Comic Book Review: DC Universe: Last Will and Testament

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament is a one-shot Final Crisis tie-in issue. It is brought to us by Brad Meltzer. Since I dig most of Meltzer’s work and I am enjoying Final Crisis, I figured that it would be worth my while to give this one-shot a try. This issue is supposed to deal with various characters across the DCU as they prepare for what they believe is going to be the end of the world given the events that we have gotten over on Final Crisis. Hopefully, this issue offers the reader some substance rather than just a flimsy big event tie-in issue designed to bilk readers of their money. Let’s go ahead and do this review for DC Universe: Last Will and Testament.

Creative Team
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Joe Kubert & John Dell

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Geo-Force demonstrating his new powers to Black Lightning. Brion states that he can no longer be hurt or feel pain. Brion harmlessly passes his hand through the flame of a candle that is burning on Jeff’s table. Brion thinks how his name in his native tongue means “Superman.” Brion states that he has made his preparations for today which will be the last day of his life.

Brion informs Jeff that he is going to track down Deathstroke the Terminator and kill him as revenge for Deathstroke killing Brion’s sister, Terra. Brion reveals to Jeff how he has been manifesting his sister’s powers. That somehow Deathstroke is behind this strangeness with Brion’s powers.

Brion narrates how the entire world believes that the end of the world is going to happen tomorrow. Evidently, all electricity and technology has ceased to function. The entire world is in a state of blackout. And the sun has not risen for two days. Brion thinks about the other times that they thought the world was going to end, but unlike the first Crisis, there are no shadow demons or anything to punch.

Jeff attempts to urge his friend to stay here with him and his wife and children and have dinner. That if the world is going to end tomorrow then better to spend it with friends and family rather than trying to engage in a pointless fist fight with Deathstroke. Plus, Jeff points out that Deathstroke cannot be beaten.

Brion spits that the JLA promised to hunt down Deathstroke. That Batman and the Outsiders promised to hunt down Deathstroke. That the heroes attempted to capture Slade at Dinah and Oliver’s wedding and failed. Brion points out the fact that Slade is still free and has not paid for his crimes.

Brion points out that Slade framed Jeff for murder. Brion asks for Jeff’s help and states that if Judgment Day is tomorrow then isn’t it time for evil to be punished?

We cut to Wonder Woman and Donna Troy arriving at Valhalla. Diana talks about how the ancient Greek soldiers would bury some of their personal possessions at the graves of their loved ones before going into battle. The purpose was to give the soldiers an incentive to come back from battle alive in order to reclaim their possessions.

Diana states that the soldiers usually buried coins. Diana then buries a few coins at the Crimson Fox’s grave. Donna then takes off her wedding ring and buries it. Diana mentions that it is about time that Donna let go of her husband and move on. Donna retorts that she knows that her husband is out there and that is what is driving her to fight on.

We hop back to Brion and Jeff still discussing Brion’s plan to go get Deathstroke. Jeff tells Brion that Deathstroke will kill him. That nobody fights like Deathstroke. Brion agrees that Deathstroke always wins because he studies the heroes and uses their weaknesses against them.

Brion then states that he has studied Deathstroke and has found a weakness in his son Jericho. To be specific, the night that Jericho lost his voice. That Deathstroke actually missed that night and that is how Jericho got his throat slit and lost his voice. Brion says that Slade’s son is his weak spot and that is how they will defeat him.

Jeff asks Brion if he plans on capturing Slade or killing Slade. Brion states that Slade has cost him his family and is now messing with Brion’s powers. Brion asks Jeff to help him do what is right.

We slide over to Gotham City with Starfire arriving at the tombstone of Dick Grayson’s parents. Kory figures that Dick would come here to be with his parents on the night before the world ends. Kory simply wants to be with Dick since tonight is a time to be with loved ones. Kory waits for a couple of hours and Dick never shows up.

We shift to elsewhere in Gotham City where Batman and Robin are getting ready to swoop down from a tall building into another building to bust up some criminals. Tim thinks how this is his favorite part of being Robin and working with Batman. Not the costumes, the wonderful toys or the car. That it is the rush he gets with that single fearless leap that they take before battle.

Tim asks Batman if they are going to go top speed and straight in. Batman says yes. Tim thinks how Dick always made Tim feel welcome and how Batman, after what happened with Jason, did his best to treat Tim like his own son.

Suddenly, Nightwing appears on the scene and asks Batman and Robin if there is room for one more. Batman mentions that he figured Dick would be with his parents tonight. Dick responds that he is exactly where he wants to be. Batman gets a small smile.

Tim thinks how that even with all of Bruce’s careful and methodical attention– to any younger child the first born is still the first born.

Nightwing then asks Batman if they are going to go top speed and straight in. Batman responds “Why mess with what works?” The three heroes then swoop down toward the criminals. Tim thinks “That’s where I see it…the first hint of his conversation.”

We slide over to a makeshift Church where Rocky Davis from the Challengers of the Unknown is acting as a priest. Evidently, cheating death has given Rocky a sense of religion. Rocky is sitting in a confessional booth.

Grace enters into the booth and asks for guidance. Grace stares at a bible sitting in front of her. Rocky tells her that it does not matter what religion Grace believes in. That Rocky is here to listen to her.

Grace comments how her teammates either expect her to spend this night before the world ends out slutting around with her girlfriend or drinking herself stupid or a combination of both. Rocky responds that despite those expectations that Grace is here instead.

Grace opens the bible and sees that it belongs to Gar Logan. Rocky then says that it does not matter what people think of her or expect from her. Rocky states that Grace wraps herself in tattoos and piercings and calls herself “Grace” instead of a super hero name just to prove that she can give the big middle finger to the world’s expectations.

Rocky says that not everybody searches for family or God when the end of the world is coming. That some people simply search for themselves. Grace sits there silently. Finally, Grace says that Rocky is better at this than she thought he would be. Grace grabs the Bible and asks if she can go light some of the candles. You know, because she likes the scent of them. Rocky tells her to go light as many as she wants.

Grace leaves and then Geo-Force sits down in the confessional. Geo-Force asks Rocky if he is still a hero even if he wants to kill a man. Or does that make him one of the bad guys?

We shift to Captain Cold in a pawnshop to purchase some batteries for his cold gun. A young punk is in there making a big stink about a watch that his girlfriend pawned to the pawnshop owner earlier. The owner of the pawnshop says that the guy can pay for the watch if he wants it.

The punk snaps and whips out an angle “gun” and calls it an “Angle Man weapon.” Captain Cold sighs to himself and wonders if that is how he has sounded before when pulling off a heist. Captain Cold figures that this was a sign from God giving him a peak from the other side.

Captain Cold whips out his cold fun and freezes the punk. We see the police arrive on the scene and see a note on the frozen thug that says “From your friendly $#@&!’n Captain Cold.”

Captain Cold thinks how at the moment the rush he got from stopping a crime was the same as pulling off a crime. But, afterwards the big difference is that being a hero means you walk away with nothing. Captain Cold then asks who in the hell would want to live a life like that?

We cut back to Brion talking to Rocky in the confessional. Brion gets mad and his powers get uncontrollable and instinctively lash out and move the mountain that the Church is located on. Brion states that Deathstroke did this to him and his powers.

Rocky asks Brion to tell him about Slade. Brion says that Slade is a born and bred soldier. Rocky mentions that so was Brion’s father. That like Slade who put his own son, Jericho, at risk, Brion’s father conducted tests on Brion in hopes of creating a super hero for their country.

Rocky reminds Brion that he is talking about murder. That this is not like Diana and Maxwell Lord which was a tough spot where she had to make a tough choice. That Brion is plotting and planning murder.

We cut to Deathstroke the Terminator uncovering some cameras that Geo-Force had set up to track him. Slade says that he must go deal with Brion before he goes and sees his daughter, Ravager.

We see Brion walking out of the confessional. We then see Deathstroke arrive at the Church and ask Rocky if he talked with Geo-Force. Rocky states that Geo-Force is even worse than Slade said he was. Rocky says that he does not rat on anyone. Rocky says that he took an Oath and if he stays quiet on this one then that is one more funeral they are having tomorrow.

We cut to Deathstroke in an alleyway calling out Brion stating that he knows Brion is following him. Brion suddenly appears on a rock high above Deathstroke. Deathstroke immediately throws something at Brion. Brion thinks that he avoided whatever it was, but then realizes that there are several syringes stuck in his upper thigh.

Suddenly, Brion’s powers begin to fluctuate and then they totally disappear. Slade reveals that some the mad scientists who worked on him fled to Markovia once their work on Slade got outlawed here in America. Slade says that they are able to temporarily repress Brion’s powers.

Brion then falls toward the ground. Deathstroke comments that Brion was stupid for picking a rooftop to meet Deathstroke instead of a place with rocks.

We hop over to Clark sitting on the porch swing with Pa Kent. Pa Kent comments that Clark always comes to him when he is scared that he will lose. Pa Kent says that Clark is worried that he is going to lose. Clark comments that Ma and Pa are getting older and that good things do not last forever.

Pa Kent tells Clark not to worry about him for one second. That Clark should worry about those who need it. Pa Kent then tells his son to go fight like hell. Clark answers “Yessir.”

We cut back to Brion falling to the ground. However, Brion picked this place for a reason. Brion lands in a trash dumpster that breaks his fall. Deathstroke suddenly realizes that this is the alley where Jericho had his throat slit.

Even without his powers, Brion refuses to give up. He thinks how his great-grandfather commanded Markovia’s brigade that kept the Nazis out of their country. And how his grandfather stared down Khrushchev and did the same with Mother Russia. Brion says that ever since he was a young boy that he trained with Markovia’s most decorated generals. That they were a small country and even then the lessons were clear: They survive because they prepare.

Brion spits out that this is the one place where Deathstroke actually lost. Deathstroke responds that after all the enemies he has made and the bodies that he has left behind that Brion is not the first person to try him with this.

Brion charges Deathstroke and Deathstroke throws both swords faster than the human eye can see. The swords impale Brion’s legs and pin him to the dumpster. Deathstroke says that this fight is over. Deathstroke says that he will not kill his best investment. Deathstroke says that Brion is no different from Tara.

Deathstroke continues that Brion got Tara’s powers and then suddenly displayed bursts of anger and sudden mood swings. Deathstroke says that it will only get worse. Brion screams that he will kill Deathstroke. Slade responds that if Brion is contemplating murder then they are well ahead of schedule.

Deathstroke says that the problem with Tara was that they waited too long and by then the psychosis was so bad that she tired to kill everyone. Brion says that Deathstroke cannot control him. Slade responds that it took a few years, but now they have got the formula reworked out. That it is like sliding a little more poison into each and every meal.

Brion mumbles that he is Prince Brion Markov. That nothing will change that. Slade continues that pretty soon paranoia will hit and you will start cutting yourself off from family and friends. We cut to a panel of Tim in the background watching Bruce and Dick shake hands.

Slade continues that they will just have to aim Brion at the right target. Slade says that Brion is so weak just like his sister, Tara. Slade says that he can help Brion be strong. Slade says that Brion is just a C-Lister like his sister, Elongated Man and the dead Blue Beetle. That in this day and age and in all of this darkness that Brion does not stand a chance.

Brion continues to repeat “I am Prince Brion Markov! There is nothing that will change that!” over and over throughout Slade’s big speech. Brian then manages to pull out one of Slade’s swords from his leg. Slade stands there looking at Brion as Bio flails the sword about helplessly as his other leg is still pinned to the dumpster. Slade says that Brion’s name does not translate as “Superman.” That Brion’s staff told him that to pad his ego. Slade says that he will help Brion change that.

Brion hangs there and thinks that Deathstroke is right that Brion is a C-list hero. And that Deathstroke is right about the evil inside of him and what it will ultimately do to his friends. But, that does not mean that Deathstroke gets to write Brion’s fate.

Brion thinks about a 1930 Walther, a rare gun, that his grandfather kept at his bedside table. And it was passed to Brion’s father and then Brion’s brother and then on to Brion. It had no instructions, but they knew what to do with it if anyone breached the castle walls and all was lost.

Brion thinks how the generals always told him that the power is not in the crown. The power is in you. Brion says that it was just cowardice. Just a way to hide their fear of admitting defeat by killing themselves instead. Brion lifts his head up and says “I’m sorry, Tara. I couldn’t beat him.” Brion then slits his own throat with the sword.

Deathstroke is stunned and says “No! This is my victory! You know how much I invested? You don’t get to take that from me!” Deathstroke grabs Brion and holds him close and yells that this is his not Brion’s to take.

Brion then thinks that all he feels and sees is blood. Then Brion sees his sister, Tara. Then Brion then sees unexpected opportunity. Brion then whispers “I still have your sword.” We pan back and see Brion gutting Deathstroke with his own sword. Deathstroke falls to the ground as blood pours out of his mouth and nose. Brion also falls to the ground with blood pouring out of his neck.

We then cut to Brion waking up in a hospital bed with Black Lightning and Dr. Mid-Nite hovering over him. Jeff explains that he did not think Brion had it in him, but that Brion beat Deathstroke. Jeff says that Deathstroke stabbed Brion’s legs and sliced his throat, but that Brion never gave up. Jeff says that he knew Brion was no murderer. Jeff says that Brion just beat Deathstroke. Jeff smiles and says that Brion is a hero.

We slide over to Wally West hugging Linda. Linda does not want Wally to fight in this new crisis because they now have kids. Wally responds that he has to go fight and save people. Wally says that he will be okay.

We cut to Commissioner Gordon hugging Barbara Gordon. Barbara says she will be okay. We see Wildcat hugging Wildcat version 2.0 with the son saying that he will be okay. We then cut to Hourman and Liberty Belle having sex.

We shift back to Wally meeting with Hal Jordan. Wally says that he told Linda he would be okay. Wally says that Clark says this is the end of the world. Wally asks Hal what he thinks. Hal responds that this is life. Hal says that he will see Wally tomorrow.

The Good: DC Universe: Last Will and Testament was a great read. Meltzer serves up a wonderfully crafted issue. This issue is strongly plotted as Meltzer is able to effectively use the night before “Judgment Day” as the spine for the various unrelated plotlines. This enables DC Universe: Last Will and Testament to have a pleasant flow and make it a cohesive read despite the fact that the various plotlines have nothing to do with each other.

The real magic of DC Universe: Last Will and Testament is the incredible dialogue and character work. Meltzer’s strength is his excellent narration and his impressive ability to develop three dimensional characters. The dialogue has a wonderful flow and each character has a nicely developed external flow.

Meltzer has a strong feel for the personalities of each character which enables him to deliver nicely fleshed out characters. The strong dialogue and character work allows Meltzer to create some fantastic chemistry between the various characters. Meltzer is able to perfectly nail the personal relationships between the various characters.

Meltzer is able to make the various characters come across as real people who possess emotions that are absolutely palpable. The strong emotions that Meltzer is able to cultivate on this issue are also one of this issue’s greatest strengths. Meltzer is able to convey intense emotions and a sense of drama without ever going over the edge and descending into the arena of complete overwrought melodrama. Certain writers could take notes on how Meltzer is able to properly handle the dramatic element in a story.

I enjoyed the scene with Diana and Donna. It effectively reaffirmed the fact that these two characters are warriors first and not your traditional super heroes. Still, I felt just a little bit lost. Beyond lusting after Donna when she was Wonder Girl and drawn by George Perez, I have no connection at all with either character and I have limited knowledge of their histories. I am not too sure if Donna’s wedding ring is from when she was married to Terry Long. I was under the impression that Terry was dead.

I liked the scene with Grace and Rocky. I have never been much of a fan of Grace, but Meltzer managed me to like her character a little bit more than I did before. Meltzer adds a dash of depth to a character that I have always viewed as rather one dimensional.

I liked how Meltzer points out that at the end of the world, some people search for family while other search for God. And then you have the ones like Grace who search for themselves. I liked the touch of Grace leaving the confessional booth hugging the Bible and then going to light some candles under the excuse of her liking the smell they make.

I enjoyed the use of Rocky as a “priest.” Meltzer’s logic is that as a member of the Challengers of the Unkown that Rocky has cheated death and it follows that such a person might develop a sense of religion.

However, my favorite scene was the one with Batman and his two sons: Dick and Tim. Meltzer did a fantastic job handling the complex relationship that exists between the father and his two sons. There is always some sibling rivalry even in families that are loving and healthy. And the baby of the family always feels like the firstborn is valued more by the father. And on the flipside, the firstborn always feels that the baby of the family gets spoiled more and gets away with more.

Meltzer does a nice job showing the subtle way that Bruce reacts to Dick spending the night before “Judgment Day” by his side. The reader can tell that Bruce has done his best to treat Tim like his real son. But, Bruce has done it out of a sense of commitment in order to make up with what happened with Jason Todd and because of Tim losing his own father. Meltzer shows the reader that there is that unspoken and subtle connection between Bruce and Dick. There is that chemistry that only exists between the two of them. And in the end, in Bruce’s eyes, Dick is probably the heir to the throne and not Tim.

I loved that Dick spent the night before “Judgment Day” with Bruce and Tim and at the graveyard by his parents’ graves. This reinforces the fact that Dick’s family is Bruce and Tim and that at some point a person has to start living for those loved ones who are still alive rather than clinging to the past.

The scene with Batman and his sons was nicely contrasted with Kory waiting at the graveyard for Dick to appear. Kory thinks how this is the time to be with loved ones and that Kory instinctively wants to be with Dick. However, the fact is that despite all the various differences, Dick is still a lot like Bruce and Dick’s personal relationships have not always been that healthy.

Despite these other small scenes, the main plotline that dominates DC Universe: Last Will and Testament is the plotline involving Brion. I have always liked Geo-Force and it was fantastic to see Brion taking center stage in this issue. Meltzer did a wonderful job with Brion who is a complete C-list character. Meltzer pulls off some incredible character work and treats the reader to possibly the most intriguing and complex version of Geo-Force that we have ever seen.

Meltzer does an excellent job conveying Brion’s emotions to the reader. We get a strong feel for Brion’s visceral anger and hate. The reader is able to get a great sense for the turmoil that is raging inside of Brion’s spirit.

Meltzer finally gets the opportunity to finish off the dangling plotline concerning Brion’s powers that he introduced during his run on the Justice League of America. Yeah, we had to wait a while for this resolution, but it was well worth it. I loved the sickening realization that sets upon Brion as he realizes that Deathstroke is behind Brion suddenly getting Terra’s powers and the sudden spike in Brion’s hostile attitude.

It was pretty cool seeing Deathstroke working his mind mojo on Brion much like he did with Tara. It was typical Deathstroke to replace one pawn with another. Tara was a failed experiment so Deathstroke tried again with Brion.

The fight scene between Deathstroke and Geo-Force was insane. Without his powers, Brion was painfully outclassed. And Deathstroke toyed with Brion like a spider does with a fly trapped in the spider’s web. The best part of the fight was when Deathstroke threw his two swords through Brion’s leg and skewering him to the dumpster.

Deathstroke then attempts to manipulate Brion’s mind and get Brion to give into his urges and follow Deathstroke. Meltzer gives Brion tons of heart, determination and balls as Brion refuses to let Deathstroke manipulate his mind as Brion keeps repeating who he is.

Then came the crescendo as Brion does what I never thought he would which was slit his own throat in an attempt to kill himself and, thereby, deny Deathstroke of his prized possession. After loosing Tara, Deathstroke could not handle defeat once again. With this move Meltzer showed the reader that Brion would choose death over being a villainous tool of destruction to be used by Deathstroke.

With this action, Brion unexpectedly realizes Deathstroke’s weakness: losing another powerful weapon in Brion like he did with Tara. As Deathstroke held Brion close and cursed at the possibility of losing his investment, Meltzer delivers the final stunning blow of this battle as Brion seizes the opportunity and uses Deathstroke’s own sword and stabs Deathstroke through the gut. My jaw was on the ground. That was one hell of an ending to an incredibly dramatic and intense fight scene.

The scene with Brion being tended to by Jeff and Dr. Mid-Nite was fantastic. Black Lightning goes on and on about how Brion never gave up even after Deathstroke impaled his legs and slashes his throat. That Brion was no murderer and that Brion is a hero. I loved how Brion laid there listening to all this and knowing in his heart that his friends was completely wrong. Brion did give up. Brion did try to kill Deathstroke. And that Brion may end up becoming a villain. Meltzer managed to get me to care more about Geo-Force than ever before. I am interested to see what happens next with Geo-Force.

The use of Geo-Force in this issue is a prefect example of how to use a big event like Final Crisis as a means to elevate C-list character up to a higher level. After this issue, Geo-Force becomes a much more interesting character and certainly one that has more credibility than before.

Adam and Joe Kubert offer up plenty of serviceable artwork in this issue. Personally, I have never been a fan of either Adam or Joe Kubert’s style of artwork. However, I would imagine that most readers will enjoy the artwork in this issue.

The Bad: DC Universe: Last Will and Testament is a slow read. There is tons of narration that dominates this issue. If you prefer fast paced issues that have plenty of action then you will probably get bored with this issue.

This issue also focuses mainly on Geo-Force. If you have zero interest in Brion’s character then the chances of you enjoying this issue will probably be slim.

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament is also not a new reader friendly issue. Meltzer expect the reader to have a solid command of DC continuity for several readers. Now, that is not to say that a newer reader cannot enjoy this issue. But, some newer readers might be turned off or feel a bit lost due to their lack of knowledge of DC’s history.

Overall: I thoroughly enjoyed DC Universe: Last Will and Testament. Of course, it should be noted that I like Meltzer’s style of writing and enjoyed his run on Justice League of America. Meltzer delivers a deep story that is intense, well crafted and has incredible character work.

Meltzer managed to get me completely engrossed into his story. I think that most readers who enjoy stories with plenty of substance will like DC Universe: Last Will and Testament. However, readers who like a faster pace and get bored with Meltzer’s lengthy narration would probably be better served to avoid this issue.

1 thought on “Comic Book Review: DC Universe: Last Will and Testament

  1. I have absolutely no idea where this is supposed to fit in continuity of Final Crisis; like 90% of the featured big guns are supposed to be somewhere else; Batman is captured, Wally ran into the future, Diana got turned into a beast-thing, Hal is under arrest for murder…

    If you ignore that, the individual character moments mainly work.

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