Guns, Robots, and Supermen
The original solicited version of this cover was pretty cool, but the new version is even cooler! It pulls of the split image in a very unique way, and one that crafts an intriguing mystery. Is that Grifter in the past and the present, or is there someone else killed by Deathstroke the Terminator? Read this issue to find out! .... Or actually no. This issue never even comes close to approaching the plot implied by the cover. Slade is still not Deathstroke, he isn't turning against his team, the entire issue takes place in the past just like all the other issues. What happened to that much more interesting framing plot where Deathstroke was confronting Lynch in the present for being a complete and utter snake? And the rise of... something. Spartan? I dunno but it was cool! And this issue seemingly drops that in favor of fleshing out the past more.
So the artwork in this issue is pretty inconsistent, with three different art teams one after the other. At the VERY LEAST I'm glad it changes in waves rather than erratically and sporadically throughout the issue, but unlike last issue there's not plot justification as the story takes place entirely in the past. Pascal Alixe's artwork is exactly as good as I've come to expect from him, but he has a short show before Cliff Richards takes over, delivering work very different from what I'm used to from him. It's more dynamic, but feels a little rushed in the loose lack of details. The final pages by Gui Balbi and Juan Castro looks like someone trying and failing to emulate Rafael Albuquerque. It's stylized in a weird way, and contrasts quite a bit with the rest of the art.
Once again, this series doesn't seem to make any effort to distinguish the characters I'm not familiar with, and even some that I am. Slade of course stands out, as do Black Canary and Amanda 'so-called' "Waller", and I guess Alex Fairchild, but even Grifter kind of blends into the crowd here without his mask or any moments spotlighting any distinguishing personality traits. The only character who stand out in personality are Slade for being cold and pragmatic, Fairchild for being concerned about his daughter, and Amanda for..... caring way too much about everyone. I nearly threw up in my mouth reading here scenes in this issue. I was also very confused as to who the pilot was supposed to be. She looked like Ladytron from last issue, which was impossible, and then as she died and everyone yelled her name I realized she was Ramos. I had absolutely no idea Ramos was a woman this whole time. It wasn't a huge reveal or anything, just a testament to the confusing nature of this series and its paper-cut-out cast.
As this issue goes on, things start to get more and more confusing. Ladytron's completely gone, and Caitlin Fairchild is now a mindless robot/cyborg drone of sorts and Slade kills her. Except that's completely impossible since we know she's alive in the present. So all tension in that moment is completely gone. It doesn't feel like a hard choice was made because we KNOW it never comes to anything in the future. It's very easy to simply surmise that it must have been a replica killed here. And then the Wildstorm immigrants in the DCU appear to have taken over Cyborg-Superman's origin, which kind of bums me out. It negates a lot of the tragedy and insanity that lead to the Cyborg-Superman we know today, and the one who appears in Green Lantern which survived the relaunch with little to no retcons. ONE good thing comes of it in that it adds extra depth to the issue title on a very subtle level. A level only longtime readers of DC will get. The final scene is just odd. I think I get where it's going, but the weird blurry reveal of the final page just seems strange, like an anti-reveal of sorts.
In Conclusion: 3/5
This series dipped into 'bad' territory at the end of the first arc, and here its still not exactly reaching great heights, but it's not terrible, aside from the complete and utter bastardization of one of DC's best and most unique characters. There's some interesting seeds sewn in the past here, but some of them fall completely flat with the knowledge we have of the present. And things just start to get confusing and inconsistent as the issue progresses, leaving things in an awkward place by the end. But overall the series is just flawed at it's core. The cast is a bit too big, and too many team members blur together into empty bodies that I can't distinguish from one another or remember their names. And the action is 90% everyone shooting guns at everyone else.