Step forward the Teen Titans and ... Lex Luthor?
The former run into CS members Johnny Quick and Atomica and it doesn't go well, as the sinister speedster uses Kid Flash's connection to the far future to remove the young heroes from the playing field. Painfully.
The latter spends the issue gathering his weaponry - the latest version of his power suit, and his Superman clone, Bizarro. An ongoing project to create his own perfect duplicate of the Man of Steel, Bizarro isn't quite 'cooked'. But apparently he is controllable, as he proves to Luthor in grisly fashion.
Elsewhere, tensions between the Society members simmer, with the most interesting relating to Superwoman and Owlman trying to keep their status as expectant parents from Ultraman.
And at STAR Labs, Silas Stone and TO Morrow bid to protect the Red Room, home to Earth's most dangerous weapons. They know the super-criminals will come eventually. And then an explosion heralds the arrival of uninvited guests ...
Writer Geoff Johns keeps this event comic bubbling along nicely, showing the state of play in the first days after the CS takeover. The introduction of Otis from the Seventies Superman movies is a surprise. A bigger surprise is that I actually liked the little fella - I abhorred him, along with his boss, on screen. The biggest surprise is how speedily he departs the scene, slaughtered by Bizarro. That the killing comes with a lot of spatter isn't a surprise, Johns being a huge fan of super-splattering. I'm amazed that artist David Finch isn't required to draw the nasty details - for a modern-day DC comic this is subtle stuff.
But still, it's unnecessary, unimaginative, cliched. I know the people in this comic are evil, it says so on the cover ... there's no need to have a returned favourite super-villain's first act be a murder.
Last issue the CS revealed Nightwing's identity to the world, stating that they were going to hunt down and kill his associates. We see nothing of that this time - thankfully - and hints are dropped that they're keeping the hero alive for a reason. What they are, I can't guess. Maybe there's a plan to turn him bad, have him replace the Earth 3 Grayson as Talon.
Given his established characterisation as a planner, it's a surprise that Red Robin's Teen Titans attack the CS members head on, with no sign of a plan. It's no wonder they get whomped. I'm surprised Johns, as a former writer of the Titans, doesn't give them a better showing. I do, though, like Johnny Quick's imaginative method of dispatching the pesky teenagers.
David Finch and Richard Friend's art is on the dark side, which suits the story. For the most part, it's appealing, with a pleasing variety of angles, good figure work and detailed rendering. There are odd brokeback poses and weird chins, but overall this is decent superhero art. My favourite moments involve the moody emergence of Bizarro (shorts are de rigeur when growing a clone, it seems) ...
As second issues go, this is solidly entertaining, with good character dynamics and engaging action. It's a tad let down by Johns' obsession with nasty deaths (the book opens with a close-up of a rat meeting a sticky end), but hopefully he'll get it out of his system eventually. It's only been 15 years or something ...