And so we arrive at DCeased’s conclusion. This has been a fast-paced series, and that pacing has been a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, Taylor can’t afford to waste a single panel and has chosen his story beats wisely, but on the other hand, this is a typical case where clearly the creative team favors the plot over the characters. Yes, we have seen some excellent character moments throughout the series, but they are always just small moments, and never allow for enough room to explore the emotional and/or traumatic aftermath of certain events. The same can be said for this final issue, but seeing as this is the story’s conclusion, the question is whether that’s a good or a bad thing? Let’s turn to the review proper and have a look. SPOILER ALERT!
I think that this is an entertaining comic…until I get to the end. What I mean by that, in general, is that the creative team does a decent job of building up to a climax. There are high stakes, good action sequences, emotional beats, answers to questions, and a little bit of comic relief. However, the ending itself just doesn’t work for me. The story ends too abruptly, and not only does it hinge on a deus ex machina, but I also think that there’s a big cop-out on top of that deus ex. To understand where I’m coming from, we have to look at several different things. But first a fair warning: seeing as this is the final issue in a miniseries that has been running for several months now, and my main criticism is about the ending, I have decided to talk openly about what happens in the issue, spoiling a bunch of stuff in the process. If you don’t want spoilers, turn away now.
First, I like how the heroes are working hard to find a way to defeat a Superman that’s infected by the Anti-Life Equation. Different pieces come together, such as Bruce’s gift to Damian, which is a piece of kryptonite. Another piece is Athena’s sword, which is wielded by Diana, and it is her who combines the kryptonite and the sword into a weapon that should be able to slay Superman. However, as much as I like the idea of creating this ultimate, mythical blade that’s designed to end the greatest threat to Earth, I wonder why it just doesn’t amount to anything. Diana does stab Superman, and even cuts off an arm, but it’s not actually the sword that’s used to defeat him. He doesn’t even seem to care that he’s missing an arm. While I get that the forging of the sword and the failure to use the sword to kill the intended target is all part of building suspense, the way that the conflict is resolved in the end makes everything that came before feel redundant. In other words, it’s cool to see Diana forging a blade; it’s cool to see her fight Superman while wielding said blade; and it’s even cool to see Diana fall and to see Dinah pick up the sword, because it creates the possibility for Dinah to actually become something more than just a convenient plot device disguised as a Green Lantern/Black Canary mash-up. Sadly, though, none of this goes anywhere in the end. Not only does the sword not seem to work, but we also see Dinah picking it up to then not use it at all because she never gets the chance.
Another problem that I have with this story has to do with the arks that the heroes built to save the innocent people of Earth. It’s a bit of stretch that, in the previous issue, the heroes were able to build those arks as fast as they did in the first place, because, even though most of them are incredibly fast, not all of them are engineers and probably don’t even have the knowledge to build such arks. In this issue it gets even harder for me to suspend my disbelief because now the handful of Justice Leaguers that are left manage to coordinate a massive evacuation, and the entire coordination happens off-panel. While I agree with the idea that seeing them organize and run the evacuation on-panel might be a bit boring as it probably slows down the pace of the story, I’m not buying that they managed to get six million, four thousand, seven hundred and six people aboard so easily—and that’s just one of the two arks. Especially if you think about the fact that the story confirms that the heroes are running out of time.
Next, the kraken appears, controlled by a zombie version of Aquaman! I love the idea of this, and it’s a fun callback to Taylor’s other series, Injustice. But after Green Arrow kills Aquaman, the kraken is nowhere to be seen. Wouldn’t the creature continue to wreak havoc, even after Aquaman is gone? Why put in the effort to draw the kraken in all its terrible glory to then immediately forget about its appearance? The creature appears at a battlefield, and I imagine that the battle would have been much more interesting and exciting had the kraken actually taken part in it somehow, or had it attacked the ark as it tries to take off. This is a huge missed opportunity as far as I’m concerned.
My final point of criticism with regards to the script is of course about the ending. As Dinah gets ready to fight Superman, wielding Athena’s sword, out of nowhere the Green Lantern Corps shows up. Now, I have no problem with the Corps showing up in and of itself, because it makes total sense to me that they have been monitoring Earth and that they know what’s going on, especially since Dinah is a Green Lantern herself. My problem has more to do with the Corps arriving at this exact crucial moment—the timing is way too convenient for my liking. The story’s narration even emphasizes the deus ex machina aspect of this moment (although I don’t think it does so intentionally) when we’re being told that the Anti-Life Equation decides it cannot take on the Green Lantern Corps and then lets Superman fly into the sun so he can absorb it and essentially kill all life in the solar system and rendering the Equation dormant in the process. Granted, after the amount of gore that we’ve seen in this issue—and throughout the series—I guess that another massive battle, this time between Superman and the Corps, would be a bit much. But then again, I feel like the creative team has chosen the easy way out by providing a way too convenient solution to the problem: they have the Anti-Life Equation take care of itself in the end. This is a cop-out that comes on the tail-end of a deus ex machina reveal, and that’s just bad juju.
But it’s not all bad. The comic relief and the character moments are fun. Especially the scene where Damian and Jon share a bro-hug and Jon tells Damian he will be a great Batman, right before Jon flies into space to confront his undead father, is fantastic. It’s simple, straight to the point, and avoids all melodrama. It’s just a moment of honest friendship and compassion. Oliver Queen’s jokes, even though I think the timing is slightly off sometimes, are pretty funny. And the narration throughout the issue, as well as the dialogue, is really well written. The action scenes are also great, which leads me to talk about the art.
What I like the most about the art is that, despite the fact that both Trevor Hairsine and Neil Edwards are on pencil duties, Stefano Gaudiano’s solid inks and Rain Beredo’s vibrant colors maintain an aesthetic cohesion throughout the book. While I notice when a different penciller takes over (they each draw faces differently), the switch doesn’t bother me at all. It’s a smooth transition. I’ve got to give the pencillers credit for this too, because they did a good job keeping the same style in page layouts, which helps to keep the pacing intact.
I also really like how this comic visually builds to a climax. In the early pages we just see heroes talking to each other, but as the story continues it transitions from a survival epic to a massive scale war story. The battle on the beach of Paradise Island is a highlight. Not only is it a glorious gorefest, but I like how the creative team mostly focuses on the personal moments during this battle, despite its enormous scope. We see former friends and lovers falling to the Equation and attacking the women left standing, and the desperation on those women’s faces is rendered well by the artists. Besides the over-the-top action, the book also offers a lot of visual variation since the story goes from a city to the Fortress of Solitude, and from Paradise Island into space!
- You have been collecting the series and need the final issue to complete your collection.
- You don’t mind the fast pacing and the lack of character moments, you just want the gory action sequences!
- A Superman that’s infected by the Anti-Life Equation is the stuff of nightmares and you love it!
- You are okay with deus ex machinas that are immediately followed by cop-outs.
Overall: This has been a fun ride with a lot of bumps along the way. The series has never been flawless, but this final issue has suffered the most from its super fast pacing. Frankly, the issue is so fast that it’s almost like the creative team didn’t even notice the more problematic moments in the story. While the art is engaging, the narration and the dialogue well-written, and the build-up itself is executed well, it’s the deus ex machina, followed by what I consider a cop-out, that makes this story fall apart in the end. As such, the ending is abrupt and sudden, and, sadly, doesn’t feel like much of an ending at all. If I had to describe this conclusion in one word, it would be: “underwhelming.”
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.