Bestselling fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us hasn’t been relevant for well over a year. Netherrealm Studios stopped creating any downloadable content for it and its status as a competitive fighter has long faded. It appeared as one of the lower-tiered games in this year’s Evo tournament, but it’s almost definitely not going to be around at next year’s show. We’re likely to see news of a sequel after Mortal Kombat X‘s excitement dies down, but as it is right now, the game is in the past.
Shockingly, the Injustice: Gods Among Us comic tie-in is still alive and well. Which is great, because it’s rad as hell. A series that debuts in digital form, usually on a weekly basis, Injustice has been acting as a prequel to the game’s storyline. It’s written by Tom Taylor with art by Bruno Redondo, Mike S. Miller, and various others, existing as one of the better titles DC Comics is currently releasing. Each volume represents a year leading up to the game’s story mode and just recently, we got to see the finale of Year Two. This week begins Year Three as we get closer and closer to catching up.
The game’s story is about a world where Superman rules the world. Five years ago, the Joker tricked Superman into killing Lois by using kryptonite-laced fear gas to make him think he was fighting Doomsday. In a fit of rightful rage, Superman killed the Joker. Flash-forward five years and now Superman’s a cold dictator. While the game makes it almost seem like an overnight transformation, Taylor shows that it’s anything but. Superman’s journey from righteous hero to obsessed ruler is based on good intentions, betrayal, regrettable acts, pragmatism, failure, manipulation, conspiracy, fear, slippery slopes, and insult. The Joker’s actions aren’t so much the single cause of his downfall, but the catalyst.
The game’s story mode shows the aftermath of various incidents that have happened over the five years in-between, but all we get to see is Joker’s death. It’s up to Taylor to fill in the blanks by telling his own story. With those guidelines, Year One (36 issues and an annual) is dedicated to how Superman and Batman’s friendship turns to hatred and mutual disgust. We learn about the circumstances of Nightwing’s death at the hands of Damian Wayne and Green Arrow’s death at the hands of Superman.
Many questions are answered in Year One, but Year Two (24 issues and an annual) has a few more to explore. Namely, how and why did Hal Jordan join the Sinestro Corps? How did the Regime lead to the death of Commissioner Gordon? How come the Guardians of Oa are shown to exist in the game’s story, but have allowed Superman and Sinestro to keep hold over Earth all this time? Where are the other Lanterns of Earth? Coincidentally, this year shows a lack of the DC Trinity as Superman takes a backseat to Sinestro, Batman’s trying to recuperate from a terrible injury, and Wonder Woman’s in a coma.
Year Three is supposed to be based on magic. If trying the Green Lantern Corps has failed, Batman may as well go for Superman’s vulnerability to magic. We’re going to get Constantine, Dr. Fate, Etrigan, and the other usual suspects. Those who aren’t in the game, at least.
It makes sense that Taylor would be getting so much freedom with each passing volume, but there are still some loose ends we haven’t gotten to yet.
So far, for the first two years, Selina has been completely loyal to Bruce. Despite being buried under some really unfortunate art, her introduction to the story is a well-written scenario where Superman asks her to check in with Batman after the accidental death of Nightwing. Entering Wayne Manor, she finds Alfred as a drunken mess and Batman too lost in angrily punching a heavy bag. She comforts the two of them and spends the rest of the story at Batman’s side. Well, except for the time he refuses to let her help him face Superman and knocks her out with gas. She never lets him hear the end of that one.
In the game, Catwoman is part of Superman’s Regime. She wants Batman to join her on the iron fist side, but he is downright disgusted with her actions. What happened? What can make Catwoman betray Batman like that, yet act like she’s doing it for him? Then again, is she really the one calling the shots or has someone been messing with her mind?
Raven Steps into Darkness
Raven hasn’t been around all that much in the Injustice comic and honestly, she’s not even in the game all that much. The game does make it apparent that as part of the Regime, Raven isn’t so much a soldier of Superman, but a soldier of her father Trigon. Though she’s kept it a secret from the rest of her teammates, Raven hopes that Superman’s war to snuff out the last of the resistance will in fact cause her demigod father to rise from his realm and take Earth as his own. Considering Year Three is all about magic users and Raven’s already working under Superman currently, it’s safe to say that we’ll see what drives the once-heroic young woman to nihilistic madness.
Batgirl’s Great Return
This is one of the few plots that actually differs between the comic and the game, but the heart is the same. In the game, Batgirl is a downloadable character and doesn’t pop up during story mode. Her ending explains that in this world, Barbara Gordon was Oracle first, but the death of her father caused her to become Batgirl. The comic goes a different route, explaining that she had been Batgirl years ago, was crippled, and became Oracle, just like in the pre-New 52 comics. The story is the same from there. James Gordon dies fighting the Regime and she will presumably wear the tights once again.
It’s just that in this version, she’s still in a wheelchair while the game makes it seem like that never happened to begin with (unless you count her outright disdain when she fights the Joker as a hint that Killing Joke‘s events happened here). With the freedom of telling his stories out of DC’s canon, Tom Taylor is going to have to figure out his own believable way for Babs to gain the ability to stand up so she can go back to kicking ass.
Damian Steps Up
The game has a shocking moment where we discover that the Nightwing working for the Regime isn’t Dick Grayson after all. Dick Grayson was killed years ago by one Damian Wayne, who has taken the mantle for himself. The comic shows the death to be an accident of sorts, with Damian lashing out at Dick like a brat and not realizing the extent of his outburst until it’s too late. Despite remaining a cold and calculating fighter, Damian remains heartbroken over killing his big brother figure.
As of Year Two, Damian is still Robin. The time will come for him to decide to become the new Nightwing, but why? What could be the moment that makes him decide to not only break away from his “Batman’s sidekick” identity and fully embrace the identity of the man he murdered?
Where is Zod?
Of all the downloadable characters in the game, only two have yet to show up in the comic: Zod and Mortal Kombat‘s Scorpion. Zod’s ending doesn’t really say much. It quickly glosses over that he’s escaped from the Phantom Zone somehow, is able to imprison Superman in return, and makes Earth more like Krypton. Zod has no role in the story mode, but I imagine he’ll have to make his presence known somewhere. Will he be a threat to Superman’s rule in the fourth or fifth year? Will one of the heroes be thrown into the Phantom Zone, forced into confrontation with the mad Kryptonian? I guess we’ll find out.
I doubt we’ll ever see Scorpion show up, but…man, I wish we would. Hell, he’s magic. Toss him into Year Three and you have some excellent cross-promotion with Mortal Kombat X. Everybody wins! But mostly me. I win the most and that’s what’s important.
Speaking of downloadable content, Taylor did a fantastic job with Martian Manhunter. Superman “kills” him, but it still leads seamlessly into his backstory for the game. Coincidentally, his death scene was released the same day he became playable.
Year One gives us appearances by Solomon Grundy and Black Adam as villains opposing Superman, but Year Two is when Sinestro flies to Earth to join Superman’s cause. The game shows that Superman’s army is not only made of corrupted and/or morally conflicted heroes, but also various supervillains. Solomon Grundy, Black Adam, Killer Frost, Bane, and Doomsday are shown to be in his ranks. While Black Adam is vehemently against Superman early on, his in-game dialogue shows that he respects how Superman’s ruling is very similar to how he’s handled Kahndaq. Killer Frost is driven by fear of her superiors. Bane goes along with it willingly for the sake of earning fear from all those who would oppose him (while patiently waiting for an opening to dethrone Superman). Grundy? Brainwashing.
Superman uses the same form of mind control on Doomsday and you just know that’s going to be a big story. One doesn’t simply just get a domesticated Doomsday in their Fortress of Solitude. Especially when Doomsday represents the death of Lois.
There are stories worth telling about how all of these different bad guys are brought into Superman’s inner circle. I have a strong feeling Year Three is when Black Adam reconsiders his stance. There’s also the question of if they were the only villains on the roster. Maybe we’ll see the death of potential Regime members Captain Cold or Killer Croc in the near future.
Also of note is that Deathstroke the Terminator – the one villain who outright refuses to join up in-game – has yet to appear in the series. We’re due for him to pop in once or twice for the sake of foreshadowing.
Harley and Her Crew
Tom Taylor has been knocking it out of the park when it comes to Harley. Without the Joker alive to cloud her judgment, she’s been able to shine as a confused victim who can’t help but hold a candle for her one-sided lost love. Over the first two years, she connects with Green Arrow and Black Canary, letting them both realize that there’s a sweet person underneath all the psychological damage. This gives us an incredibly heartbreaking scene where Harley admits to Canary that she once had the Joker’s baby and how the aftermath shows just how broken she is (don’t worry, the baby’s alive and well).
Green Arrow’s been killed and as far as Harley knows, Black Canary is just as dead. She isn’t one to hang out with Batman, but with her two friends gone, she has to avenge them by doing the right thing. Soon this will lead to Harley leading her own gang of revolutionaries known as the Joker Gang. Maybe she can’t shake her misplaced love for the creep, but she’ll at least be pointing it in the right direction.
The Deaths of Heroes
In Year One, Taylor kills off Captain Atom in badass fashion because he’s an incredibly powerful loose end to keep around in a story like this. Much like the Green Lantern Corps and the magic users, you have to answer the question of why these powerhouses haven’t been able to stop Superman from taking over the planet. We’ve lost Captain Atom, many major Green Lanterns, and Black Canary (sort of), all of which aren’t in the game’s story at all. Batwoman’s simply there waiting for the other shoe to drop. Probably Bullock too.
The real tragedy in this is that we’re very, very likely to see Alfred take a dirt nap. Alfred has been completely awesome in Injustice, namely in Year One. Not only has he been dropping verbal ice burns on Superman all over the place, but in the final issue, he takes a special plot device pill that gives him Kryptonian strength and delivers the most beautiful, cathartic beatdown you will ever see in a digital comic.
It’s a fantastic moment, but it’s bittersweet. We know that Alfred’s days are numbered and it’s only a matter of time before Superman pays him back. Sorry, dude.
For real, though. I want Scorpion to show up in Year Three and have Constantine use him to light a cigarette. Make it happen, DC!