Injustice: Gods Among Us (Issues #1-6)
So recently I made a pretty surprising discovery: my local Library has a surprisingly large and impressive collection of Graphic Novels. Naturally, my response to this was to check out everything! One of the titles I borrowed during this frenzy was Injustice: Gods Among Us, written by Tom Taylor. This Graphic Novel’s narrative serves as the back story to and elaboration of the popular game that came out last year for various consoles, depicting all-out warfare that has erupted between the superheroes of the DC universe. While the trailer for the game makes it seem, well, a bit naff it does not do any amount of justice to this adaptation.
A brief synopsis of this serialisation (issues 1-6) goes something like this: Following a tragic accident perpetrated by a certain famous make-up wearing DC villain, Superman is racked with grief-driven insanity and has the kind of nervous breakdown one would expect from the indestructible super-hero. He decides that the only logical plan of action is to forcefully enforce peace on earth by becoming an omnipresent and ever-so-slightly fascist leader of the world…duh. This decision and the actions that ensue in the wake of it leaves the Justice League and other superheroes of the DC universe torn and in opposition with eachother. This divide makes not only for some pretty kick-ass fights that I think we’ve all dreamed of seeing (i.e Aquaman unleashing the Kraken….no I’m not kidding), along with some surprising and hilarious partnerships (in particular between DC’s favourite archer and Harley Quinn), but also for some really interesting moral and ethical discussions.
I personally think comics are always at their absolute best when they, their protagonists and – more often than not – antagonists force you to reflect on the real world while escaping from it. This particular comic is so interesting because it so easily could have been a drab counterpart to a game, almost like a handbook as many of these companion comics usually are; but instead became a beast in its own right.
Much as I loathe and resent the idea of the upcoming Batman vs Superman atrocity which is moving imminently closer to infecting our cinema screens and minds like a Jesse Eisenberg shaped brain tumour, the idea actually really works in this piece. However, this is not because it acts as a show of their brute forces colliding together in a showy way, but because it exposes the ideals which both define these superheroes and ultimately break them. For Superman it’s his Christian compassion which makes him oh-so-dreamy and heroic and defines him as the people of earth’s hero – but that ultimately drives him to destruction in the name of peace and chivalry, blurring his perception of violence and its role in peacekeeping completely. On the other side of the coin, Batman’s usual lone-wolf status and dark and brooding nature which defines him is tested when he rather surprisingly becomes the leader of the ‘good’ side.
What I particularly liked about this comic series is that it manages to be fast-paced and completely, mind-blowingly action packed while maintaining a steady and believable pacing. This is where I feel an awful lot of comics fall down and it may be that I’m actually really difficult to please, but there are very few comics that I had read that find the balance between meaningful and interesting story-telling and a narrative which is full of intrigue and action. The other thing I absolutely loved about these comics is that absolutely no-one is safe. Maybe my brain has been subliminally conditioned by too much Game of Thrones, but you’ve got to give it to any kind of story-telling medium that has the balls to unapologetically kill their main characters without warning.
A few reviewers have griped that the aesthetic of the comic and its scripting feel disjointed and wrong, but other than my issues with the characterisation of the Joker I would say that the clean, crisp yet dark and brooding style of this series is actually kind of genius. I didn’t find it jarring or juxtaposing at all; in fact I found it very natural. Though this series was originally created for digital distribution and thus were converted for us neanderthals who still indulge in these clunky printed things. I would, however, agree with the disenfranchised hoards that I was take out of the moment a bit by the flashy and at times ridiculous costumes in this version of the DC universe. I mean, while I’m sure we’re all accustomed to and are fans of the usual borderline-pornographic vision that is Wonder Woman, her – ahem – breastplate was beyond ridonculous in this imagining and gave me a good chuckle on her first appearance. However, overall the aesthetic feel of this series is artistically complex and pretty stunning.
That said, these are small gripes about an otherwise spectacular Graphic Novel. As an openly anti-Man of Steel individual, it was really refreshing to see him portrayed as the villain with all his drawbacks and flaws exposed, magnified and torn to shreds. This interesting character development isn’t just limited to the main man himself either, with the series exploring facets of many of DC’s heroes and heroines and the thin line between vigilante’s and the criminals they fight. Though it feels a bit forced, the comic also manages to address some contemporary political discourse in a scene where Catwoman and Batman urge the President to “do better”, but you can’t really begrudge them this small effort at activism.
In short; the characters are well-thought-out; the story is well-written and excellently paced; the artwork is intriguing, evocative and beautiful to look at; the morality of the story is strong and regularly reinforced without being too intrusive on the fun of it all; and above all it completely exceeds expectations as far as a video game prequel comic goes.