Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about this issue. Although Robinson wasn't the strongest scripter and his plots have been overly crowded in recent issues, he succeeded in creating such a compelling and vivid world that it was hard to see anyone else writing this series. However, I'm glad to say that I'm a little less worried after reading this issue.
First, Taylor wisely decides to put everyone in the same place so that we can actually have a clearer sense of the status quo. Robinson has been moving so many different pieces on the crowded board over the last few issues that it was almost impossible to remember what each character was doing the last time that you saw her or him. By bringing virtually everyone to the same place, Taylor makes it a lot easier to follow the story, since everyone is now more or less involved in the same plot. Sure, characters like Terry Sloan or Mr. Terrific may only have a line or two, but you at least know where they are and to what they're referring without having to go through back issues. As simple as that seems, it's an improvement over recent issues.
Looking at the plot itself, Taylor does a great job of conveying the panic that the Wonders feel in the wake of their routing at Superman's hands in Dherain. I thought that he made the wise decision to send Dr. Fate against Superman one-on-one, since it narrows the field of combatants. Again, it's a lot easier to follow the action when it's just two characters whaling on each other rather than several whaling on several others in different locations. Plus, it makes sense for it to be Dr. Fate, since magic does seem logically to be the one thing that might stop Superman and the one thing that he has that no one else has. When he fails to stop Superman, it helps add to the sense of panic, since the Wonders seem to have exhausted all possibilities. (Enter Batman, and the criminals and madmen.)
Taylor also gets in some good moments of characterization, something that this series did well at the start but lost in the shuffle over the last few issues. Jay saving Khalid and then volunteering to distract Superman while everyone else figures out a plan reminds us what a stand-up guy he is. Moreover, the revelation that the Red Tornado is Lois Lane was shocking, but Taylor totally sold it, even though the reasons for her becoming a robot remain shrouded in mystery. He uses General Lane's clear love for his daughter to make us buy the fact that he wouldn't done everything that he could to save her, making the details of how her consciousness was transferred to a robot less important.
However, he does make us realize how many mysteries we still have left on the table, now that we've added yet another significant one. We have no idea how Lois died and how Clark handled that. It also raises the possibility that Superman has come to the World Army's base to get her, though Taylor doesn't confirm that. We also still don't know what Batman is doing; for that matter, we still don't know who he is. If Superman is somehow still alive, is this Batman the original Batman? Probably not, but Taylor is playing his cards close to his vest. That said, it's exciting to have Batman finally emerge from the shadows and take a central role in the drama. Robinson did a great job not rushing the moment, making it all the better when it comes in this issue.
So, clearly, it's a good start to this next era. Taylor has to ignore some other sub-plots, like Hawkgirl's investigation into Sam's death and Big Barda and Mr. Miracle doing something out there somewhere. But, he seems set to bring some of the various other sub-plots to some sort of conclusion all at once, so hopefully we'll be able to clear the decks a bit before we add those mysteries to the pile. All in all, it's a strong steady opening to a series in need of a somewhat less frenetic pace.
**** (four of five stars)