We’ve got Apex-Lex versus the Batman Who Laugh’s infected acolytes! Will the confrontation live up to the hype, or will the lack of connectivity and continuity between these titles result in another disappointing turn of events? Find out below!

The Story

The moment I realized that Scott Snyder’s “Doom War,” Brian Michael Bendis’ “Year of the Villain,” and the Batman Who Laughs’ evil plan were all on a crash-course with one another, I was incredibly excited! For the first time since Justice League: Darkseid War, I felt as though we had a massive battle with huge stakes that would actually lead to story-altering consequences… And then the stories themselves started unfolding.

As this epic started to slowly unfold in various titles and specials, it became clear that none of the creative teams were really communicating with one another. Something would happen in Justice League that wouldn’t line up in either of Bendis’ Superman titles, or any of the Year of the Villain one-shots, or even Batman/ Superman. In fact, saying they wouldn’t line up is probably being nice. At times, these titles have actually contradicted each other when they’re supposed to be telling a shared story. That’s not a great way to start.

Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen debuted, and, low and behold, it suffered greatly from this problem. It did, however, end with the promise of a battle between Apex Lex and the infected. That, alone, gave me something to look forward to, and we get exactly that in this issue. But… Is it good? In many ways, yes!

A number of writers have, understandably, featured Lex’s newly granted powers in lieu of his greatest strength – his intelligence. I mean, I get it. Lex being some type of Martian hybrid is new and different, and most likely finite. People will want to jump on it while they can. That being said, the moment his new status was revealed, all I thought was, “Sheesh. With his intelligence and now these abilities, he’s going to be a huge threat!” And then, nobody really took full advantage of the gift they were bestowed… Until now.

Tynion puts Lex’s brain front and center in this issue, and it turns out to be a real treat. I don’t want to give too many details away, but this ends up being a one-sided fight, and while I initially found that to be rather disappointing, once I digested the story, I actually shifted to enjoy it. Did the fight go the way I expected? No. Definitely not. Was it still kickass? Absolutely!

My only problem with the encounter itself is that there’s a moment where Apex Lex dons his mech suit, and I couldn’t help but think, “Isn’t his Martian transformation way more powerful than anything this suit could do? What’s the purpose?” It seems as though it’s here simply for fan service – which isn’t the first time I’ve complained about Tynion doing this today – and is fine overall, but it almost comes at the expense of the story. That isn’t cool.

Despite this minor misstep though, the action, overall, is rather entertaining. But that’s not actually the real hook of this issue. What I find gripping here, is watching two minds like Lex Luthor and the dark Batman go toe-to-toe with their schemes. You’ve literally got the smartest man in the universe and the greatest detective/tactician mixed with a completely erratic and psychotic lunatic gunning for one another. I mean, think about it! They’re both working angles, and are both three steps ahead of the other while also being three steps behind. It’s great!

Again, I don’t want to give too much away out of respect for the experience of reading this issue, but Tynion does a nice job of properly subverting expectations to keep you interested in the book. Much like his debut, he also ends on a high note by delivering a reveal that will leave you wanting more.

There are, unfortunately, a few issues concerning continuity, but they’re minor in the grand scheme of things. And honestly, you’ll be so focused on the two reveals at the end of the issue that you won’t think much of them anyway.

The Art

Steve Epting delivers the art for this issue and does a decent job. He has a bit of an “old school” aesthetic to his work, so I’m sure that will resonate with a number of readers. It can also come across as slightly generic though, considering the recent renaissance we’re seeing from an abundance of high-quality artists, so the overall impact is a bit two-fold.

He’s strapped with the challenge of articulating a lot of action within a short amount of pages and manages to do so rather effectively. You feel the beats of the fight relatively well, and nothing is lost in translation, nor do you feel as though you’re gipped of any “moments.” Despite this feat, Epting doesn’t really play with or take advantage of the characters in his arsenal, and that does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity.

Nick Filardi delivers on the tone of this issue with his colors. Most of the early pages are washed in dark shadows, but he finds moments to add pops of color – albeit muted – in the costumes or through video feeds. He really gets to shine later in the issue though once we’re past the fight. The panels featuring Mercy are a particular standout. The page with her in public pops because its so drastically different than anything previous featured in the issue. I love his use of earth tones, and it makes me want to see him work more in a book that will give him that opportunity. I also love the use of purples in Mercy’s apartment.

The partnership between Epting and Filardi works rather well. You can see when these two really enjoyed the panels they were working on because there’s a unique energy and pop to it that helps it stand out. Good work all around.

Recommended if:

  • It’s Apex Lex versus the Infected
  • I mean, you might as well be in the loop with the “big story” at the moment, right?

Overall

This book isn’t perfect, but James Tynion, Steve Epting, and Nick Filardi really find ways to deliver in key moments. Interestingly, they all hit their peak moments at different times, and that really helps give this book quite a bit of energy. The initial fight between Lex and the infected will draw you in rather quickly, but it’s the mental war between Lex and the Batman Who Laughs that will hook you. Then there are only a few reveals that will ensure you come back for the next chapter. All in all, this is a great formula allowing for an entertaining read.

SCORE: 7.5/ 10