Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Guadiano and Rain Beredo
Lettering by Saida Temofonte
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Taking a page from his Injustice playbook and seasoning it with even more gory violence and shocking heartbreak, DCeased continues to be a juggernaut for writer Tom Taylor and artist Trevor Hairsine, even if it doesn’t necessarily break new ground beyond the gleeful oppressiveness Marvel Zombies achieved back in 2005. Given that the heroes of the DC Universe are far more powerful across the board than their counterparts at the House of Ideas, Taylor doubles down as things go from bad to worse - although with just one issue left, one almost wishes he had more time to fully delve into the ramifications of these corrupted heroes.
Given that last issue started with the destruction of half the Eastern seaboard, you’d think that morale would be devastated - but because Taylor has so much ground to cover, we’re not really allowed to linger too much on the DC universe’s losses, much to this series’ detriment. Indeed, the heroes’ survival feels like a cheat, given who was at ground zero - but that said, mourning a city specifically also doesn’t seem like Taylor’s narrative goal here. Instead, with only one issue left in the books, he’s tying his heroes’ hands further, eliminating easy outs like interstellar travel, superspeed, or invulnerability.
And sometimes, using the Anti-Life Equation to actively turn these strengths against the Justice League - it’s these moments that give Taylor some much-needed emotional punch, as he takes three heavy hitters off the board in one fell swoop. Given that Superman has acted as DCeased’s moral center, seeing how he has to make some big choices in the heat of the moment gives this series more stakes than the destruction of Washington, Baltimore and Metropolis. While there is still a little bit of wonkiness in the finer details - Damian taking over the mantle of Batman feels glossed over quickly, while Lex Luthor oscillates between being a genuine human being and a sociopathic dillhole to the Man of Steel - but with Taylor at the helm, it’s easy to see how quickly things can spiral out of control with the right heroes corrupted.
That all said, artist Trevor Hairsine is trying to keep up with Taylor’s mix of superheroic crowds and emotional goodbyes, but you can see he’s straining a bit with the big blockbuster moments. Seeing Luthor kneel before Superman is a genuinely strong moment in the series, as is a deliciously gory moment of Superman throwing himself in front of a runaway superhero to stop further bloodshed - but moments like Poison Ivy’s botanical fortress, Lois Lane decking Lex Luthor, or Superman’s last moments of losing hope don’t quite connect as much as set pieces in previous issues.
DCeased scratches that subversive itch of seeing Earth’s most pristine heroes get caught in the muck and bloodshed, and to its credit, manages to pack in more emotion than the gleeful slaughter of Marvel Zombies. While I don’t know if it necessarily encapsulates the full scale of such an epidemic in the way that, say, Grant Morrison did years ago in his Starro-centric issue of JLA Secret Files, Taylor and Hairsine do stretch themselves - to varying degrees of success - to make sure this series has a beating heart underneath all the carnage. While this isn’t necessarily the strongest issue of the series to date, it’s a solid penultimate chapter - but whether DCeased succeeds or falls will likely be based on whether or not it can stick the landing next issue.