines that the Infected utter are so edgy that I’m unable to take them seriously, and this book really needs something more than just fight after fight, or it risks falling into a predictable pattern. With plenty of comics on stands today, I don’t recommend that you pick up this book. If you are still interested, though, I recommend that you wait and see if the reviews get more positive before you buy. The art is definitely good, but, as far as I’m concerned, the writing isn’t worth the money.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.