What would happen if our world were ruled by the iron fist of the Man of Steel?
When the most compassionate and incorruptible superhero becomes corrupted, whom would we turn to?
More importantly, who could stop him?
Such is the premise of “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” a digital-first ongoing comic book series that ties in with NetherRealm Studios’ recently released video game of the same name.
While it is easy to simply write comic book tie-ins based on video games off as cheap cash-ins, it would be a true injustice to pass this one up. The book might be a tie-in, but it stands alone as an exceptional reading experience in its own right with its fascinating (if not wholly original) premise.
Taking place five years prior to the game’s events, “Injustice” sets the narrative wheels in motion for Superman’s inevitable ascension to autonomous rule.
As comic book readers throughout the past few decades can attest, comic books that deal with the role of superheroes in society are nothing new. Moreover, this is hardly the first time that Superman and Batman have come to blows.
Instead, what ultimately separates “Injustice” from its predecessors is writer Tom Taylor’s portrayal of Superman. In the 14-issue run thus far, the Last Son of Krypton never once succumbs to the role as a clear-cut villain or even that of the tortured anti-hero, but rather as a man who has truly reached the end of his rope.
A change in character of epic proportions deserves a catalyst of equal measure, and readers are certainly given one within the opening chapters of “Injustice.”
In the interest of preserving the surprise, it suffices to say that the antics of a certain Clown Prince of Crime causes Superman to lose something irreplaceable in the most heartbreaking way imaginable.
When Superman responds, the Justice League is split in the ensuing fallout into either one of two camps—those that agree with his methods and everyone else.
One of the consistent strengths of the book is Taylor’s strong writing, particularly in scenes involving Batman and Superman together.
He has a fundamental understanding of the duo’s chemistry, and their interactions alone are often gripping enough to carry an entire issue.
Despite the great potential for earth-shattering action sequences—and there is plenty of that, oftentimes quite literally—this is largely a dialog-driven affair.
As writers of alternate universes are often wont to do, Taylor takes every liberty possible to subvert what readers think they know about the DC Universe.
Unlikely interactions between characters lead to moments of gold, such as Green Arrow’s conversation with Harley Quinn about the name of his lair (yes, Green Arrow has a lair). In light of relatively dark subject matter, there’s plenty of humor peppered liberally throughout the first 14 issues.
The digital format does the book quite a few favors as well, not least of which being the enticing price point of 99 cents per issue. Considering readers receive more than 20 pages of content (albeit smaller pages fit for digital viewing) on a weekly basis, it is somewhat difficult to walk away from a purchase without feeling like a thief.
The weekly release schedule does have its drawbacks, though. No artist alive can draw an entire issue each week, and so DC has appropriately enlisted the aid of multiple rotating artists throughout each story arc.
While Mike S. Miller, Bruno Redondo, David Yardin, Tom Derenick and especially Jheremy Raapack do a decent job, the sudden changes in art duties disrupt the reading experience to a certain extent.
But ultimately, the enjoyment readers receive from “Injustice” is largely dependent upon their capacity to buy into Superman’s newfound rationale.
As the shining beacon for humanity, it’s more than a little tough to accept what the Big Blue Boy Scout has become.
And, with potential plans in place to continue the series well beyond the video game’s release, things might get much worse before they get better.
Pick up “Injustice: Gods Among Us” digitally via Comixology and grab the first issue free for a limited time.