The year of the villains begins.
DC is trying something a little different for the latest Injustice Annual. Whereas these issues tend to focus on small standalone stories that don’t really fit into the series’ overarching narrative, this issue is more or less a prologue for Injustice: Year Five. The scope is bigger, but what really sells this story is the return of writer Tom Taylor and his top-notch brand of storytelling.
Not to diminish the solid work Brian Buccellato has been doing since taking the reins of the series, but Injustice is at its best with Taylor at the helm. His flair for engaging characterization and crafting big, cinematic moments gave Injustice a distinctive voice and appeal amid DC’s many other superhero books. Taylor’s work has lost none of its charm in his absence. This issue is a fun read, but also suitably dark and dramatic considering how far along the Injustice timeline is now and how close Superman is to becoming the complete and total despot he is in the game.
This issue sets up the “year of the villains” status quo that will be driving Injustice: Year Five throughout 2016. However, the story hinges largely on a DC hero that hasn’t played any sort of role in the Injustice conflict before now. That fact is really at the emotional core of Taylor’s script, as he explores a character who has always looked out for number one finally making a selfless sacrifice for someone else. Whether you’re attached to this character already or have no exposure to this mystery protagonist, Taylor does an excellent job of fleshing out their past, their connection to the Superman/Batman war and building towards the epic finale.
Injustice always looks its best when Bruno Redondo is providing the art, so it should come as no surprise that this issue is a looker. Redondo’s sleek, expressive style is a perfect complement to Taylor’s script, whether the focus is on character interaction or huge moments of spectacle. One of the benefits to Redondo’s style is that it generally looks great regardless of whether Redondo is working solo. So the fact that later pages feature Redondo’s layouts being finished by either Rafa Sandoval or Jordi Tarragona makes little difference on the final product.