DC Comics put out one of their absolute best comic book series in history with Injustice: Gods Among Us and Injustice 2. Obviously, we know the series serve as prequels to the two fighting games in the franchise. However, it’s the Injustice comics where things all began. They are, without a doubt, some of the greatest reads in DC’s history.
Injustice: Gods Among Us began in 2013 and ran up to September 2016. It was written by Tom Taylor and Bruan Buccellato, the Injustice comics get A+ ratings across the board in terms of quality. For those unaware, this story happens to be set outside the main DCU continuity.
It seemed that the series was then given the green light to do whatever they wanted due to this, and they took full advantage of it. They had an entire universe of characters to utilize. They certainly did not disappoint, as they used everyone in interesting, brilliant new ways.
Injustice 2 began in the spring of 2017, around the same time as the release of the second video game. It also included a lot of the same writers and artists, with Tom Taylor remaining on as the lead writer. The series would run until October of 2018.
One may ask what made this story so beloved, and why should we go back and read the rest? To find out, we must start at the beginning.
When A God Truly FallsThe start of Injustice seems lovely. Superman finds out Lois Lane is pregnant and he tells Batman about it. He even asks Bruce if he wants to be the Godfather of the future super child. It’s truly a special moment. However, Lane goes on an assignment with Jimmy Olsen. It seems to have been a trap, as The Joker kills Olsen with a gun and kidnaps Lane.
It’s a pretty huge twist. Superman always seems to know where Lois is, it’s rare he has no idea. Yet at this point, she’s nowhere to be found, worrying the Man of Steel.
He finds a deceased Jimmy, one of his best friends, with a joker card beside him. Joker ends up stealing Scarecrow’s fear gas as well as some kryptonite. The Justice League volunteers to help Superman find her and stop Joker, but they have to piece together everything first.
They know a bomb is planted in Metropolis, likely by The Joker. Yet they also know he took Lois. Are the two related, perhaps? That was what the League was trying to figure out.
The Loss Of Everything
Superman finds Joker and Harley Quinn, who then Scarecrow’s gas at Superman. Of course, Scarecrow’s gas does not work on him. However, suddenly Doomsday attacks him…now Superman assumes he’s working with Joker.
He flys Doomsday out of the building and into space. Unknown to him at the time, it was Lois he took up to space with him.
Joker actually laced Scarecrow’s gas with kryptonite, allowing it to affect Superman. Therefore, he assumed Doomsday was coming to attack him when it was Lois heading to embrace Superman.
Batman pieces it all together when the League catches up to the Clown Prince of Crime. Joker had planted a bomb in Metropolis that would go off the moment Lois Lane’s heart stopped. Superman flying her to space kills her instantly, and thus his city with it. Superman suddenly loses the love of his life, future child, and his entire city all at once.
This would make any person upset and furious. Superman catches up with the League and The Joker at a prison where he kills Joker on the spot. While everyone agrees Superman acted in a way most would have, it is still a different level for The Man of Tomorrow, who never stooped to killing like this.
False God RisesThe death of Joker sets off a chain reaction. Not wanting crime to happen as it did with The Joker, Superman goes way too far. He becomes a dictator, and instead of stopping crime, he’s over-policing it. This new Superman becomes the judge, jury, and executioner. He is the law, so much so Judge Dredd would envy him.
Who could stop him from doing this, however? He is Superman, after all. He might be the most powerful figure on Earth. To add further fuel to the fire, people join his side from the Justice League as well as various villains from his past.
Superman alone is tough enough, but with an army? It’s almost unbeatable. However, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Superman does not use his power for good but rather, it has become an obsession and an evil that has taken him over. What about Injustice makes it worth checking out for Superman fans?
The best way to explain this is by relating him to a pro-wrestler, Hulk Hogan. When Hogan worked for the WWE(F) in the 1980s into the 1990s, he was a babyface or good guy. He was the biggest name in the company and they literally built WrestleMania on the back of the Hulkster.
Yet when he left WWE and signed with WCW later on, the fans of this business did not like the goodie-two-shoes Hulk. They needed something different. Hulk Hogan, unlike others, had never truly been a significant bad guy in his career. He played the heel role or bad guy role before WWE, but no one truly knew about this. He needed to be bad to add a fresh spin to his character.
Thus, he became the leader of the New World Order or NWO. It would change the landscape of the pro-wrestling business.
True Injustice: Being The Unappreciated God Makes You The Heel AnywayLike Hogan, Superman needed the heel turn to bring a spin to him. That way, when he’s the good guy it means more. Superman being a superhero is great. The issue is, there is truly nothing to care about. He has a lot of power, shows up and ends a conflict, the end. This is not what makes a good superhero.
Batman never gets old to people because he has a darkness about him. The code he lives by allows him to exist, but he can go as far as that code will let him. It’s quite a loose one, don’t kill.
There is no need to make Batman a bad guy to add an edge or appreciation for his good side, for Superman you need this. Injustice gives us a broken man. He’s not even close to the Superman we know and love, yet the power he shows is seemingly superior to any power we saw from him beforehand.
Despite all the bad he is knowingly doing, he does not recognize it. Even when the mainline Superman shows him, he still does not seem to grasp he’s in the wrong.
How can we truly appreciate the good Superman does when we do not recognize how big of an enemy he can be? It’s almost like being in a relationship with a beautiful woman and never telling her she’s beautiful. She knows, but it’s nice to hear from her partner here and there.
A Civil War That Took So Little To StartWonder Woman seems to have no problem jumping on the “kill everyone” train. Yet she’s often written to be soft, gentle, and against war or killing when it’s unnecessary. We can all grasp why Superman is upset and does what he does. Yet nothing truly happened to Wonder Woman.
However, she still kills Martian Manhunter, despite not attempting to hurt Superman. She also kills Huntress, despite her not being a threat. Diana takes out several and does not seem to care. Like Superman, Wonder Woman has an unappreciated power.
Her egg cracking may have been different, but she was friends with Lois. She saw a woman and her child die at the hands of a maniac her friend Batman continued to let run wild. She wanted to cleanse man’s world, and who better than an alien to side with? Her power is one you need.
With two powerful figures, you can shape the world as you choose. Her tipping may not have been as hard to accomplish, but it obviously showed a significant change.
The Flash, Hal Jordan, Shazam, and many others joined Superman’s side. Of course, Shazam has the “Wisdom of Solomon” on his side. Superman as well as Wonder Woman admittingly accept this as a huge asset many times, but they did not care in the end. Shazam saw the error of his ways and what they were doing. He spoke up, trying to help Superman see where he was going wrong. He rewards Shazam by killing him.
Hal Jordan, (a Green Lantern whose sworn to protect the Earth from these threats) seemingly joined the very thing he swore he’d protect. For Flash, it was all about science. The numbers were in and they needed another way to handle things. but could that be Superman’s way?
How Can One Rule Over Their Equal?It was a long drop for Superman. Wanting Bruce Wayne to be the Godfather of his child to an evil dictator? Batman saw Superman was going too far. He could tell an out of control Superman was not what the world needed. Despite his “alien status,” Superman had a heart that allowed him to relate and feel for humans enough to care.
Without this, he was dangerous and Batman knew it. Yet he did not assume he’d be hit in the crossfire the same way Clark was hit.
Superman was able to flip Damian Wayne, who also had no problem killing and hated holding back. The son of the Bat jumps to Superman and treats him like a surrogate father, yet he does this leaving behind everything. Alfred, a grandfather of sorts to him as well as Dick Grayson, a brother in arms.
He is easily able to go to Superman’s side, even after later events that cause horrific loss.
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It goes to show that some just need a little nudge to turn on what they’re instinctively made for. With a friendship put to an end, Superman has successfully cut himself off from all connections he had to humans. Bruce was his guy that brought him down to the human level after Lois. Now, no one is present to hold him back.
With a Demi-God Amazonian in his ear mostly, it was done for all. The Batman/Superman friendship throughout so many comics is seen as immensely strong. Yet Injustice just destroys it. Although, it has to be done, simply to end the human connection.
How can one rule over people that they see as equal? The destruction of the friendship ended their equality.
Family Is Far More Than Who You’re Related ToThe Green Lantern Corps. are unleashed on Earth by The Guardians of the Universe, and they even take Hal Jordan’s green power ring when he begins to do the opposite of what they intended for it. The Yellow Lanterns come to Earth led by Sinestro, which shows the desperation Superman had.
Knowing he could not match the Green Lanterns, any team willing to help him would be ideal. The Guardians even gave permission to kill, which they have never done. They saw the threat of Superman and his team.
Once Earth is secured…what stops Superman from going and unleashing dominance on other planets or other universes? The Lanterns kill each other in droves just to stop the Man of Steel. Superman is even given a yellow ring during all of this. When would a normal Superman ever use this?
This is not a story of a sure of himself Superman. This is the story of a man who has hit the bottom and will do everything he can to stay in power. At what cost, though? Enough to take a yellow ring?
Even Wonder Woman feels it’s too far and tells him to remove it, which he does. The main Green Lanterns die, even those who saw Hal’s side of the argument. Supergirl is held back in the newer installment of Injustice, yet when she sees how her cousin has gone further than their family would like…she tells him.
Superman tries to get her to see his side, but she does not see the Superman that she could idolize who protected the Earth and its people. Rather, she sees a man the world needed protection from. Despite his own family, a fellow Kryptonian seeing the problems, he’s still too blind to comprehend how wrong he is.
F*** FateThis philosophy is on full display when there’s a moment involving Superman, Black Canary, and Green Arrow.
Toward the beginning of Injustice, we find out Green Arrow infiltrated to the Fortress of Solitude. He was trying to gather intel, as well as the Kryptonian pills that Clark is using to enhance his forces. Superman finds out and swiftly heads for the Fortress.
Arrow didn’t know Superman’s parents were hiding out there. Clark thinks he’s after them, but before Arrow can explain himself, Superman murders him in his rage. In his last moments, Queen shoots off his final arrow, with one of the pills attached.
Obviously, Black Canary, whose now carrying Ollie’s child, wants to kill Superman. During the Lantern battle, she has the chance to do so with a Kryptonite bullet. Superman initially refuses to kill her, knowing she’s pregnant. Things change when she decides to fire.
He cuts right through her with his heat vision, but she has on contact lenses that recorded everything. The world now sees Superman for what he truly is, the villain.
We thought she and the baby were done for. Fortunately, Dr. Fate eventually intervenes. The good doctor says “F*** fate” and saves Dinah and the child. He then sends them to another dimension, safe from the Man of Steel. It’s here she meets an Oliver Queen a lot like the one she once knew, who lost his own Black Canary.
Overall, it’s the only happy end anyone could find in Injustice.
Brothers No Longer, A Real InjusticeWhen Clark flipped Damian Wayne, who was already on the edge and had trouble controlling his rage, it was a big deal. Not only was Batman losing his own son to Superman, but he knew Clark saw this as him winning the argument. When Dick Grayson tries to talk sense into Damian, his efforts are met with hostility.
During a later battle, Robin (Damian Wayne) accidentally kills Nightwing (Dick Grayson). Damian kills the man he once called a brother, and the first person Bruce ever called a son.
Batman is obviously devastated. This seemed to even move Superman but, just like his later confrontation with Supergirl, the Man of Steel fails to see how his actions led to this tragedy. In the beginning, Clark asked Bruce to be his child’s godfather. Now, they’re bitter enemies when they were once as close as brothers.
What Did It Cost? Everything
All of these issues bring about the Old Gods who see how far Superman has gone. They cannot let it stand. They try to convince Wonder Woman how far she has gone and how it’s just not right. Yet both she and Superman are too blind to see it. This Civil War costs Wonder Woman her place among the Gods in many ways.
She gives up everything seemingly on her own while Superman had his taken. Yet either way, this connection is what makes this Civil War so different.
Most of the war feels careless and cynical, so why is Injustice such a unique take from the main DCU? In this story, literally, everything is personal. How some heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman can be numb through it all shows that loss can drive even those we think of as infallible to a breaking point.
Injustice finally gives it to us, making it a new take on heroes and villains alike.
We find out that some do not need to be tipped too far to be evil. This Civil War reveals how easy it is for the world to go to S***. We find who can kill and who actually could handle their actions.
INJUSTICE: The Joker Knew This All AlongA line from The Dark Knight brings about an interesting question. The Joker is in a prison confession room and asks an officer: “I killed your friends, would you like to know which ones were cowards?” This is meant to rattle the officer, but it’s an interesting question.
Cowards blabbed to Joker only to save themselves. They knew Joker is a sociopath, who planned to do wrong with such information…yet they still blabbed.
The Injustice version of The Joker is like most, he’s a madman who does just to do mostly. Yet his purpose is to make himself laugh. Superman knew what Joker did and why he did it. It was psychological and clearly well thought out. Superman blamed the wrong person or people.
He flipped over what Joker did but not because he feared another Joker could rise. Rather, unlike with other Civil Wars, he has nothing to lose now. No beloved, child, or city. Heck, even his parents become too afraid and he removes his truest human friends.
What does the Injustice series offer? Psychological, methodical, sociopathic, and at times monodical ordeals. In Flashpoint, everything changes because of an action made by a hero for an understandable reason. Other stories involve versions of characters from other universes, or a small fraction of heroes fighting against the entire world.
Yet this isn’t what happened in Injustice. It was simply an entire universe that jumped into war.
It all started with “one bad day.”
Stories like this don’t happen in the mainstream DCU. Sometimes all it takes is one crazy thing to keep us invested in what happens next. Injustice teaches the lesson that, sometimes, there’s no real reason for why good people go bad. What cannot be explained might be the scariest thing of all.
[Portions of article written by Joe Burgett for ComicsVerse in 2018]