The Injustice prequel comic is definitely worth reading

It was recently announced that, much like its predecessor Injustice: Gods Among Us, the upcoming DC fighting title Injustice 2 will be getting a tie-in comic series which will act as a prequel to the events of the game. The announcement inspired me to go back and check out the original Injustice comic series which is actually wrapping up its fifth and final “year” (the series covers the five-year gap between the catalyst of the game’s plot and the events of the game) later in 2017.

Now, you’d think that a comic series which was so closely tied to a video game plot wouldn’t be of the highest of quality, but I can say with satisfaction that you’d be very wrong.

A House Divided

If you’ve already played Injustice: Gods Among Us by now, you already know the major beats of the plot behind both the game and the comic series. When The Joker enacts a plan which results in the deaths of Lois Lane, Superman’s unborn child, and thousands of Metropolis residents, the grief-stricken Man of Steel kills the Clown Prince of Crime and founds a global regime with the help of Lex Luthor (Superman and Luthor are close friends in the Injustice universe) in order to police the entire population of Earth, a path which eventually leads him to become a global dictator of sorts.

Naturally Batman doesn’t agree with any of Superman’s actions and so he founds a secret resistance movement to thwart Superman’s plans. The divide between Superman and Batman winds up affecting the Justice League as well with some heroes siding with Superman’s beliefs and others going underground with Batman.

Eventually, the Injustice timeline becomes intertwined with an alternate timeline in which The Joker failed to enact his plan and thus none of the above ever happened (this is where the game begins) and, thanks to the efforts of characters from the alternate timeline (including Superman), the power-crazed Superman of the Injustice timeline is eventually stopped and imprisoned.

What casual Injustice: Gods Among Us players may not know is that an awful lot happened during the five-year period between the death of The Joker and the beginning of the game, and that’s where the comic series comes in.

Battle Lines Are Drawn

Even if you never played Injustice: Gods Among Us and/or have no desire to, the Injustice comic series is still an excellent read for any fan of DC comics if only because of its well-executed blend of action, fan service, and great storytelling. Naturally the comic series puts a heavy emphasis on the characters from the game but it also features an expansive array of characters who didn’t get to appear in the game, characters like Black Canary, Batwoman, Swamp Thing, Huntress, Poison Ivy, John Constantine, and even more obscure DC faces like Dr. Fate, Detective Chimp, and Jason Blood.

It’s interesting to see just how big of an impact these characters have on the Injustice storyline, especially since they’re never really mentioned in the game proper. Still, even if their exploits are limited to the pages of the comic series, the stellar writing from lead writer Tom Taylor makes all of the characters feel vibrant and authentic, no easy task when juggling so many characters at once.

Green Arrow still has his signature snark, Harley Quinn is as delightfully manic as ever (especially since she’s free from the influence of The Joker), and Batman’s brooding cynicism constantly clashes with his new role as the leader of an entire resistance movement. In short, if you’re looking for good writing, the Injustice comic has it in spades.

A Rising Body Count

My one major criticism of the Injustice comic series is how it handles the fact that nearly three quarters of the characters it features aren’t in the game, which means there has to be some explanation behind their absence.

Sadly, you can probably guess what is most often used as said explanation: they get killed. I’m not saying the Injustice comic ever becomes a mass graveyard of beloved DC characters who didn’t make the cut for the game, but later volumes definitely take on a sort of “Game of Thrones” feel where any character who doesn’t appear in the game could get axed at any time.

The various plots and sub-plots which drive the comic series can also get a little bogged down at times, especially in later volumes. Smaller mini-storylines which help to explain why the Teen Titans weren’t in the game or how the absence of Lois Lane led to a romance between Superman and Wonder Woman are quite fascinating, but they tend to get lost amid the larger arcs.

Like when John Constantine brings the entire realm of magic to bear against Superman (Year Three) or when the entire pantheon of Greek Gods gets involved and Superman winds up having to fight Zeus (Year Four). Obviously I haven’t yet read Year Five (since it hasn’t been released yet) but I’m both morbidly curious to see how the series end and also worried that it won’t have the same magic as earlier years (to clarify, Year Four and Five were written by a different writer, Brian Buccellato).

The Price of Peace

If there’s one reason to read the Injustice comic series, it’s the fascinating way in which it explores the idea of a Superman who decides to hold the world hostage in order to “protect” it. It’s a reality born from a fear which many ordinary humans have: what if Superman just woke up one day and decided to enslave us? Who would stop him? The premise of making the Man of Steel into the central villain of a DC storyline was fascinating enough in Injustice: Gods Among Us, but if you found the amount of exposition in the game to be a bit lacking, the Injustice comic series is one which you definitely need to check out.