DCeased: Hope on World's End #4
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Marco Failla and Rex Lokus
Lettering by Saida Temofonte
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
The Anti-Life Equation continues to sweep across the DC Universe, but DCeased: Hope on World’s End #4 shows there might be some rigor mortis creeping onto this undead franchise. Whereas previous installments of the series focused on fan-favorite characters like Jimmy Olsen, Black Adam, and Wally West, writer Tom Taylor and artist Marco Failla splits their focus between new Suicide Squad members the Aerie and Wink, as well as some interstitial content starring Superman and Damian Wayne. When this team is on, they're definitely on, but the narrative here definitely feels hit-or-miss.
What works in this particular installment is Taylor's attention to emotion and relationships between his characters. It shows why he’s the kind of writer who works well at the Big Two, being able to mine continuity and history to hit readers right in the heartstrings — moments like the blue-collar-raised Superman giving Alfred a break by bringing him tea, or the usually prickly Damian Wayne asking Clark if he's all right, since Damian's not the only person who's lost a father to the Anti-Life Equation. While we already know where this scene winds up — with Damian donning the cape and cowl as the new pre-teenage Batman — you can't help but feel for these characters, especially since DCeased fans already know what happens next.
The problem is, Taylor knows that relying just on Damian and Clark is retreading well-trod ground from the original DCeased series… but the other story he brings to the table doesn't quite play to his strengths. One might argue that introducing his brand-new Suicide Squad characters The Aerie and Wink might be a touch self-indulgent, but I'd say that's not the point here — beyond the fake-out convenience of Wink being able to teleport them out of danger, I'd argue that these characters are so brand-new that their relationships and actions don't carry the same weight as seeing heroes with decades of wins under their belts suddenly find themselves facing a threat they can’t hope to stop.
I'd also say that of the artists who have worked on the book thus far, Failla does solid work, but isn't given much of an opportunity to strut his stuff. Unlike Dustin Nguyen, who was able to shift gears between clean superhero work and the almost abstract horror of the Anti-Life Infected, Taylor's script is almost primarily superheroes with only limited amounts of action — it's very traditional for the genre, but for a story that's at its most exciting when it veers away from standard superhero convention. And to be honest, the few times we do see Failla tackle the Infected, it almost feels like a tactical choice — Failla's cartoony style doesn’t lend itself well to the horror of a ravenous Black Adam, while a horde of Infected feel too sketchy to instill fear.
As someone who's been generally enjoying the previous installments of DCeased: Hope at World's End, it stands to reason that even a series as relentless as the Anti-Life Infected can’t keep its winning streak going on forever. While there's still some heart beating underneath this not-quite-zombified flesh, thanks to some mismatched storylines and some surprisingly tame artwork, this fourth installment is a mixed bag.