By: Geoff Johns (story), David Finch (pencils), Richard Friend (inks), Sonia Oback (colors)

The Story: There’s no better way to fight fear than with fear.

The Review: Prepare for a short review, folks, because this issue offers little to talk about.  Action is a great thing for entertainment, but you’re not going to get deep analysis out of it, unless you want a blow-by-blow summary.  In comics, action sequences are especially fleeting, limited to a handful of static images where movement is only suggested.  This doesn’t have quite the same impact as a meticulously choreographed, raucous action sequence you see on film.

Even so, watching Luthor and Deathstroke, with their respective bands, go at it with each other is pretty fun.  Battles between heroes and villains are all well and good, but they don’t compare to the no-holds-barred viciousness when villains fight each other.  I would have appreciated more of an effort from certain characters—Catwoman and Captain Cold come readily to mind—but otherwise, this is a pretty decent punch-fest.

Only one match-up has lasting value, however.  As you might expect, pitting the ruthless Sinestro against the cowardly Power Ring is a bit like sandblasting a soup cracker.  At one point, the ring goads poor Harold to free himself from fear at last and fight back, but after a couple good shots, Sinestro shuts that down in hurry.  Ultimately, Power Ring never does manage to rise above his nervous nature, proving to be the least impressive member of the Crime Syndicate, even Ocean Master, who basically died in his first appearance.

Despite the anticlimactic end of Power Ring, he does make one important contribution to the story: unleashing his parasitic ring on the universe of Earth-Prime.  Obviously, you’re curious as to who the next host is going to be, but more pressing is the fact that the ring’s freedom sends a “pulse” throughout the Multiverse, drawing the being that destroyed their old world to their new one.  This puts the Syndicate in the very interesting position of having to save Earth-Prime, if only to save themselves—that is, unless they decide to flee again.

If the Syndicate doesn’t plan to stick around long enough to fight off whatever it is they’ve brought to their new home, and if the three Leagues don’t return anytime soon, it’ll be up to Luthor and his brother villains to save the day.  And make no mistake, if victory is eked out, it’ll be Luthor’s.  I’ve heard tell that Johns isn’t the biggest Batman fan, which might explain why the Dark Knight comes across so impotent and so ignorant of his impotent here.  You find it hard to believe that someone as astute as Batman can be so blind to the utterly disadvantageous situation he finds himself in here.  In other words, Batman acts like an idiot when he tries to tell this group of supervillains what to do with only Catwoman for backup, and it’s a little hard to get past that.

I’ve noticed a steady expansion of Finch’s range in past issues, and I can confirm that his growth continues here.  Compared to what he was doing back on, say, New Avengers, his work in this issue is way more convincing, both in the expression of the characters and in the way they’re posed in battle.  I distinctly recall that in earlier days, Finch’s action sequences looked mostly like statutes frozen in at times awkward positions; now, there’s a much stronger suggestion of movement and impact, which is good because that is basically what this issue has been about.

Conclusion: Basically one long action sequence with only a single important ramification to the story at large.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – This didn’t occur to me until just now, but with Ultraman consuming every last speck of Kryptonite on Earth-Prime, that leaves Superman significantly freer from harassment once he comes back.  As they say, there’s no great loss without some small gain.

– I’m not sure I really buy Luthor’s argument to Deathstroke that the Syndicate’s takeover is “bad for business,” because it seems like good mercenaries will be needed more than ever in the power struggles to come.