Let’s get it out of the way right now: the revelation of Brutaal’s identity as Superman was absolutely incredible. James Robinson left his book, at least artistically, on the best terms possible and I am not qualified to speak on any other level of his leaving. Tom Taylor does a great job of filling his shoes and picking up his storyline where it left off. The World Army is now at the mercy of a merciless, unstoppable Superman seemingly torn from Elseworlds’ most desperate, distressing pages. For the man who redefined Superman as a vicious autocrat in the pages of Injustice, this seems like a lateral move and a very, very appropriate one. The main cast in the book get a little short-shrift in order to introduce some new ones, one in particular that the fans have been clamoring for since the earliest glimpses at the series’ beginning. I’m still very interested to see how Taylor handles the quieter, more character intensive moments of the book because he clearly has a great handle on the action scenes.
But without the contributions of Nicola and Trevor Scott, along with colors by Pete Penazis, you can’t even BEGIN to talk about the action scenes. The art in this book remains consistently fantastic, rendering intense visuals with a great deal of humanity and, frankly, inhumanity. The style of wartime photography is maintained across any scenes with the Man of Steel, but it gains a lot of moment-to-moment greatness when the characters converse and try to deal with the incredible atrocities happening from one second to the next. Facial expressions have always been a great strength of this book and that remains absolutely true in this issue as we get everything from the desperation on the faces of the World Council to the violent intensity of Superman and the quiet, cold calculation of the new Batman. There’s an especially incredible scene where Doctor Fate’s face is perfectly reflected in his own helmet that deserves very special mention.
As good as the characters are, and as much as this book is still very much in the midst of action, it’s definitely lacking the biting wit that was part of its appeal. I won’t sit here and say that every writer has to be the same across one book, but a great deal of the appeal of this book was the characters’ fast-talking, sardonic charm. The art, likewise, is great across most of the book, but here and there it lacks certain details or looks rushed and stiff. The photographic moments are one thing, but a few of the “realtime” panels are just as stiff and stunted.
There’s plenty of room to fall into a nice groove and I really like where this title is headed overall. It’s nice to see that, even after last issue’s reveal, there are still one or two revelations to be had. It’s very, very clear that there are still plenty of cards to be played and I’m still on edge with utter anticipation to see exactly how and what those cards are.