NetherRealm Studios’ upcoming fighter - Injustice: Gods Among Us - is quickly shaping up to be the ultimate game for DC fans. Between the large roster of famous heroes and villains and an intriguing, original storyline, NetherRealm is looking to shake things up much like they did with 2011's Mortal Kombat reboot. However, such a ripe story setting seems wasted in the confines of a 1v1 fighting game, so thankfully DC has started a four issue mini series that serves as a prologue to the events of the game. Unlike most comic book tie-ins that precede big name releases, however, Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 has the luxury of featuring well-established comic book characters, with its story revolving around events that have happened to these characters in past issues. Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 is not only a satisfying prologue to the upcoming game, it’s an extremely entertaining "what-if" continuation of the mainstream, pre-"New 52" DC Universe.
Basing itself on the familiar "Injustice League" premise, Gods Among Us asks the question: what happens when DC’s heroes give up any pretense of normalcy, accepting their status of godhood and subjecting the rest of the world to a totalitarian rule? While the Injustice game will set us into the heart of this conflict, the comic is sets five years prior to the game, highlighting the events that lead up to this dystopian future.
Based on what we’ve seen so far of the game, Injustice will be primarily about the conflict between Superman’s dictatorship and Batman’s rebellion, and the various heroes and villains who will align with them. Injustice #1 smartly begins by highlighting the relationship between the two heroes, and most importantly, their friendship. A moment with Superman and Batman in the opening pages provides one of the most poignant moments I’ve ever read featuring the World’s Finest. The dichotomy between Batman and Superman is truly the core around which the DC Universe revolves, and I hope future issues and the game further explore its dynamic.
The rest of the issue leads into an action packed story that features appearances from Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Cyborg, who all attempt to stop another one of the Joker's nefarious plots. Once again, the most enjoyable aspect of the story is the exploration of the relationships between these iconic characters, especially in this alternate universe where the Joker actually succeeds in his plot. The game’s marketing has already revealed that the catalyst for Injustice’s setting is the Joker’s nuking of Metropolis, but the way in which he goes about his plan in this issue is truly shocking.
My only real complaint about Injustice #1, which is looking to carry over into the other issues as well, is the art style. A lot of fuss has been made about the re-imagined character designs, and I agree with the complaints to an extent. Batman’s armor looks cool, but also suffers from the over-design aesthetic that has plagued every single live-action Batman movie. Superman’s cape just seems wonky, and the Flash’s clunky armored costume visually contradicts his power base. Given that the events of the comic take place five years before the game, it would have been nice to have seen more classic costumes making an appearance, if only for the sake of providing an aesthetic juxtaposition to many of the heroes’ renewed totalitarian outlook.
Injustice: Gods Among Us’s biggest strength, like the best DC stories, is that it takes these iconic heroes and explores their relationships with one another in new, interesting ways. Without the pressure of having to revert back to the status quo, it provides an unforgettable introduction to a story that I can’t wait to see continue. I can only hope it reaches a satisfying conclusion in NetherRealm’s game this April.