There are many instances of where video game universes are continued as comic books. I’ve heard only good things from things like The Last of Us’s “American Dreams” and there are plenty of Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and Mass Effect ones that I know people enjoy. Today I’m giving a special shout out to Injustice: Gods Among Us. Here’s a comic book that’s based on a fighting video game that’s based on comic book characters who often fight each other. How weird was that?
This article isn’t as much about the video game itself (which is free for Playstation Plus members this December), but rather a comic book that acts as the prequel to the events of one of the game’s timelines. DC and comic books in general often operate in alternate realities and the basis of this comic book follows Superman’s descent into becoming the world’s dictator. The DC universe prides Superman as being incorruptible. But what happens when the Joker tricks him into murdering his own pregnant wife?
This is how the comic book starts out. The initial story is lightly treaded on in the video game itself, but the game jumps ahead FIVE years after this event. In the game all we learn is that Superman has established a dictatorship of the world under the guise of maintaining peace. There is an underground war against Batman and his thin alliance of other insurgents. But how did this happen? How did the heroes line up on each side? What happened to certain heroes and villains? The comic book promises to cover all of these and more, making an entertaining and shockingly dark romp.
I’ve picked up only Year 1: Vol. 1 of Injustice. I’m very excited to read Vol. 2 this January. Here’s a review.
Superman’s Descent Into Madness Wasn’t Abrupt
After the Joker makes Superman kill his wife and unborn child, the rest of the superhero universe is on edge. They don’t know what to make of how Superman will react and a lot of them maintain that his incorruptible nature will get him through it. Remember that Superman is idolized as being the most humanistic hero of them all, despite having the powers of a god. And an event like this doesn’t completely set Superman over the edge. He grieves, he gets his revenge (by killing the Joker, execution style), and notes that he would like to change the world. The rest of the Justice League sees his logic and reasoning. Superman’s leadership hasn’t led them astray before. So heavy hitters like the Flash, Green Lantern, Shazam, and Wonder Woman are all on his side when he issues a Justice League enforced ceasefire across the world.
But people like Batman can see that Superman isn’t all right in the head and that he is going down a dangerous path. He’s not alone, other more grounded heroes like Green Arrow and Aquaman see that this type of interference can cause problems and that they aren’t simply solved by muscling in. They don’t blame Superman directly, knowing his loss is profoundly affecting him, but they become wary and don’t immediately fall in line. This sets the premise of Superman’s regime vs. Batman’s insurgency
Exploring the Concept of Why Heroes Don’t Kill
Superman raises the question why Batman wouldn’t kill the Joker and save millions of potential lives. It’s a commonly asked question in comic book lore as to why characters don’t kill each other. The economic answer is that you don’t kill bankable characters, unless you plan on reviving them later. The lore-based answer in the comics talks about how beings of powers can affect society. That being said, heroes aren’t executioners. Most of the the members of the Justice League have killed, but mostly out of self defense. If they have intent to kill or execute a man in custody, they become sheriff’s jury, judges, and executioners. And when you can’t say no to someone like that, how can you truly feel safe? It is commonly reiterated that someone in Superman’s position should remain incorruptible. It’s why his judgement is so highly regarded. His sheer power is meant to be absolutely horrifying if put in the wrong hands.
So when Superman is willing to execute someone, even as excessively awful as the Joker, a keen observer like Batman sees how something like this could possibly scale to dangerous levels.
Harley Quinn Keeps it Hilarious
It’s easy to recognize my love of Harley Quinn. She’s written as a fire cracker in this book, slightly torn up by Joker’s death but still maintaining her plucky (and slightly psychotic) attitude. In a book full of dark moments and violence, Harley works as solid comic relief. And eye candy. Definitely eye candy.
The Moments of Sheer Badassery on All Sides
This comic book has so much action. Just like in the video game, heroes and villains are already pitted against each other. Aquaman summoning his army of sea allies, the Justice League fighting inside Arkham Asylum, and Superman enforcing his ceasefire with an iron fist are all incredibly badass. A highlight here is how Superman and Co. deal with an Atlantis uprising. Apart from the action, there are some very excellent one liners, with shout outs to Alfred, the Joker, and of course Batman. Overall this is a very entertaining read if you’re looking for ace writing and gorgeous action.
Interhero Relationships Hit You in the Feels
Joker and Batman’s relationship was a highlight here. The excerpt I included above really hit home when it comes to how good of a super villain the Joker is. The next frame follows Joker’s “and it was so easy”. His death by Superman’s hand is the exact result he wanted. And realizing that is devastating.
The idea of Batman and Superman being ‘best friends’ is so much fun. Seeing as their personalities and methodologies are near opposites, it’s great seeing these two regard each other as trusted friends. Batman was one of the first (if not the first) person to find out Lois Lane was pregnant with his child and was then asked to be the Godfather. So when a couple of pages later, Batman throws a punch at Superman’s face, only to fracture his hand and have them have a heated argument over their life decisions and actions, it’s almost crushing.
Even after Aquaman and Superman have a heated agreement that had to be settled with violence, he still relays his condolences to Superman’s loss through a messenger. And when that messenger purposefully omits that message in order to manipulate Superman, it’s infuriating.
I can go on and on, Catwoman and Batman’s relationship, Wonder Woman and Superman’s relationship, Green Arrow’s philosophy, The Flash’s internal moral conflict. There are a lot of great character moments here.
People Die…and It Sucks
Each paragraph in the last section ended along the lines of tragedy whether it be in the story or how you feel. This comic was really good at evoking emotions from the reader. And emotions are best pulled during times of loss. A lot of people die in this series. And if you’ve played the game, you know that many more will eventually die. And that doesn’t include the many other characters in the DC universe that aren’t accounted for in the game. I’ve heard that many others ranging from Constantine to Black Canary to Huntress all make appearances. Why don’t they show up in the final game? Do we have to assume the worst?
Overall I absolutely love Injustice Gods Among Us. This comic book is like reading Justice League, but with all bets off. The sense of urgency, not being afraid to kill main characters, and the tragedy make this a very good story. Please check it out if you haven’t already.