by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 2 Volume 1
Written by Tom Taylor, Art by Mike Miller & Tom Derenick
I always feel terribly guilty when I compare a comic to another one, especially one from a different publisher. I feel it diminishes the comic in a certain way along the lines of ‘Do you know Watchmen, it is just like that, but not as good.’ We do it all the time in conversation, comparing people we do not know to other people we have met or seen – ‘He looks just like George Clooney, but, you know, not as good looking.’ Well in this instance I do not feel guilty for making the comparison because it is incredibly valid and at the same time genuinely complimentary.
One my biggest gripes with DC comics has always been that I find heroic heroes incredibly boring. Even Batman with his down and dirty attitude refuses to use a gun and does not kill. I hate it; I hate the ‘holier than thou’ attitude of it and the deep rooted feeling that these people are so much better than me all the way to their core and that really they can do nothing wrong. Marvel perhaps goes too far the other way and every one of their heroes is so deeply flawed that the line between hero and villain is only clear when the bad guy is a dribbling spiked monstrosity and even then it might just be Marrow. Magneto has had more heel/face turns than Batman has facial expressions and half the current heroes started off as villains. For me some of the best Marvel stories come about from the friction between the heroes and in recent years that has given us Civil War and AvX. I know the jury is still out on the latter one, but for me I thought it was brilliant and it is where I want to make the comparison. The Marvel editors set that series up with the intention of the Avengers being the ‘good’ guys and the mutants being wrong, but as it turns out I think the readership split 50:50 on that one.
For those that are not familiar with Injustice it is a comic based on a video game, which should start warning bells about quality and story. I have never played the game but if it is half as good as this comic, then I am really missing out. What that does mean is that they can do things with this story which would crack the New 52 universe in half and they do so at every opportunity. The first series of this book killed off Lois Lane which in turn caused Superman to rip out the Jokers heart in retaliation. Superman then (depending upon your personal stand point) either goes on a malicious rampage across the earth, tearing the Justice League into those who follow him and those who follow Batman, or he uses that pain to remove tyranny from all the countries of the world and create a new peaceful planet. Fair enough he breaks Batmans back, kills the Green Arrow, but hey, every good surgery has a little bit of collateral damage.
That brings me back to my comparison; I think that the intention is that we side with Batman and those who followed him. We are supposed to see Superman as the pinnacle of the phrase ‘Power corrupts’ but I completely disagree. There is an element to that sentiment and there are places where he takes things too far, but everyone needs a little bit of Machiavelli to get the job done. What is worse, a man that intentionally kills someone to rob them, or a man that kills them to save the other person? We were supposed to see the death of the Joker as Superman betraying his ideals and allowing revenge to cloud his mind; but for me the mere act of intentionally keeping him alive knowing all the evil he has done and could do again is the biggest conceit. Those who protect us have to do things which are morally ambiguous in the name of the greater good; for me, it was simply the logical thing to do. It does not mean that everything Superman does in this comic is right, the super-human police sent into Gotham are done for the right reasons, but the end result is not.
Superman’s activities come to the notice of the Green Lantern corps and their less than beneficent ruling council. They judge that he has gone too far, that he is corrupting the other heroes of earth, taking too much power for himself and not allowing nature to take its course. Where it all goes a bit wrong is in the admission that they let Krypton burn and Superman is only prevented from tearing Ganthet apart by the intervention of two other Green Lanterns. What it does do is drive Superman towards Sinestro who has arrived with a sob story and Ganthet proves everything he has said is true.
This book made me break one of my personal rules when it comes to reviews. Many of the books I have read have given me a huge interest in that comic and I have gone one to read many more of them, but what I have always insisted on is writing the review of the book, before reading later issues. Well, I failed there. When I reviewed the first volume of Year One I always intended on finding out what happened, but I was not so bothered as to go and buy the rest of it. This one had me straight on Comixology at 69p a time all the way up to issue 24. As an aside, this book looks so much better in its original widescreen digital layout as opposed to its more traditional physical layout which simply involves sticking two pages one above the other. The draw back with reading on is that I have been left with the feeling that this was a superb book both in art and story, but that what comes next makes it pale by comparison. This is the aperitif; the next twelve issues are a banquet.
You can read this book purely as an action comic book and in that respect it does not disappoint. There are a fair number of really gruesome deaths of well known heroes,* x-ray vision used to reveal horrible things and a lot of bleeding ear drums. However for me all of that is a backdrop to a fantastically written morality tale. As I mentioned before I do not know if the writer had a bias when creating it or if he had envisaged a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ side, but it does feel to me that the people being portrayed as the good guys,** while noble and decent at heart, really are on the wrong side. But for me that makes this even better; you have good people doing evil things for the right reasons and good people doing good things for the wrong reasons. When you have that sort of intransigence from both sides there is only ever going to be one winner; the audience.
* And by ‘well known’ I mean that I even knew who they were before reading this, and given my extraordinary ignorance of DC, that says a lot.
** Superman is often shown in full shadow with red glowy eyes, you tell me that’s not him being shown as the villain…