As usual, Injustice: Gods Among Us is fun to read but not too pretty to look at.
Look, with the video game already out for, what? Two months now? It doesn’t feel like reading a prequel comic to the game is going to be worth your time, but in all actuality this is quite entertaining and it’s effectively added a lot of depth to the game’s existing story. It’s succeeding where Arkham Unhinged, the prequel comic to Arkham City, has failed.
This issue is essentially two stories in one. Like Unhinged, Injustice is released in 8-10 issue bursts and so stories can sometimes be only as long as a single release or they can span the entire month and balance out to a full printed issue. With #5, which we’re talking about right now, things kick off with a tale about the Flash that’s more of a character study than a necessary piece to the overall plot. This is fine. Flash’s portion of the book fleshes out one of the video game’s more underdeveloped heroes. If you’ve plaid the game, you’ll know that Flash is one of the few Justice Leaguers who actually showed some internal conflict over what was being done under Superman’s regime. It was a nice touch to the game’s story, but to me it felt like too little too late. As I recall, this oppression had been going on for around 5 years by the time Flash started second guessing the mission. The sudden awakening didn’t resonate with me, but with the comic showing a Flash struggling with Superman and Wonder Woman’s behavior from the get-go it appears that we’re now trading in a Flash who is blind to the regime’s horrors over the course of 5 years for a Flash who cowardly complies to the atrocities for 5 years.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, most of the DC heroes in this alternate universe really got the shaft. Our beloved Batman characters are A-Okay. They all feel how they should, even the villains. Green Arrow was also handled well as were Aquaman and Green Arrow but Superman? Wonder Woman? Green Lantern? The switch from light to dark was far too easy for many. Part of me wishes that the story had involved a red kryptonite or magic curse of some kind. The more I read about Superman, and I read a lot in preparation for my recent Man of Steel Special, the more that this book’s characterization of Kal-El doesn’t ring true. When you stand back and look it’s kind of sad to see that Batman and Green Arrow were the only heroes who not only recognized the downside of Superman’s rule but fought against it until the very end.
If you’re not invested in the extended DC Universe or you’re just more willing to suspend your disbelief and pretend there are greater differences to the heroes in the alternate timeline than the game has implied then you’re going to get more enjoyment from it. This chapter that shows Flash witnessing Superman and Wonder Woman at their worst and doing nothing is great if you accept the world of Injustice God’s Among Us, but if you’re holding onto the established DC continuity tightly you might get uncomfortable.
The other 2/3 of the issue drives the plot forward and it really puts the pedal to the metal. In addition to being heavy on that pedal, the issue is also heavy on its Batman. All of Injustice seems to have been made by folks who clearly like Batman the best. This is a story that’s really worth getting excited about because not only does it take us to the next big transition in the narrative, but it answers questions we had about what happened to Robin and Nightwing! Those answers aren’t given in full quite yet, we’ll have to wait for issue #6 for that, but all the set-up is right here and it’s edge-of-your seat fun. We’ve got some funny lines between Dick and Damian, cameos by loads of Batman villains including some who retain their Arkham City designs just like they were seen if you popped an opponent through a wall in one of the game’s Arkham-themed fighting stages, and Green Arrow and Harley Quinn show up and if you’ve read earlier installments you’ll know that writer Tom Taylor built some wonderful chemistry between the two of them.
The only major drawback (besides the questionable characterization, which is true to what we saw in the video game) is that the quality of art turned rather poor in the middle. Part of this isn’t the artist’s fault because the designs for many of these characters are lifted directly from the video game and they just look bad—Flash with clunky, metallic armor—but other complaints do come from what the pencilers and inkers did. Tom Derenick definitely did the best with his crisp, clean lines during the Flash story (nicely colored by Andrew Elder, who gave Australia a unique atmosphere) and he delivered an excellent level of detail in the final 10 pages. Those pages definitely needed that detail too because they feature so many cameos and characters who have to display some intense emotion. It’s the middle 10 pages by Jheremy Raapack and David Lopez that mostly fell flat for me. The brighter scenes with Superman being interviewed looked nice, but the batcave and Batman himself looked off. Too much ink on those lines made every figure appear too dense and the images muddled together in all the darkness of the deep blues and blacks. Wes Abbott did a fine job on letters. Lots of variety between narration, ear-pieces to spoken dialogue, and different emotional states, etc. Good bubble placement. Didn’t expect me to mention lettering, did you? No one ever does…
One of the most important Injustice issues for Batman fans to pick up. The artwork in the middle when we’re in the batcave looked a little off-putting, but overall it was a nice looking and very entertaining book. The usual problems remain with character design and characterization of folks who aren’t connected to Batman directly, but if you’re still reading at issue #5 chances are you’ve come to accept all that already and you’re in for a good time.