As we wait an announcement pertaining to the existence of NetherRealm Studios’ Injustice 3, we at least know that Warner Bros. is set to adapt the games into a DC animated movie.
Ever since its release in 2013, the Injustice franchise has not only become a staple of NetherRealm’s roster, but the comic spinoffs have made it a beloved part of the DC multiverse. The plot revolves around a reality where the Joker was able to mess with Superman so badly that the Man of Steel gradually became a mass-murdering dictator, with the support of several members of the Justice League. Left without any other option, Batman brought in counterparts of the Justice League from the “mainstream” universe to help him fight a civil war against his former friend. It was a story that merged the Justice Lords two-parter from the Justice League cartoon with Marvel’s original Squadron Supreme comic series.
A popular prequel series was released, mostly written by Tom Taylor, that explained the five years in-between Superman killing the Joker in cold blood and Batman’s last stand. Sometime later, the game’s story was adapted into the comic Injustice: Ground Zero. And the Injustice universe has only continued to grow since then.
As snazzy as NetherRealm’s story modes are, they are going to have to make some changes to the narrative for the animated movie. It’s not like every character is going to stumble into exactly four best-two-out-of-three fights in a row before someone else is the focus. Knowing that there will be alterations, some characters are really going to need some tender love and care.
Superman (Both of Them)
Injustice: Gods Among Us didn’t invent the idea of an evil Superman, but things are a bit over-saturated these days. Face it, “Dark Superman” has been done to death, what with Brightburn, The Boys, Invincible, and everything Zack Snyder intended with his Justice League movies.
It’s important that the animated movie really get into the WHY of what turned Superman evil instead of the Joker just getting a tragic win over him. The Injustice comic nudged him over and over again with multiple betrayals and manipulations before he finally snapped and angrily broke every bone in Green Arrow’s body. Hit all that, or at least enough of it.
More importantly, Injustice is a story of two different Supermen. The mainstream Superman has to ring true. He has to be the beacon of hope and positivity that pop culture has been missing for the past decade.
Ultimately, as long as they don’t do that minigame where Superman blows up cars and the people in them with his eye-lasers, we’re cool.
In this DC take of Marvel’s Civil War, Batman is by default the better person when compared to Superman. He has a line he won’t cross and that means no murder and no tyranny. That said, he still needs to be portrayed as a flawed hero. He may be competent, but he still behaves like a total douche at times and deserves to take one to the chin every now and then.
Being a paranoid futurist who buries himself in contingency plans means alienating allies, friends, and even family members. There’s a great moment in the Injustice comic where he reveals that he infected Cyborg with a virus within a week of meeting (you know, just in case), which Killer Croc says is outright sinister. It’s this kind of behavior that led to Superman’s fall to darkness, because even if Bruce wasn’t behind any of the horrors, he still chose coldness and paranoia over being there for a friend who was going through some serious shit.
A hype trailer for Harley painted her as a major protagonist in the first game but the game’s story mode just didn’t measure up. The comics did a better job and the Ground Zero volume was specifically about telling the game’s story from Harley’s perspective. I’m not saying that she should be joined by her team of BFF henchmen from Ground Zero, but she should definitely be a prominent hero.
Similar to the Mark Waid comic series Irredeemable and Incorruptible (also about an evil take on Superman), Harley’s turn to heroism is the universe’s response to Superman’s actions. She’s done some horrible things and may never make up for her actions under the Joker’s thumb, but she’ll keep fighting to stop Superman’s atrocities.
While Batman did a bad job trying to pull Superman from the darkness, Wonder Woman succeeded in pushing him in. It’s noted here and there, but this Wonder Woman was also altered by tragedy. In this timeline, Steve Trevor turned out to be a Nazi traitor. His betrayal left Diana feeling much less optimistic and hopeful than her mainstream self.
Wonder Woman’s villainy isn’t as pronounced as Superman’s, but she’s definitely the friendly face who eggs him on and wants him to stand over all mankind. As Superman uses her to fill the void left from Lois Lane’s death, the power couple become very good at bringing out the worst in each other.
The Injustice game did Damian a little dirty, revealing deep into the story that the Nightwing fighting on Superman’s side was not Dick Grayson, but Damian. According to Batman, Damian murdered Dick. The comics dove deeper into that and made it more of a freak accident brought on by Damian being an impulsive and angry child. Still, Bruce and his son were unable to make amends due to their shared lack of warmth.
Later stories, and even Injustice 2, added more depth to Damian. It always made sense that he’d join Superman’s Regime, but there was a soul in there who would eventually see that this wasn’t the right path. In the comic Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe, which was treated as a sequel to Injustice 2’s dark ending, Damian took up the mantle of Batman to oppose Superman and even grew a long-missing sense of humor in the process.
The great tragedy of the DC multiverse is that Superman and Lex Luthor just can’t get along. They will always be at odds no matter what Earth they come from. The Injustice universe was the one exception, as Luthor was portrayed as fairly warm and altruistic. Much like Batman, he has contingency plans up the wazoo, but they don’t come off as creepy.
Seeing him there as Superman’s longtime friend who sadly has to stab him in the back brings back that multiversal truth about the duo. Just because this is a world where Superman kills and things get very bleak doesn’t mean it’s the worst world and that it isn’t worth saving. The mainstream Cyborg is reluctant to come to terms with this heroic Luthor, but he ultimately accepts the miracle that this universe created a Luthor worth befriending and even looking up to.
Maybe it’s just me, but I was never a fan of how Geoff Johns retconned Hal’s past and gave him deniability for everything he did as Parallax. I liked that a boring hero dude like Hal snapped, did some bad stuff, and then had to accept his failures in an attempt to be better. With Injustice, they gave us that exact Hal.
Overflowing with willpower and being an otherwise competent space cop, Hal is still something of a dunce at times, and he’s susceptible to manipulation in the right situation. He’s already following Superman’s lead, but having Sinestro pop in to indoctrinate him into the Sinestro Corps makes him actually interesting. Let Hal be the worst version of himself here so he can double back on it in the sequel and beg Guy Gardner’s ghost for forgiveness.
Injustice may be the B-side to Mortal Kombat, but the game itself is fairly tame on the violence. Joker’s death isn’t actually shown on screen, Luthor’s end is fairly clean, and Grodd taking a trident to the torso is relatively tame.
But what we absolutely, positively have to see in the animated movie is Shazam’s death scene to really give an idea of how far gone Superman is. It’s bloodless from our point of view, but it’s grisly as hell and made worse when you remember that Shazam is a literal child under all the mystical power.
The Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl was one of the first DLC characters added to Injustice, but it’s unfortunate that she’s not in the main story mode — something the animated movie could fix by giving her a more prominent role in the fight against the Regime. Her ending gives her a kickass backstory where she returns to the cowl after her father dies at Superman’s hands. The comics go deeper into this, even making it so that Superman doesn’t directly kill Commissioner Gordon.
In this continuity, she was already wheelchair-bound as Oracle. She had to go under a very dangerous procedure under Luthor’s care in order to walk again. This is one of the storylines that could make for a captivating arc in the movie.
Alfred isn’t in either Injustice game. He’s already dead by the start of the first game. But I don’t care. Alfred needs to be in the animated movie because he is the heart and soul of the Injustice comics. While others bow to Superman, follow him, or even try to reason with him, Alfred Pennyworth doesn’t play those games. He will straight-up verbally clown Superman for his actions without flinching. He is not afraid of the Kryptonian, no matter how red his glowing eyes get.
This comes to a head in the comics when Alfred takes a pill that gives him Kryptonian strength and he kicks the absolute shit out of Superman for ruining his family. I know I’m asking for a lot, but I simply need to see Alfred stomp a mudhole in Superman so hard that his own shoe explodes from the impact.