Worst Of The Worst: The ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’ Prequel Is The Dumbest Comic You’ll Read All Year
On the off chance you haven’t heard about it during the months of promotion, DC’s next foray into video games is Injustice: Gods Among Us, something that people allegedly care about. Personally, as someone who grew up in the ’90s as a die-hard Street Fighter partisan, a DC game from the makers of Mortal Kombat isn’t really something that interests me.
I am, however, utterly fascinated by truly awful comic books, so it’s fortunate that this game where superheroes stand there and punch each other has a plot so compelling that it had to be explained in a digital-first prequel comic. Nine issues of the series are availabe now with more on the way, and after reading them, I’m comfortable saying that it’s one of the single dumbest stories about DC Comics characters ever written, up to and including the entire contents of FanFiction.net. The fact that it even exists is astonishing.To be honest, the only thing keeping it from dethroning the current, reigning and defending Dumbest DC Comic Of All Time Champion — Identity Crisis — is that it’s a video game tie-in comic and is only stupid in its own self-contained world without breaking anything else. On the other hand, considering how much success DC has had in recent years with video games like the Arkham series and, inexplicably, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, it might actually be even worse that this is the aesthetic and storytelling that they want to put out to a larger audience in order to convince them to buy their characters. Either way, it’s at least awful enough to finally knock Extreme Justice out of the top five. Finally, Angsty Booster Gold, you may lay down your burden.
Let’s get right to the worst bit, shall we? Written by Tom Taylor with art by Jeremy Raapack, Bruno Redondo, David Yardin and Mike S. Miller, Injustice is basically designed to provide a reason for superheroes who are normally friends to stand around punching each other. In previous DC fighting games, this has been handled with plots that have run the gamut from “pretty basic” (Justice League Task Force for the SNES, in which some of them were robots) to “needlessly complex (Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, where Shao Kahn and Darkseid became an evil Voltron and Crisis on Infinite Earths with Fatalities happened). This time, though, they’ve gone the extra mile.
See, the premise of Injustice involves the idea that Superman is actually the bad guy, a revolutionary idea that we’ve only seen once or twice in literally every media iteration of the character. But in order to get him there, they have to give him motivation that will push him over the edge. Obviously, someone close to him has to die.
That’s right, everyone: The Joker kills Jimmy Olsen.
Obviously, this horrific death sends Superman spiraling into — oh hang on. Looks like I got my notes mixed up; Jimmy getting capped is only part of it.
What actually happens, and I swear to God this is in a comic published by DC that you can purchase right now in order to entice you to play a video game, is that the Joker kidnaps Lois Lane and operates on her to hook her heart up to a nuclear warhead, then doses Superman with kryptonite-laced Scarecrow Gas so that he thinks she’s Doomsday, so that Superman punches Lois Lane into outer space, killing her and their unborn child, which also blows up Metropolis.
At this point, I honestly don’t think I need to explain how this is, to put it charitably, extremely problematic. You either understand why that’s a bunch of cheap hack nonsense masquerading as “maturity” just from reading about it, or you’re… well, you’re in the target market for a game about the Justice League killing each other because Superman was tricked into murdering his pregnant wife. NetherRealm studios is banking on there being enough of the latter to turn a profit.
To be honest, it’s pretty hard to pin the blame on Tom Taylor for this, as I have no doubt that he was handed a plot to follow and is enjoying however many zeroes a check had to have before he’d write a scene where Superman throws a pregnant Lois Lane into orbit and watches her die. You can’t even really blame Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray who, according to Wikipedia, were brought in on the game as “consultants to ensure that the comic characters kept their proper voices.” The real fault goes to whoever cooked up that story at NetherRealm, and whatever genius in Warner Bros.’ licensing department decided not to shut that bulls**t down before someone actually went and made a game about it.
But while that’s the absolute nadir of the Injustice comic, and DC in general, and quite possibly the entirety of storytelling in the recorded history of the human race, it is far from the only stupid thing that happens in this story. For starters, there’s everything else about Superman killing his pregnant wife, including that the Joker is able to perform surgery on Lois Lane in order to connect her heart to the trigger of a nuclear missile. I mean really, you’d think that if the Joker enrolled himself in medical school, let alone made off with a nuclear warhead, Batman would try to be on top of that situation. Also, not that I think this comic needs more gore (it has to stay T for Teen in order to keep that kid-friendly DC license, after all!) but it’s kind of weird that Superman shoulder-checks Lois through the bulkhead of a submarine and she stays alive until they’re in space.
Oh, sorry, did I not mention that all of that took place on a f**king submarine?
That’s actually the only thing about this entire sequence that I don’t hate, even if the Joker and Harley just kind of walk over to the docks and steal it (a submarine) instead of giving us a scene where they purchase it from the navy under the name “P.N. Gwinn.”
But the stupid doesn’t stop there! Then there’s the immediate aftermath, where Superman comes back and kills the Joker by shoving his hand through the Joker’s torso (because of course he does), and then goes off to sit around the Fortress of Solitude growing a Sadness Beard. At this point, he hears about a war going on and seems shocked out of his stupor by the fact that people are dying:
Apparently Superman, a professional journalist, has never watched the news before.
At this point, the story turns into a complete rehash of The Authority (another book on Taylor’s résumé), in which Superman deposes a dictator and the President gets mad and sends Mirror Master to kidnap his parents so he’ll stop destabilizing the world. As you might expect, Martha Kent is dragged off like a sack of potatoes, while Jonathan goes HAM on them got-danged revenuers that done come to his farm…
…because once you’ve already used women as props to the extreme of the first part of the story, why stop there?
Speaking of women, Wonder Woman shows up throughout the story too, mostly to tell everyone how rad it is that Superman’s going to start killing people and ruling the world now and think about maybe moving in and gettin’ a piece of that Sadness Beard now that Lois and any potential babies are out of the equation. My favorite thing she does — and by that, I mean the opposite — comes from the issue where Superman freaks out because she stabs Ares with a sword because she might’ve killed him, 12 pages after she straight up explodes a tank with a bunch of dudes in it. Superman’s not very good at paying attention is what I’m getting at.
Also, Batman does some pretty hilariously awkward threatening:
To be fair, though, there are an extremely small number of good parts. The issue where Wonder Woman kills a bunch of soldiers also includes a bit where she threatens Ares with being the god of ponies after she and Superman make out hard enough to end war, and even though there’s already a god of ponies (Poseidon, I checked), it’s a pretty good bit. Also, the issue where Green Arrow has to take Harley Quinn into protective custody before Superman can kill her — an issue that has almost nothing to do with the rest of the plot — is actually pretty solid:
Unfortunately, the rest of it is still awful. It is a genuinely terrible comic book, with a hack plot, filler writing and all the artistic consistency that three different art teams can bring to the table. It’s a bad comic rooted in bad ideas, put out to shill for a video game that, from all appearances, is equally dumb. Remember it in December, because barring any other six issue movie pitches from the Mark Millar assembly line, we’re in for a pretty depressing year if anything else manages to be worse.
Once again, the bar has been lowered.