For some reason or another, comic book tie-ins and adaptations to video games get a bad reputation. Although I can’t speak from personal experience, more often than not I hear thru word of mouth how various comic book tie-ins fail to live up to the video games that are their source materials.
Actually, now I can speak from personal experience. Because I have read Injustice: Gods Among Us, and it is excellent!!
For those of you who don’t know, Injustice: Gods Among Us was a smash-hit video game that was released in the Spring of 2013. Produced by NetherRealm Studios, the makers of Mortal Kombat, it was a fighting game that pitted the most famous heroes and villains of DC Comics in an all-out brawl. It was basically Mortal Kombat with super-heroes (not to be confused with 2008’s Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which henceforth will never be mentioned again!!)
The storyline within the game takes place in an alternate reality, where Superman and like-minded members of the Justice League have taken over and established a new world order, a One Earth Regime under the Man of Steel’s absolute rule as High Councilor. Meanwhile, Batman leads an Insurgency of super-heroes and reformed super-villains who oppose Superman’s tyranny. The heroes of the mainstream universe eventually cross over into this universe, in which they assist the Insurgency in their fight to end the Regime’s oppression.
The comic book offers up a rich backstory, functioning as a prequel to the events of the game and answering many of the lingering questions that arose throughout the game. It details the tragic events that led to Superman’s downfall and rise to power, how his actions have shattered his friendship with Batman, and how the members of the Justice League has been fractured and turned against each-other over their opposing ideals.
Injustice transcends the usual trope of poor comic book tie-ins to video games, mainly because it is pulling its content straight from the DC Universe, a franchise that has over 75 years worth of rich history and unique characters. Needless to say, the comic books have been around long before the video game. This means that the readers are generally already familiar with the characters. Even if you haven’t played the game, this book stands alone as a perfectly self-contained story. In fact, the comic book even transcends the very video game it ties into. While the video game tries to sugar-coat the darker aspects of the Injustice universe by introducing a multiverse crossover sub-plot, the comic book makes no apologies about the direction of its story.
Superman is ultimately cast as the main antagonist in Injustice. Considering that he’s generally supposed to be a symbol of hope, it can be pretty disheartening for fans to watch their hero fall from grace. After all, the Man of Steel is supposed to be a symbol of hope, not oppression. It helps that this is an alternate version of Superman. That being said, he is initially depicted as a sympathetic villain. The story goes through great lengths to methodically chronicle his descent into darkness. He doesn’t turn evil overnight, and the reasons behind his fall are compelling. The tragedies he suffers are enough to push anyone over the edge, even a Superman.
If Superman is going to play the villain, it only stands to reason that Batman will step up as the main hero. With the Man of Steel ruling the Empire, the Dark Knight is the only logical choice to lead the Rebellion. Thankfully, he is not depicted as an infallible paragon of virtue. Like Superman, Batman is not immune to the events that have shaped the Injustice universe. As fantastic a character that Batman can be, he works best when showcased as a flawed and vulnerable human being. He struggles with his inner-demons, he has difficulties trusting his allies, and he has a hard time coping with the tragedies that befall him in this storyline.
Ultimately, Injustice is about how the bonds between the members of the Justice League begin to fall apart. Not just between Superman and Batman, but between the other members who choose to either side with or against them. How will Wonder Woman, a goodwill ambassador for peace, respond to Superman`s bid for world domination? How will Aquaman, the King of Atlantis, maintain control of his kingdom? How does Green Lantern, a member of an intergalactic police force, justify his actions to the Guardians of the Universe? How does Shazam, a twelve-year old boy, consolidate the Wisdom of Solomon with the world changing around him?
Injustice also features a variety of different heroes and villains that do not necessarily make official appearances in the titular video game. Among the heroes and villains that show up in the Injustice universe are Black Canary, Captain Atom, John Constantine, Darkseid, Doctor Fate, the Huntress, Scarecrow, the Spectre, etc. This story allows the readers to see how other minor characters play into the unfolding events, rather than just the characters you get to play as in the game.
Tom Taylor is at the helm of this series, playing in a vast and familiar playground, with all the cheats turned on. The most compelling thing about Injustice is that it’s not following the mainstream continuity of the DC Universe, which means that it isn’t bound by the shackles of the status quo. Its story can take directions mainstream comic books can’t. Each issue ends with shocking twists and surprising cliff-hanger that keep getting more and more intense.
The first chapter of Injustice: Gods Among Us begins with two trade paperback volumes, which chronicles the first year of Superman’s Regime. However, it doesn’t stop there. The series is still continuing with the recently-finished Injustice: Year Two, in which Superman and his allies must confront an all-out war between the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps, a police uprising in Gotham City, and a Black Canary on a roaring rampage of revenge against the Man of Steel. This is followed by the currently-ongoing Injustice: Year Three, in which Batman joins forces with John Constantine and the forces of Magic in an effort to overthrow Superman.
If you’re a fan of the video game and you want to see how it all started, or if you want to see a dark and gritty version of the DC Universe without the prerequisite status quo, then this comic book series is for you.